OU Torah Insights Project
Immediately following a detailed description of the range of sacrifices that the kohanim offered in the Tabernacle, and the laws that apply to the special status of the kohanim in the Household of Israel, the Torah embarks upon another aspect of their responsibility as leaders, arbiters, and confidants, to whom all matters of Jewish life were brought for resolution.
The kohein, the Torah teaches in Parshas Metzora, was the person to whom the afflicted went if they discovered certain physical blemishes upon their bodies and houses. The kohein would determine if these marks were to be categorized as tzoraasan act of G-d that set the individual apart from the community and left him in a state of spiritual contamination.
At the beginning of Parshas Tazria, the Torah introduces a different level of spiritual impurity which results from the joyous experience of birth.
The description of the mothers impurity after childbirth is then followed by the command of circumcision, a mitzvah given such weight that it is performed even on Shabbos and Festivals.
New life comes as the result of compassionate sensuous contact between male and female. Although it may lead to the creation of another individual, who reflects G-ds presence on earth, the means of creation is still carried out in a physical way.
Therefore, when a woman gives birth she remains spiritually unclean for a period set forth in Scripture. And if a male is born, he must be elevated--through the mitzvah of milah--from the mundane experience that made his birth possible.
This answers the question of the non-believer to Rabbi Akiva, quoted by the Midrash: If circumcision enjoys such priority on the scale of Jewish observance, why wasnt Adam given this mitzvah?
Adam, created by G-d, was not exposed to the lower experiences of man and woman. He therefore did not require circumcision to elevate his status to the level of holiness. As a creation of G-d, he was endowed with completion.
In the course of life every one of us falls prey to the temptations that seek to interfere with the sanctity of the covenant of milah. As a sign, one of the three symbols of Judaism, along with Shabbos and tefillin, the mitzvah of circumcision raises one to the highest level of sanctity.
It is our duty to remain loyal to the totality of Judaism as represented by these three mitzvos, to pursue all that is sacred and holy, to be a mamleches kohanima nation of prieststo identify and uproot the spiritual blemishes in all of us. In this way we will help restore Israel to his birthright of holiness.
Rabbi Pesach Levovitz