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Necessary Negativity

Tazria (Leviticus 12-13 )

by Rabbi Menachem Weiman

When a woman gives birth she is tameh for one week (for a boy) and two weeks (for a girl). Tameh is usually translated as "impure," which implies negativity. Yet what possible negativity could be associated with such a holy act as having a baby? A new mother glows with joy and sanctity. She has brought new life into the world!

Our question assumes that all negativity is bad, the sign of a problem. In the world of spirituality, sometimes negativity is good.

The simple idea behind the tumah from birth is the loss of new life from the mother's body. Since the new life is now out on its own, a void has been created in the mother's womb which generates tumah. Some even suggest that the reason why a girl baby causes tumah for two weeks, as opposed to one week for a boy baby, is because the girl baby also carries with her the potential to give birth to new life. Since the holiness is stronger in the female baby, the void it creates upon leaving the mother's body is greater.

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In Leviticus chapters 12 and 13, childbirth is juxtaposed to a spiritual skin disease called tzara'at. This disease also has tumah (spiritual impurity) associated with it. Yet the focus of the tumah of tzara'at is the spiritual flaw of the person who became infected. Tzara'at acts as a message to the patient that he must repent from a transgression. So sometimes tumah is negative.

But oddly, one of the commentaries suggests that only holy people would be susceptible to tzara'at. In fact, most commentators say that the reason we don't have tzara'at in our day and age is that we are not holy enough. You see tzara'at was an ailment that was unmistakably from the Almighty.

We don't have it because we don't sufficiently bring God's direct involvement into our lives, and therefore He must act more subtly. If you recognize clearly that the Creator is in charge of every event, then He can be more manifest.

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Every ailment, dilemma, or problem is a challenge sent by the Almighty. He has designed it in all its minutiae for the benefit of your soul. Every challenge is a message as well as atonement.

No person is without blemish. We all make mistakes sometimes. So an ailment is not a statement that you are bad, merely that the time is ripe for growth in a specific area.

Tzara'at led to introspection. And similarly, with any problem or challenge you have, since a flaw in your character was the impetus for the challenge, each problem should lead to introspection. That's what it is designed to do. If we ignore it, the spiritual flaw can't be resolved.

The flaw leads to the suffering. The suffering leads to introspection. Introspection leads to insight - which brings growth, peace and happiness.

Our goal is to come to the insight.


An outpouring of wisdom is waiting for each and every one of us on the holiday of Shavout. The day is not merely a commemoration of the original revelation, but a time period that is naturally endowed with revelatory insight.

What do you need more guidance with: Marriage? Dating? Childraising? Wisdom acquisition? Self-control?

Whatever you want more wisdom and insight about, Shavuot can give it to you. But you have to want it, you have to work for it, and you have to be fitting for it.

Every insight includes a tiny bit of self-criticism. Do you want to hear it? Are you ready to grow, if the insight demands it?

This Shavuot, tell God that you are ready, willing and able to deal with His insights. Whatever they entail, you are ready to make the change. With a prayer like this, you are guaranteed insight.

It's what your soul desires.

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Spiritual Exercise:

Write down three of your challenges. Pray to the Almighty to reveal to you what the message is in each, so you can work on your spiritual challenge.

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