The parsha begins with the laws of Tumeh. Just as the original creation of the world, humans were created after the animals, so too the laws of man follow the laws of the animals.(Rashi)
The words tamey and tahor have no real parallels in English or in any other secular language, and we have to delve more deeply into the Hebrew in order to even begin to comprehend how it can be applied to the concept of Kashrut. The following is based on the work Derech Hashem, authored by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto, better known as the"Ramchal,".
The word tamey originates in the Hebrew word atum, which means "impermeable" or "sealed off." In the world of the immediate present it is all too easy to present the flavor of what the word implies. When the Torah employs the concept of being sealed off it does so in a spiritual sense; tamey refers to a person or creature or substance that is sealed off from the spiritual; it is impermeable to Divine emanation or light.
When Hashem created the world, He was faced with a dilemma. If He created a universe completely open to His Divine light, such a universe would be overwhelmed by the brightness of this light and would cling to Hashem, unable or unwilling to separate. On the other hand, if creation was impermeable to Divine light it could not survive. A created universe has no inertia. It needs the constant input of the fresh energy that we describe as the Divine light in order to continue to exist.
Besides, not only were these extremes impractical, they also defeated the purpose of creation. Hashem wanted the universe to contain the possibility of connecting to Him through a process of free choice. This required a built in possibility of separating from Him and still continuing to survive. Some restriction to the need for constant exposure to the emanation of the Divine light had to be part of the universe's basic design.
So Hashem made a creation that is a mixture of tamey and tohar, of substances that are porous mixed with those that are impenetrable. The part of creation that is permeable to His Light is known as tahor; but a portion was designed to exist in a state of spiritual darkness; the portion we call tamey. Since both parts are combined into a single entity, creation as an entirety can function without either being totally overwhelmed by Hashem's emanations or in any way bereft of them.
The tamey portion of creation that is impermeable to the Divine light keeps the whole thing from fading back into the source, while the tohar portion that is permeable can connect back to the source so that Hashem is able to keep creation going.
Not only does this solve the problem of maintaining the universe in existence in a state of partial separation, it also offers the built in possibility of free choice. As anyone can connect to the tamey, a part of the universe that exists only in a state of separation from Hashem, there is a built in existential alternative to clinging to the Divine Presence.
Kashrut is an excellent way to bring this down to earth. We derive the energy for continued life from the things we eat. If we eat the tamey, we are choosing to live in separation from Hashem by definition; if we wish to connect we must only consume that which is tohar.
There is a Midrash which states if a person merits it, then they say to him, “you preceded all the works of Creation.' And if not then they say to him, 'the mosquito preceded you.”
We know that in Bereishis, the creation of man is last. So how can one say to a person "you preceded all the works of Creation?" We also need to explain what's wrong with being last. On the contrary, "saving the best for last" comes from an old saying of our Sages: "the last is most important!"
The Bais Yitzchak answers these questions, with a story of a gathering of philosophers devoted to studying and understanding all of the components of the natural world. They determined that everything in the world has a purpose. As we know today, complex ecosystems depend upon the interactions of every plant and animal within them, and the disappearance of even a single species can throw an entire system out of balance.
Other species are especially valuable in the service of man: horses and donkeys, for example. Various plants provide us with food; even poisonous varieties often have medical value when used externally.
This conclusion was finally reached after great effort over a long period of time. They were delighted to have discovered a true structure in all that had been created, and were ready to celebrate. One of them, however, was not satisfied. When they had all gathered at the party, he stood up and reminded them that they had failed to determine the purpose of one extremely important species: Homo-sapiens. “What was the purpose of creating humans, and does the world need us?”
So they chewed on that one for a while, and came up with no physical contribution made by humans to the rest of the world. We are not providers of natural resources -- we consume them. We cut trees and slaughter animals, destroying and eating while contributing nothing in return. Even human waste is useless, unlike the waste of many animals.
What do we conclude from that? If we decide that there is no great purpose to Creation, that it represents merely the random quirks of natural selection, then we conclude that humans are indeed destroyers. But the real purpose of man is not physical, but spiritual. We know this, however, not because we invested years of study into the natural order, but because the Torah tells us that had no nation accepted the Torah, the Creation of the world would have had no purpose. We exist not to provide physical contributions to the world, but spiritual.
When a person makes bread and separates challah from it, makes the blessing when slaughtering an animal, or makes a blessing upon kosher food on his or her table, this sanctifies the act of eating and consumption, and in so doing brings spiritual value to all the natural phenomena that went into the production of those foods. The person is then not a mere consumer or destroyer, but the provider of final perfection.
This being the case, then we understand the Midrash with which we began. "If a person merits it" - if he or she invests in spiritual pursuits and brings spiritual perfection to the world, then they say "you preceded all the works of Creation." Meaning, the world was created for the sake of this person and what he or she has done with the physical resources it provides. So although the physical Creation of all else came first, the reason for it all, the initial consideration upon which all of Creation was based, was indeed this person. And if not, if a person ignores the purpose of Creation, then "the mosquito preceded you." Even the lowly mosquito was here on earth first, so what right do you have to come and dominate and destroy it, or any other thing, afterwards? Every one of us has the tools in hand to bring perfection to the world!
