1 Nisan 5782

To listen to the recording, click https://youtu.be/NDMr5T0_eSk

We are in the weeks before Pesach and always before this Moed, many of us find ourselves in a greater spiritual battle than usual. This is normal.  We are not only cleaning the chametz (yeast) out of our homes, but we are also cleaning it out of our minds. This drash on Tazria by Mauricio Quintero will give us a lot of food for thought as well as some practical tools to deal with the battles of our minds. Last night I remembered Rav Shaul’s message in Ephesians 6 which tells us to be strong in the LORD, and to put on the whole armor of God so that we can take a stand against the adversary (whatever that looks like for us); for our struggle is not against the physical, rather it is against the dark forces of the spiritual realm.  For those who trust in our Bore Olam, thankfully we have hope.

Here is what Mauricio said in his message:

What I love about the Torah is that everything in it is interconnected; it’s as if we are talking about a complex system that is interwoven, allowing us to access the most far-reaching ideas that anyone can imagine, and in the final analysis, we discover that Divinity is the thread that connects everything.

We have been reading about the principles of purity (tahor טָהוֹר) and impurity (tamei טמא), and these two “states of being” are conditional upon us being able to appear before the Eternal in the Sanctuary, or not. When we study and delve deeper into them, we find that these states of being are not simply referring to moral qualities but to certain values ​​and principles that the Torah develops, through the following in this portion:  conception and childbirth,(תזריע tazria), the niddah נִדָּה, (menstruation), bodily secretions (such as seminal fluids and blood), contamination from contact with corpses, and tzaraat צָרַעַת, which unfortunately has wrongly been associated with leprosy or Hansen’s disease.

We can say that purity (tahor) is everything that is connected to Life, to Hope, to Possibility and to Growth. Who is life? The Bore Olam is Life, as we can see in Psalms 36:9 “For with You is the Fountain of Life: in Your Light shall we see Light.” 

When we disconnect from the Bore Olam, from the Source of Life, we become like those described by our prophet Jeremiah who said in chapter 2:13: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and dug cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water”. It is here that impurity, or tamei, becomes meaningful. According to some scholars, tamei comes from the word ‘Satum’ סָתוּם, which means ‘closed”, and tamei connotes any being that is disconnected from its source of life, without the possibility of connection, growth, or movement. So, we can conclude that the realm of impurity (tamei) is related to death. It is about this that Yeshua said, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” in Mark 12:27, since the Hebrew concept of life transcends the Greek concept of the body, because even when we are dead, we continue to be connected to the Divine.

This week I had an opportunity to read several articles[1] about the triune brain. In the transcript of my message, I am including the links if you are interested, but basically I want to refer to the fact that we have the cortex (which is equivalent to the largest brain mass and performs functions related to thought, reason and language); we also have the limbic system (where our emotions reside and which has a smaller mass than the cortex) and finally we have the reptilian system (which performs the functions of instinctive and automatic behavior for self-preservation. It occupies less brain space than the other two systems). Looking at these images, I was amazed at the design of the Eternal and which system should have dominion over another considering the physical space that God gave each structure and function of our brain, in the order of more space to less space. The Bore Olam gave more space to thought, reason and communication. He gave less space to emotion and pleasure; and the least space for instinct, the part that is innate, that is not reflective but was designed for our survival. This showed me how our environment exerts chronic pressure upon these well-designed systems to generate imbalance in our behavior.

What does this science class have to do with this week’s portion, can you tell me? Is science connected with the Torah? Yes, very much so. Without the Torah, there is no science (All science does is observe GOD’s creation and recognize the power of “life”), and without science we cannot confirm the Torah. 

Simply knowing that the cortex in which God gave us more power to think, to reason and to communicate, we can better deal with the other two systems of emotions and automatic responses for self-preservation.  We can reason with ourselves. Didn’t God tell us in Isaiah, to come and reason with Him? 

Let’s look at chapter Vayikra 13 (Lev.) where the subject of tzaraat is addressed. The Talmud says [2] “Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Leprous marks afflict a person for seven sinful matters: For malicious speech, for bloodshed, for an oath taken in vain, for forbidden sexual relations, for arrogance, for theft, and for stinginess.” To corroborate this, our sages cite various passages in the Tenach: First, from Psalms 101:5 “Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, I will destroy”; that is lashon hara (malicious speech). From 2 Samuel 3:29 “And let there not be missing from the house of Joab one who has a discharge or who is a leper, or one who leans on crutches, or one who is killed by the sword, or who lacks bread”; that is for bloodshed. From 2 Kings 5:27 “Naaman’s leprosy shall stick to you and your children forever” referring to the evil that befell Gehazi with his vain oath in Naaman’s story.  Next, “And the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great afflictions because of Sarai, Abram’s wife” referring to forbidden relations. From 2 Chronicles 26:19 which recounts the episode of King Uzziah “But when he grew strong, his heart was lifted up, so that he corrupted himself and rebelled against the LORD his God”; this is referring to arrogance. Next verse from Leviticus 14:36, “ And the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes in to see the mark, that all that is in the house not become impure; and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house “. Our Sages explain this verse by saying: “He gathered property that is not his, therefore let the priest come and scatter his property.” That is for theft. And finally for stinginess, as it is written in Leviticus 14:35: “Then he that owns the house shall come and tell the priest, saying: There seems to me to be as if it were a mark in the house”.  It says in Arachin 16a, “And the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: The verse calls him the one who owns the house because it is referring to one who was stingy and who treated his house as being exclusively his and did not allow others to share his property.”.

Regardless of what we conclude from the above, it is evident that all the actions described which produce tzaraat originate in thought, in other words, in the stimulation of our amygdala and hypothalamus, as Yeshua said in Mark 7:15 and18-23, “There is nothing outside of man which enters him, that can contaminate him; but what comes out of him is what defiles man” (tamei) …. “Because from within, from the heart (the intention) of men, come evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evils come out from within and contaminate man.”

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Torah is so beautiful – it connects all life, because all life comes from the Eternal himself. When we are in constant interaction with an inappropriate environment, with its set ways of receiving stimulation, when we are with people who do not help us grow, with their ways of thinking contrary to the Eternal, we are doing almost irreversible damage to the brain systems that God designed for us to have a full life; because we send the wrong signals to our brains and we allow our cortex to not make the right decisions, but instead we allow those emotional or reptilian systems to take control, and when this happens, we allow  our intentions to become distorted, initiating what Yeshua said: actions that make us tamei disconnect us from the Divine.

So, for me the reason that this portion begins with the Brit Milah, apart from being in an Eternal pact between God and his people, is that the Eternal wants what is done physically to be replicated spiritually. In Devarim 10:16 it says, ” And you shall circumcise (i.e., remove things using your free will) the foreskin (i.e., whatever obstructs us) of your hearts, and do not stiffen your neck anymore“. The lack of humility (or pride) will then be what obstructs our heart. 

In Vayikra 13:32-33 it says, “And the kohen shall look at the lesion on the seventh day. And behold! the netek (the patch) has not spread, and no yellow hair was in it, and the appearance of the netek is not deeper than the skin, he shall shave (around) וְהִתְגַּלָּח V’hitgalach- himself, but adjacent to the netek he shall not shave, and the kohen shall quarantine [the person with] the netek again for seven days”.

Our sages say that the Gimmel (ג) in this word v’hitgalach is written with a Capital Gimmel, and that it refers to two aspects: first, to Gavaah גאווה (pride) which is why pride is “shaven”. He exhibits and humbles himself to the Cohen (priest) so that he can be declared clean (tahor); second, that none of the 72 Divine Names has the letter gimmel, as if to say that the Gavaah (pride) has no place with the Eternal.

Are we connected with the Eternal? Has our heart been circumcised? Do we still have Gavaah – pride – in our hearts that does not allow us to be tahor, clean? Are we dominated by our instincts and emotions that do not allow us to act with reason and thought? Let us then connect to the Source of Living Waters and not dig cisterns that do not contain water.

Shabbat Shalom

Mauricio Quintero 

[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response


[2] https://www.sefaria.org/Arakhin.16a.6?ven=William_Davidson_Edition_-_English&vhe=Wikisource_Talmud_Bavli&lang=bi