Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 20th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 24 –28th of Nissan 5772
Parshat Tazria/ Metzora
First of All
It is one of the oldest questions of all time. It asks the secrets of the universe. Scientists, archeologists, evolutionary theorists have all weighed in on this one. Yet, it seems there is still no consensus as to the true answer. I have explored this question extensively (at least 7 minutes or so on Google) and I have weighed the different approaches. It is truly inspiring to see how much work and time has been spent by seemingly intelligent individuals to discover the answer to the all time perplexing imponderable. I will share with you my conclusive research, and with that a Torah approach. You can then make your own judgment as to what truly came first the Chicken or the Egg.
Now according to Professor Randy Garner, the esteemed Dean of Houston University, and one of the premier experts on the topic, the egg most certainly came first. Chickens, according to him, evolved from reptiles that after millions of years learned to fly and as everyone knows reptiles lay eggs. Thus the chicken came from an egg first. Chicken opponents argue that only a chicken can lay an egg and therefore the reptile egg is not a real egg in relation to the question at hand. Others argue along those lines that nobody would have named the egg a chicken until it became a chicken so therefore the egg wasn’t an egg until the chicken came into being. To paraphrase the old question; if an egg is born and there is no chicken around to name it, is it really an egg?
There are other chicken protagonists that point out a very compelling proof that the chicken obviously comes first. After all take a look in any dictionary the letter C will always proceed E. Simple enough. Yet for me the answer was always quite obvious- What came first? The answer… whatever the Rebbetzin decides to serve. And years of Shabbat experience clearly shows that she would never serve an egg after a nice Friday night Shabbat BBQ chicken. Even the egg cooked over night in the chulent and mixed in the chopped liver Shabbos day precedes the serving of the chulent. Now if egg comes before chulent, wouldn’t it stand to reason it comes before chicken.
Jokes aside, though the Torah does seem quite clear that on the 5th day of Creation Hashem created birds, fish and all creepy crawly things… imaginably chickens are included in that. No mention of eggs. So just as Man, created on the 6th day, was seemingly not born an embryo in the traditional Biblical narrative, one can assume neither was our good friend, the chicken. Now I hope the readers of my weekly E-Mail have better things to do than to ponder this great question. But once I have your train of thought going in this direction, I will share with you a similar, however non-nonsensical question, posed by our great Rabbis on this week’s Torah portion that they wish for us to ponder; a question that again may seem simple enough, but perhaps not. Namely, what came first Man or Mosquito? The Medrash at the beginning of this week’s portion gives the classical decisively Jewish answer… it depends.
But first let’s backtrack. The Torah portion this week begins with the laws relating to the birth of a Jewish child. It includes the laws of purity and circumcision and then extends its discussion to all areas of achieving human holiness and purity. The Talmud notes how these laws follow last week’s discussion of the laws of Kosher and pure animals to teach us a lesson.
“Just as man's formation took place after all animals ... so too, the laws pertaining to him are set forth after the laws regarding animals."
In short, the order here parallels the account of the original story of Creation. But what is the significance of this order? The Midrash elaborates the implied moral lesson:
"If a person merits, he is told, 'You came before all of creation'. And if not, he is told, 'the mosquito came before you'."
So now I ask you, dear reader, once again, which came first the Man or the Mosquito?
The Medrash though seems to be perplexing. Why does the order of Creation change if man merits or not? Doesn’t the Torah itself teach us that animals and crawly things were created on Day 5 while man was on Day 6?
The Kedushas Chaim answers this puzzle with a powerful lesson and insight. What he suggests goes to the essence of the nature of humanity. What are we really? Are we highly developed and evolved animals (most of us that is) that have the ability to survive, eat, and dominate the rest of the animal world; A super king of the earthly jungle? If so, then guess what? Hashem tells us ‘you guys are last, in the Creation. Mosquitoes are more important than you.’ There is however one part of us that preceded the mosquito; one thing that differentiates human existence from that of its lower counterpart creation. It is that when Man was created, Hashem blew within him the spirit of life. He granted us a soul. There is an eternal part of each one of us that preceded all of Creation; the piece of Godliness that resides within us all. If we identify ourselves with that holiness, than we are the essence of Creation. We came first. If not, mosquitoes, chickens and eggs all have more significant value then us all.
We are in the period of Omer right now. It is a time when we are told that we are meant to elevate ourselves, as our ancestors did so long ago, on the road to Sinai. Can we ever imagine being able to hear Hashem speak to us? Could they? As slaves, human-work dogs, highly developed human mules? No way. But they- we- were freed. We’re not animals. There’s a soul, a piece of God, in us longing to reconnect and hear that voice once again. When we read about the laws of purity of man, during this season, the Torah reminds of that lesson. We are the pinnacle and essence of Creation. We don’t have to and shouldn’t identify ourselves any longer by the physical and animalistic tendencies instincts that will inevitably push us to the end of the line. We’re Children of God. His voice, his Torah, is still resonating within the fiber of our beings. We just need to push it and us to the front of the line and let it shine. We have 36 more days to make it to the top. Let’s climb that mountain together.
Have a Great Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Talmudic Experience Katzrin- One of the coolest things about Israel is how one can at anytime just take a step out of our 21st century hi tech world and turn back the clock and walk back thousands of years to the same places our ancestors once dwelled. Katzrin is one of 10 synagogues that have been excavated that were in the Golan from the period of the Mishnah and Talmud. Mentioned numerous times in the Talmud the katzrtin Talmudic park is an excellent place to get a feel of what life once was. The guides at the park are bedecked in clothing of the period and by pre-arrangement can demonstrate the oil making on the press there, bread baking and pottery making. An hour tour there can include visiting the re-created house of rav avun and ancient synagogue from the 6th century (built on the ruins of a 4th century one) One can see the bima and where the geniza once was and the steps leading up to where the ark was. There is also two films that can be watched there the Talmudic stories of the “tanur of Achnai” which established the supremacy of Rabbinic legislature- even contrary to voices from Heaven and the tragic story of Rabbinic sage Elisha ben Avuya or Acheir who was excommunicated when he lost faith. Down the block is the Golan archeological museum stay tuned next week for the scoop on that J
RABBI SCHWARTZ FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted
Rabbi Schwartzes YouTube Yom Ha’zikaron clip of the week