When a woman conceives and bears a male child…
Parshios Tazria & Metzorah
Slow Finishes 1
Rashi: Rav Simla’i said, “In the same manner that Man’s creation followed
that of the animals, beasts and birds, so are his Torah-rules recorded
after those of all the animals.
Gur Aryeh: Our parshah comes on the heels of a parallel section that details
the rules that govern the animal kingdom. We would have expected something
different. The Torah usually places the most important first. Shouldn’t the
laws that apply to Man’s body precede those that deal with animal flesh?
This is the question that moved Rashi to comment - and Rav Simla’i to
provide his answer. The order of sections mirrors the chronicle of Creation,
wherein Man’s appearance must wait patiently until that of the lower creatures.
This does not seem persuasive. The reasons for Man’s late-blooming role in
the creation story do not apply to the order in which species-specific
mitzvos are given. We are told that Man was created last in order to promote
humility. Should Man become too full of himself, the creation story reminds
him that he is a Johnny-come-lately; that the lowly gnat can claim pride of
place relative to Man. Other reasons are also given. None of them would
predict that the parshah of rules about Man should wait until after that of
the various animals. (You might be tempted to argue that Rav Simla’i’s point
is simply stylistic. Having once – for good cause - placed the animals
before Man, the Torah follows the same order elsewhere, even where this
ordering does not make sense. Paying careful attention to Rav Simla’I’s
words, we see that this was not his intention. Had Rav Simla’i said that
since Bereishis places Man in the last position, so does Vayikra, we would
have been correct. But this is not what Rav Simla’I said. Rather, he spoke
of Man of Vayikra tagging along after the animals “in the same manner” that
he does in Bereishes. “In the same manner” – kesheim – implies that Vayikra
and Bereishis share a common reason for the ordering of it subjects.
This is what Rav Simla’I means: The Torah of some thing is similar to its
creation. Hashem’s rules governing some thing are its ultimate tikun, its
spiritual completion. If it was meant for Man to be created last, then his
Torah should also come last.
This idea should not be unfamiliar to us. The Torah famously adds a heh –
the direct article – to the sixth day, the day of Man’s creation. Chazal
tell us12 that by speaking of “the” sixth day, the Torah alludes
to another sixth – the sixth of Sivan, on which the Torah was given at
Sinai. The very process of creation was incomplete until the arrival of that
day. This is not only because the world’s existence was predicated upon
Man’s eventual practice of Torah, but because Torah spells out the proper
conduct and use of all things. It is therefore an essential part of the
existence of all things; it is the completion in principle of what had
previously been created in form.
You might object that the topics within our parshah are then misordered.
Chavah was created after Adam; the mitzvos that apply to women should have
come last, rather than first, in our parshah.
This is not entirely true. According to Chazal 3, Man was first
created with both masculine and feminine elements coexisting within one
being. Male and female were therefore sourced in a single point of creation.
Now that they have been separated, it makes sense to place the male mitzvos
last. The male element represents tzurah – the communication of functional
form and purpose – relative to the chomer – material and substance –
represented by the female. The later maturation of males relative to females
follows from the more advanced role represented by the male, consistent with
the general finding that simpler means earlier, while complexity takes more
time. The upshot of this is that the Torah of the woman ought to precede the
Torah of the male, just as it does in our parshah.
One might still object that the topics in Parshas Shemini now seem jumbled.
If Vayikra follows the order of creation, then the laws of fish should have
preceded the laws of land animals, since they were created on an earlier
day. This, however, is not the case.
The objection is misplaced. When we speak of the ordering of topics
following the order of creation, we mean topics whose details were conveyed
in separate communications from G-d, i.e. different dibros. The laws of
animals were included in one dibur, apart from separate dibros for the laws
of women and men. Each dibur represents a different topic; those dibros are
indeed organized according to order of Creation. Within a single dibur,
however, the most prominent and important ought to be featured first. Fish
and animals are not separated into distinct dibros, but are part of a single
dibur about the infra-human species. Within that dibur, the Torah puts land
animals first, since they are more important than the fish.
We have not really done justice to Rav Simla’i. His words contain another
level of depth that we should explore.
Man appears last – both in his physical creation, and in his spiritual
completion through the Torah laws that apply to him – not only because there
was some ethical lesson for us in his coming after the animals. Man stands
apart from all the animals because he possesses a neshamah, a soul that has
no external manifestation, but is hidden and secreted within him. That soul
is not made of the same stuff and substance as everything else in creation.
It is a portion of Hashem Himself, placed within Man as the final step in
his creation – indeed, as appropriate only after everything else in our word
had first been readied for its appearance. The laws that apply to all other
creatures reflect their nature as they are. What they are is fixed, defined,
hard-wired. The element that makes Man unique is a neshamah that is not
fixed, but must develop, blossom and mature.
Man’s creation, in regard to both his physical creation and his special
Torah laws, cannot be seen, therefore, as on the same continuum as all other
creatures. His creation is discontinuous – and more refined and elevated. He
therefore waits for all simpler creatures to come into being first.
1. Based on Gur Aryeh, Vayikra 12:2; Chidushei Aggados, Shabbos 84A
2. Shabbos 88A
3. Based on Gur Aryeh, Vayikra 12:2; Chidushei Aggados, Shabbos 84A