By Binyomin Adilman
"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them,
'When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male
Rabbi Simlai pointed out that in the creation of the world,
Man was formed last, coming after the birds, insects, fish and animals.
When it comes to the laws of purity and impurity, the laws which apply
to humans (i.e. the leper and his purification process) also are found
in the Torah after those of the birds, insects, fish and animals (the
laws of kashrut), as per the verses: "This is the law of the
animals and the birds, of all living creatures that swarm in the seas
and that crawl on the ground. In order to differentiate between the impure
and the pure and between the creature that may be eaten and the one which
shall not be eaten." (Lev. 11:46-47, Vayikra Rabba 14:1-end of section)
The Tiferet Tzion comments on this Midrash, saying that laws pertaining
to the purity and impurity of man come after that of the animal in order
to teach us that we must include all the qualities that they possess.
The indicators of purity (kashrut) for animals are external; the
cloven hoof and chewing of the cud. For fish as well, the signs are external:
scales and fins. The kashrut indicators for birds are both internal
and external; the extra toe on the outside and the peel-able crop or stomach
on the inside.
Therefore we are to learn that we must have "kashrut
indicators" on the inside and on the outside as well. On the inside,
we require a faithful and contrite heart, open to the path of G-d. On
the outside, we need to look Jewish, just as our ancestors merited to
leave Egypt since they preserved their Jewish clothes, language, and names.
Man is mentioned after the fish, animals and birds to remind us that a
Jew must preserve both indicators of his "kashrut". One
must be Jewish inside as well as out. And the alliance of the two is the
key to climbing the ladder of divine service, which is firmly rooted in
the earth and reaches upwards endlessly to the heavens.
[Based on Tiferet Tzion; first published in B'Ohel
Hatzadikim, Vayikra 5760]
Rabbi Binyomin Adilman is the former head of the
Nishmas Chayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Back issues of his weekly parsha
sheet, B'ohelei Tzadikim, from which this article was taken, may be found