Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Tazria - 5774

My friends,

This week's parasha deals with things that would make a person impure, and therefore he/she cannot enter the Temple or bring an offering. Childbirth makes a person impure for seven days in the case of giving birth to a boy and double that if it's a girl. On the eight day, we are reminded again that a boy must be circumcised.

Today's D'var Torah will concentrate on a Midrash describing a discussion between a Roman Governor and Rabbi Akiva. The governor asks Rabbi Akiva, "If circumcision is so important why aren't boys born already circumcised?" Rabbi Akiva responds with a question: "Whose actions are more important - G-d's or humans'?" The governor responds, "G-d's, of course." Rabbi Akiva then challenges him: "Can you eat wheat or barley as it comes from the ground?" The governor responds, "NO. You need humans to fix it and make edible." G-d created humans to make the world a better place, as we find in the Book of Genesis when Adam was assigned the task of working and taking care of the land. The same is true of circumcision. The boy becomes whole and complete on the eight day with the Brit Milah - circumcision.

The concept of Tikkun Olam - making the world a better place - comes from the many verses in the Torah which indicate that nature is not perfect - but that's what we have to work with. Our job is to make it better and make the world a better place for all. Shabbat is a good example. The first three verses in Genesis Chapter 2 describe G-d's completion of the creation by blessing and sanctifying the Shabbat. The last three words are "Asher Barah Elohim La-asot" - G-d ceased from all the work which "G-d created to do." 'La-asot' - 'to do' - humans have been assigned to complete G-d's creation by making sure that it remains and that we improve whatever we find.

That's the real Tikkun Olam. We all strive to leave this world in a better shape than we have found it.

Shabbat Shalom,