(12:2) “Isha Ki Sazria V’Yalda Zachor V’tameh Shivas Yomim-If a woman conceives and bears a child she shall be impure for seven days.” The period of impurity differs for the birth of a male child versus that of a female. Many Torah critics complain of the Torah’s bias towards the male. But this concept of impurity needs clarification. Impurity sets in when a void of Kiddusha occurs. When a woman gives birth the soul she had been carrying in the form of that child leaves her creating a void of Kiddusha and tumah automatically replaces it. An example of this is in the body of man. Man has been endowed with a soul. But when a man dies and that soul leaves his body, a tremendous tumah sets in. This is why a Kohein is not permitted to enter a cemetery. The Kohein represents man at his highest and most holy point. For him to be in contact with Tumeh would go against his role in this world to be a connecting point to Hashem.
Another example is that of the Tumah one experiences upon waking up in the morning. There is a need to wash the hands to remove that tumah. The reason is because when a person sleeps a part of his neshama leaves his body. This is why sleep is considered one sixtieth of death. Since part of the neshama leaves, a void is created which is immediately filled by tumah.
The first childbirth ever recorded in history was when Chava gave birth to Kayin. The name Kayin is explained to come from her declaration (Bereshis 4:1) “Kanisi Ish es-Hashem-I have acquired an attribute of Hashem.” Just as Hashem has the ability to create, woman now has exhibited that ability to create. It is for this reason that the period of impurity for a female child is twice that of a male. For when a female soul is removed from the mother a greater degree of Kiddusha is lost. A kiddusha that is more likened to Hashem in its capacity to create, than a male.
After the birth of a son, a woman is tameh for seven days. The very next posuk records that on the eighth day he should be circumcised. The close proximity of the seven and eight teaches us that the woman who observes the seven day niddah laws will be blessed with sons who will be circumcised on the eighth day.
The previous parsha ended with the details of kosher and non-kosher animals. But for eating non-kosher animals one is not punished with tzoras. Hashem causes that public rebuke for the gossip and slander that devours people and their reputations. We can see people being very careful about what they eat but lax about what they say. Yet Hashem does not bring Tzaras on someone who devours pork, only one who devours people.
Tzaras was brought on the people in an era when few people spoke loshon hora. Yet today when there is little care taken about what people say we don’t see Tzaras? Tzaras was a divine warning to a person who was basically healthy; that he had done a bad thing. It was a blessing as much as a punishment because it alerted him to a problem and forced him to deal with it. Now we live in a time where people are on a level where the sins that cause Tzaras are rampant. They don’t deserve this Divine reminder that something is wrong.
Tzaras was not a physical disease, it was spiritual. It revealed a hidden aspect of creation that was unique to the nation of Israel. The words “Toras HaMetzora” equal 1411 which also equal “Vayeidah Kol H’Eretz Ki Yesh Hashem B’Yisroel-All the world will know that Hashem is in Israel.
(12:8) “V’Lokcha Sh’tai Sorim...Echod L’Olah V’Echod L’Chatos-Take two Turtle Doves..One for an elevation offering and one for a sin offering.” The actual order of the sacrifices is reversed? First we must remove the sin, only then can we come closer to Hashem through the elevation offering. Why then does the Torah write them listing the elevation offering before the sin offering? Perhaps we can say that coming closer to Hashem is the goal. Even though we must remove sin to get there, by listing the elevation offering first, we proclaim our intent from the start.
There are two forms of loshon hora. The Ohr Hachaim says one that is true but forbidden to say brings about Tzaras that is called Baheress, which comes from the word to clarify. The person wants to clarify his gossip. The second type is the slander which is totally untrue. This is punished by Seis a worse form of Tzaras. One is just on the surface the other is below the skin indicating that there is a more severe problem with the person.
(13:13) "V'Roh Hakohein V'Hinei Kisiso Hatzoras es Kol H'Basar-The Kohein shall look and behold the affliction has covered the entire his entire flesh." Why does the Kohein declare the person pure when his entire flesh becomes covered with the affliction? The Kol Torah explains that the Moshiach will only come after all governments of the world become total heretics. This verse supports this as G-d's salvation is closest to man when his ordeal reaches its greatest intensity. It is then that the turning point in his destiny occurs.
(13:33) “V’hisgaloch-He must shave.” The person wishing to become pure must shave his entire body. The word “Hisgalach” is spelled with a large gimmel. The Otzer Chaim says that this is a hint to the law that permits taking a haircut on the 33rd. day of the Omer because this is the 33rd. posuk. The Arizal says that from here we learn that a boy receives his first haircut in his third year corresponding to the large gimmel which equals three.
(13:47) "Wool and Linen" (13:48) "Linen and Wool" regarding wool listed first it is the material further from the body. The Tumeh comes first on what is more distant from the person. In the second case the order is what's is more valued.