This week’s reading, Tazria, discusses various spiritual impurities related to a person. The end of last week’s reading concerned which animals are pure (to eat) and which are not, and, says Rebbe Simlai in the Talmud, this is no coincidence: “Just like the formation of Man followed that of the animals and birds in the works of Creation, so too the laws about a person are taught after the laws of animals and birds.”
The Chasam Sofer explains: man is the pinnacle of Creation, and a person might think that the entire world exists to serve him or her, while he or she has no responsibilities. The Torah teaches us that “being at the end” works both ways. A person has such tremendous potential that he or she can rise higher than angels, truly reaching the highest possible spiritual levels. But the opposite is also true — a person is capable of evil which no animal could duplicate. A person can descend beneath the animals as well.
We can excel, either at purifying ourselves or at “achieving” the lowest of the low. Every day, we are confronted with opportunities to choose our direction — it’s our job to choose the right path.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org