Several explanations have been offered in response to the
second question. The authors of the
made a causal connection
based on adjacent chapters between a woman at childbirth and a leper (chapters
12, 13): "Who caused the newborn to come out with leprosy? His mother,
who was not mindful of the laws of
Or, put differently,
"What has one thing to do with the other? The Holy One, blessed be He,
said: I told you to bring an offering when giving birth, and you did not do so;
on your life, I shall force you to come before the priest [to bring the offering
of the leper], 'and he shall be brought to Aaron the priest' (Lev.
However, these are midrashic
comments made on the strength of the order in the text.
We would like to offer another explanation for the proximity
of the passage on animals to the passage about a woman at childbirth, and of the
latter passage being placed first in the list of impurity affecting human
beings. The commandments in chapter 11 and in the passage on a woman at
childbirth pertain to two themes: human nutrition (the passage on animals) and
reproduction (the woman at childbirth and the newborn). These are two areas
fundamental to survival, and they appear in Bereshit
in conjunction with
the conclusion of Creation: "G-d blessed them and G-d said to them,
'Be fertile and increase, fill the earth [reproduction]... See, I give you
every seed-bearing plant... they shall be yours for food [nutrition]"
In the new circumstances that
emerged after the Flood, G-d blessed Noah and his sons, again saying "Be
fertile and increase, and fill the earth [reproduction]." But the text
continues, "Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat... You must
not, however, eat flesh with its life-blood in it [nutrition]" (Gen.
On the eighth day of the inculcation ceremonies for the
Tabernacle, the Torah sought to establish new limitations on these two areas,
nutrition and reproduction. The world had reached a new era, new conditions had
come into being, the Divine Presence now dwelt among the Israelite
In these new circumstances, these aspects of life were given
another dimension, previously non-existent: notions of uncleanness, purity and
sanctity. Recognition that certain animals are unclean goes back to the time of
Noah (Gen. 7:8), but here the Israelites were explicitly commanded in this
The restrictions concerning purity
were established in consideration of the developments that mankind had undergone
thus far. Primordial man was only permitted to eat plants; the descendants of
Noah were permitted the flesh of all animals; the Israelites were permitted to
eat only certain animals that are not carnivors. Similarly one can see why the
commandment of circumcision was mentioned in the passage on a woman at
childbirth, since this commandment is significantly connected with
Additional significance attaches to observing these
restrictions of purity: it makes it possible to establish sanctity, one of the
things that characterizes closeness of G-d. The passage listing the clean and
unclean animals concludes as follows: "You shall sanctify yourselves and
be holy, for I am holy. You shall not make yourselves unclean ... you shall be
holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44-45). Refraining from drawing close to
sanctity in a state of uncleanness is helpful in averting the dangers entailed
therein: "You shall put the Israelites on guard against their
uncleanness, lest they die through their uncleanness by defiling My Tabernacle
which is among them" (Lev. 15:31).
The passages that follow, on people with leprosy and
discharges, can be viewed in like manner. These passages were perceived by the
homilists as dealing with ailments indicative of G-d's punishing or
This is to show us that the
Divine Presence in the Israelite camp goes hand in hand with direct involvement
of G-d in our lives, which is sometimes difficult to live with, as proven by the
story of Aaron's two sons, who died "when they drew too close to the
presence of the Lord" (Lev. 16:1). Remember that earlier G-d had warned
Moses, "If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy
you" (Ex. 33:5).
In conclusion, the passages on the laws of purity and impurity
can be seen in the context of the emergence of a new reality in which a
closeness was formed between the Creator and human beings. On the one hand this
closeness made it necessary to take precaution and establish new curbs on human
behavior in order to avoid the dangers inherent in this closeness. At the same
time, the fundamental actions of human life, eating and reproduction, assumed a
greater depth, extending their significance beyond mere survival.
Both delayed to the book of
Other questions also arise,
such as the order of the passages on leprosy, which is dealt with in
Abarbanel's commentary on Parashat Tazria
Rabbenu Bahya, Beur al
, Jerusalem 1977, II, p. 468.
Margaliyot edition, ch. 15.5, p. 331.
., ch. 15.6, p.
Both explanations given by
Rabbi Elhanan Samet, "Tum'at ha-Yoledet u-Milah
," Parashat ha-Shavua
, Yeshivat Har Etzion (Beit
ha-Midrash ha-Electroni) 2000. Samet notes that menstruation is also considered
a condition of sickness, since the Torah uses language of illness in connection
with it: "concerning her who is in menstrual infirmity" (Lev.
15:33). His approach does not easily explain why the passage on impurity
resulting from emission of semen is include among these infirmities, unless this
passage is viewed as appended to the passage on discharge.
Regarding what could be
eaten, Adam was commanded: "And the Lord G-d commanded the man, saying,
'Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of
knowledge ... you must not eat of it" (Gen. 2:16-17). The punishment
given Adam and Eve touched on these two areas: "By the sweat of your brow
shall you get bread to eat," and "In pain shall you bear
See the midrash in
(Vilna ed.), ch. 12.6: "Rav said: Something which
had not existed since Creation until that moment was brought into being on that
day. From Creation until that hour the Divine Presence had not dwelled in
earthly realms, rather, from the erection of the Tabernacle onwards. Therefore
it says, 'va-yehi
,' to indicate that something new had been
See Rabbi D. Z.
Hoffman's introduction to his commentary on Leviticus, ch. 11, p.
On leprosy as a sign of
warning, see Leviticus Rabbah
(Margolies ed.), ch. 14.34, p. 381. On
leprosy and discharge as punishment for sin, see ibid
., ch. 18.2, p. 400;
., ch. 18.3, p. 404.
Several stories can be found in Scripture indicating this:
leprosy of elevated, important figures who are close to G-d, such as Moses (Ex.
4:6), Miriam (Num. 11:9), Elijah's servant Gehazi (II Kings 5:27), and
Uzziah King of Judah when he entered the Temple to burn incense (II Chron.
26:19). The homilists transposed the theme of leprosy into additional stories,
and sometimes the punishment of having discharge, alongside. See Leviticus
Rabbah , ch. 14.3, pp. 374-377.