By Rabbi Dov Beryl Wein
This week’s double parsha presents to us a difficult set of rituals regarding a type of physical disease that evinced physical manifestations. The rabbis associated this disease with the sin of improper speech and personal slander. We no longer have any true knowledge of the disease, its true appearances and effects, its quarantine period and the healing process that restored the person to one’s community and society. The ritual laws of purity and impurity are no longer applicable in our post-Temple society and since there is no comments on these laws in a specific manner in the Babylonian Talmud these ritual laws are not subject to the usual intensive scholarship and study that pertain for instance to the laws of money and torts in the Talmud. In the nineteenth century a great Chasidic rebbe and scholar composed a "Talmud" regarding the laws of purity and impurity. This feat of scholarship however met with criticism from other scholars and has remained controversial and relatively ignored in the modern yeshiva and scholarly world. So in effect the entire topic of this week’s double parsha remains mysterious and unclear to us. After all of the attempted explanations and reasons for these ritual laws of purity and impurity, they nevertheless remain mysterious and relatively inexplicable to us. Especially when these two parshiyot occur, as they do this year and in most years, in tandem together, the question of their relevance becomes even more acute and perplexing. The Torah which always challenges us to understand it here retains its inscrutability.
Perhaps this is the message of the Torah itself to us. There is a world that is beyond our earthly eyes and rational vision. Modern man always dreams about space aliens and different universes than the one we inhabit. There is an almost innate sense that pervades us that there is more to creation than what we sense and feel. It fuels our individual drive to immortality, our dreams and imaginations, and it allows us to imagine and invent. There is a popular belief that necessity is the mother of invention. But in reality I do not feel that this is accurate. Imagination is the mother of invention. There was no real necessity for the unbelievable advances in technology that our past century has witnessed. But people lived in a world beyond our present real world and imagined the computer the wireless phone and the internet. This capacity of human imagination and of being able to deal with an unseen world that nevertheless truly exists is one of the great traits of the human mind. The Torah indicates to us the existence of such another world, a world of purity and impurity, a special world of holiness and of the human quest for attachment to the Creator of all worlds. Therefore even though we do not quite relate to that world with our finite mentality, the Torah wishes us to realize that such a world does exist beyond our limited human vision. And that is a very important and essential lesson in life.