Aiming for Divinity: Harnessing Physical Drives for Spiritual Purposes

The end of parshat Shemini addresses the “tumah” (spiritual contamination) conveyed by various dead creatures, while parshat Tazria begins by discussing the “tumah” of a woman who has given birth to a boy. Many commentators seek to explain the Torah's purpose in juxtaposing the “tumah”of creatures and the “tumah” of humans.

Citing the Chatam Sofer, Rav Beker in Parperot L’Torah makes the following observation. While creatures only contaminate after death, humans may contaminate while still alive. Additionally, while the carcass of a dead animal only contaminates through touch and carrying (maga u’masa), a human corpse contaminates through the medium of “ohel” (a roofed enclosure) (see also mishna in Masechet Yadayim (4:6), which observes that the bones of humans contaminate, unlike the bones of a dead animal). Indeed, a human corpse is considered “avi avot ha’tuma” – the highest possible level of impurity.

What is the message?

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