Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Created TO DO

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

The commandment of circumcision (Brit Milah) that Abraham Avinu fulfilled in Parashat Lech lecha, appears for the second time in Parashat Tazri'a. But the context is completely different to that of Parashat Lech Lecha. The circumcision mitzvah is mentioned in relation to the impurity of the parturient (Tumat Ha-Yoledet).

"And G-d spoke unto Moses, saying:
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If a woman be delivered, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (Leviticus 12:1-3).

There is a well known dialogue between the wicked Turnusrufus and Rabbi Akiva which will help us in understanding the deep meaning of the commandment of Brit Milah:

"Whose deeds are more pleasant -asked Turnusrufus to Rabbi Akiva- those of G-d or those of flesh-and- blood?'.

He replied: "Those of mortals".

Asked Turnusrufus: "What about heaven and earth? Can man create the likes of those?".

"Said R' Akiva: 'Don't tell me things that are beyond the capacity of mankind, things they are incapable of. Give me an example that they can accomplish as mortals".

"He asked: 'Why do you circumcise yourselves?'.

"I knew you would ask that. That's why I started off by saying that man's actions are better than G-d's.' He then brought some wheat stalks and some pastries and said: "These are the products of G-d and those are manmade products. Aren't those [cakes] better than these stalks?".

"Said Turnusrufus: 'But if He desired circumcision, why doesn't the newborn emerge from the womb already circumcised?".

"Said R' Akiva: '…This is because G-d specifically provided us with commandments in order to purify us through them…" (Tanchuma Tazria).

What does the Midrash want to teach us?

Turnusrufus represents the opinion of all those who believe that in nature all is perfect and as such no amendments should be carried out. If the Creator is perfect – suggests Turnusrufus – also the Creation should be perfect and there is no sense that mankind will come and fix something that does not need any fixing as it is perfect!

The RaMbaM says at the beginning of Hilchot Avodat Kochavim (1, 1):

"In the days of Enosh, the people fell into gross error, and the counsel of the wise men of the generation became foolish. Enosh himself was among those who erred. Their error was as follows: ‘Since, God,’ they said, ‘created these stars and spheres to guide the world, set them on high and allotted to them honor, and since they are ministers who minister before Him, they deserve to be praised and glorified, and honor should be rendered them; and it is the will of G-d, blessed be He.

Enosh saw that the world was doing OK and this led him to the wrong conclusion that nature (and in his case the stars) are worth worshiping.

Enosh's mistake was similar to Turnusrufus' and their opinion seems to be a pagan concept: "If G-d is perfect so the world must be perfect as well".

Abraham Avinu, says the Rambam (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 1, 3), saw the same things that Enosh saw but he reached a different conclusion: he understood that the nature phenomena has a leader and only the leader (and not nature!) is worthy worshiping.

Natural things not necessarily are perfect. Rabi Akiva thinks that there is a place for mankind to intervene in nature.


When we read about the Creation it is said: ."And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all his work which he created TO DO" (Genesis 2:3).

Why it is written TO DO?

Because the Creation needs mankind intervention. G-d created the world in order TO DO so that we will be able to complete its creation…because the world is not perfect.

Previous Drashot
Tazria-Metzora 5766 - Man and the Mosquito

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This Devar Torah is dedicated Le-Ilui Nishmat Zehava bat Mina Ve-Asher Gofriti Z'L

Purity and Impurity

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

In addition to the long list of forbidden foods, Parashat Shemini gives us a grave warning lest we touch carcasses and become impure. "And for these you shall be unclean; whoever touches the carcass of them shall be unclean until evening." (Leviticus 11:24)

Why is it that we must be so careful about impurity that the Torah even warns us against touching impure things?

We also find permitted food in this Parashah. Don't permitted foods have the power to "neutralize" the impurities of the forbidden foods?

Generally speaking, there is something interesting about the laws of purity.

When something pure comes in contact with something impure, impurity and not purity is the active factor, and thus the pure becomes defiled and we cannot say that the impure is purified.


Let me give you a trivial example.

If I enter a pool of mud, I will get dirty, but if I enter a pool of soap ….. I won't come out clean unless I scrub myself.

And why not?

Because cleanliness requires much more of an effort than uncleanliness. A man can become dirty within a minute, but a "real" bath, takes half an hour.

A similar thing happens with clothes.

A piece of clothing can get dirty without our even noticing, but a serious laundry takes at least a half an hour.

The explanation: uncleanliness is a given while cleanliness is a process.

A similar thing happens with purity and impurity (even though there is no connection between impurity and dirt).

Purification is a long process. We are speaking of a process that requires a lot of effort on man's part, and it is a process with difficulties and even momentary failures. Permitted foods do not have the power to "neutralize" the impure, for a man is not purified as a result of eating ritually slaughtered beef or kosher chicken.

It doesn't work that way. (It is not written even once in the Torah "whoever touches pure food, becomes pure himself").

Avoiding the eating and touching of forbidden foods is an essential step towards a pure life of holiness.

And thus it is written towards the end of the Parashah following the long list of forbidden foods: " shall therefore sanctify yourselves, for I am Holy; neither shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing on the earth" (Leviticus 11:44).

Holiness is not a given.
Holiness is a project.
Holiness is a challenge.

Previous Drashot

Shemini 5766 – The Stork's Flaw