"You shall separate the Children of Israel from their
contamination; and they shall not die as a result of
their contamination if they contaminate My tabernacle
that is among them."
Our two Parshiot this week discuss the different conditions of Tumah (spiritual contamination) and the purification process (which usually calls for a separation of varying degrees) as well as different procedures which must be followed in order to become Tahor (purified). At the very end of the second Parsha the Torah calls all Jewish couples to separate just before, during and immediately after the onset of menstruation (a Tumah discussed in verses 19-31). This Mitzvah, commonly known as Niddah (separation), is one of the main pillars of Jewish family life.
My former wife Kathy (Aleha HaShalom - may peace be upon her) used to say about the Mitzvah of Niddah, that Judaism was the only religion that empowered women with control of sexuality. The Torah makes women regulators of when and how long this separation would be enforced. When a woman tells her husband that her menstrual cycle has begun, he is obligated to separate himself from her and is forbidden to touch her until she informs him that her purification is complete. Regardless of how much the flames of desire for her may burn, she is in total control - that's real power.
The Talmud (Sotah 17a) teaches:
"When a husband and wife are worthy of each other,
Hashem's presence dwells among them, if they are
not worthy, then fire dwells among them."
Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, France: 1040 - 1105) teaches that when the Talmud says that "Hashem's presence dwells among them," it must be understood literally. The root word of both Man (Ish - spelled Aleph, Yod, Shin) and Woman (Ishah -spelled Aleph, Shin, Hey) is Aish - fire. Without Hashem, man and woman can come together as "fire" with physical lust and desire burning out of control between them. But when Hashem comes into a marriage (an abbreviation of Hashem's name is Yod and Hey), then the fires are controlled by the Yod and Hey in man and woman. These very same desires can transcend the physical and become a shared spiritual experience.
There is much to be said about keeping the Laws of Family Purity (as these laws are referred to). Above and beyond all meaningful understanding of these laws, is the simple fact that we are obligated to follow these laws because He commanded us to observe them. But the deeper one goes to comprehend the meaning of His laws, the more significance one can uncover.
Bringing Hashem into every detail of our lives, even the most private - allows us to experience His presence among us. To attempt this, one must strive to always be in a state of purity. Each act we do however noble and pure can become steeped in the contamination of Tumah. But our Parsha teaches us that each Tumah has a process of Taharah that allows us to ascend to levels purity of mind, purity of body, purity of spirit and purity of consciousness.
Our homes are tabernacles to Hashem. The Torah is teaching us that sometimes separation brings us closer together, so close - that He actually dwells among us.
The death and destruction in Eretz Yisrael pains all of us. What can we do about this tragic situation? Our tradition teaches us that actions speak louder than words and spiritual actions DO affect the illusionary world we call reality. While this may sound outrageous, please try to keep the Laws of Niddah (and if you presently do, then be more careful on how you keep them - thereby bringing a higher level of purity into the world. Do so not only for the sake of the Mitzvah (which under normal circumstance is a very high state), but do so also as a petition to G-d for a world without the violence and bloodshed that we experience today.
Our tradition also teaches us that the historical Passover came about because of righteous women (Biglal Nashim Tzidkaniyot Nigalu Avotaynu MiMitzrayim) and so will the messianic Passover will also. Women of Israel, you have been empowered to change the world. I beg you, be meticulous in your observation of the Family Purity laws, so that a great salvation will come not only to Israel, but to the entire planet.
Shabbat Shalom, V'Shalom Al Yisrael
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig