שביבי אש
לסדר תזריע

אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ

If a woman conceives (Leviticus 12:2)

R. Simlai said (Leviticus Rabbah 14:1): Even as man's creation was after that of cattle, beasts and birds, even so the law concerning him comes after that concerning cattle, beasts and birds.

In explaining this comment, our master repeated by way of introduction what he had heard in the name of the gaon R. Shlomo Kvetsch explaining Rashi's comment on the verse (Genesis 1:11): "Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind" (תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע עֵץ פְּרִי עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי לְמִינוֹ). Rashi comments: that the taste of the tree be exactly the same as that of the fruit. It did not, however, do this, but (Genesis 1:12) "the earth brought forth . . . a tree yielding fruit" (וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ . . . עֵץ עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי) and the tree itself was not a fruit; therefore when Adam was cursed on account of his sin, the earth was also visited (because of its sin) and was cursed also [as it is written (Genesis 3:17): "cursed is the ground for your sake" (אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה, בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ)].

R. Kvetsch explained that, in order to weaken the power of the earth from which man was taken, the Eternal created the earth and its fullness before He created man, thereby transferring some of its power to the trees and to the creeping things before man's creation. The full power of the earth would thus not be implanted in man so that it would not be too difficult for man to control his physical nature and to master his evil inclination. Now if the earth had obeyed the command of G-d to bring forth a fruit tree whose taste was like the taste of its fruit, the earthly matter would have been further diluted, and perhaps then Adam would not have sinned. When the Eternal visited punishment on Adam for his sin, He therefore also visited punishment on the land for its sin, inasmuch as Adam's sin occurred by way of what the earth had done.

(Our master used this idea to explain the words of the Scripture (Genesis 3:8): "and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord G-d amongst the trees of the garden" (וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן). This meant that Adam wanted to roll off the guilt from himself by saying that if only the trees had tasted like the fruit he would not have sinned.)

Now just as the Eternal formed man in wisdom and understanding to fashion him from a pure and untainted material to minimize and weaken the power of carnal desire, so also must man act wondrously in performing the G-dly deed of begetting children in his own image and his own form to perpetuate his kind. To do so, he must guard his soul against any impure food that may not be eaten so that his own constitution will remain clean and pure. And if he does so, holy and splendid offspring will issue from him. But if he makes himself impure in all these matters, his constitution will become tainted and he will beget a wild ass of a man (ופרא אדם), ruddy (אדמוני), and eager to shed blood.

This is precisely what R. Simlai meant to say: "Even as man's creation was after that of cattle, beasts and birds, even so the law concerning him comes after that concerning cattle, beasts and birds." For man, too, is a creator and a fashioner of forms, and he, too, is obligated to prepare a pure material and to refine his ingredients so that a lovely shoot, a delightful seedling, shall come forth from his stock. And how shall he purify his matter so that it should have no propensity for evil, if not by means of the food that he eats which constantly replenishes his flesh and blood that melt away?

Our master also used this idea to explain the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 14:1) which says here: the verse "if a woman conceives" refers to that which is written (Psalms 139:5): "Thou hast beset [formed] me behind and before" (אָחוֹר וָקֶדֶם צַרְתָּנִי). . . . If man acts meritoriously, they say to him: "You preceded all the works of creation;" but if not, they say to him: "A gnat preceded you, a snail preceded you."

The Midrash tells us that if a man acts meritoriously, we say to him that he is more elevated than any of the other creatures that were created before him, because he was created last and the matter from which he was fashioned was thus better and more pleasing than the matter from which the other creatures were formed. However, if he is not meritorious, and he has walked in the stubbornness of his heart, we say to him: "Look, even the gnat preceded you, and it was created by G-d before you desecrated the power of the earth from which you were created. Yet all this did no good for you, because you followed your evil inclination."

How well did our master explain in this way the text of the blessing which we say upon performing a circumcision: "who didst sanctify the beloved from birth, impressing Thy statute in his flesh and marking his descendants with the sign of the holy covenant" (אשר קידש ידיד מבטן וחוק בשארו שם וצאצאיו חתם באות ברית קודש). For according to the above, the first condition for a person's offspring to be holy is that he consume only permitted food. In addition, one must also obey the laws of family purity (חוק נדות) which are recorded in this poroshah. And then finally, on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised in order, as the Rambam wrote, to weaken the carnal desire. This is what is meant by the words of the blessing. "אשר קידש ידיד מבטן" refers to the food that one eats that fills his stomach, thereby sanctifying the child with the commandment relating to the stomach, as it is written (Proverbs (13:25): "The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want" (צַדִּיק אֹכֵל לְשֹׂבַע נַפְשׁוֹ וּבֶטֶן רְשָׁעִים תֶּחְסָר). And then "חוק בשארו שם" is a reference to the laws of family purity (חוק נדות), for G-d established a fixed cycle for women. And "ושאר" (flesh) is also a reference to the woman as the Sages understood the verse (Leviticus 21:2) "except for his nearest of kin" (כִּי אִם לִשְׁאֵרוֹ כִּי הַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו) as a reference to his wife. And finally after observing all these laws, one is commanded "to mark his descendants with the sign of the holy covenant" (וצאצאיו חתם באות ברית קודש), because it is also necessary to circumcise the foreskin in order to weaken the carnal desire.