A Jewish scribe. (Micah Bond/Flash90) Micah Bond/Flash90


We must work on ourselves and surround ourselves as much as possible with only “pure” influences, striving to become better people!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36) and it continues the theme of Temple sacrifices. It is very difficult to relate to animal sacrifices nowadays as no Western religion performs the once universal ritual any longer. In fact, there is disagreement among our sages whether animal sacrifices will even return when the Third Temple in Jerusalem is finally built. The argument against their return is based on the theory that God would not reinstate something that appears so antithetical to the current climate. Others say that perhaps some sacrifices will return, but not all. We’ll leave it up to Him to decide.

In this week’s reading, we learn about a new aspect of the sacrifices: purity and impurity. For example, we are told that if the meat of a sacrifice becomes impure, then it may not be eaten. To clarify, if initially pure sacrificial meat comes into contact with anything impure, then it too will become impure. In other words, when purity and impurity clash, the impurity “wins.” Pure items become impure.

Why is this? Why don’t we say if the meat of a sacrifice touches anything impure it causes the impure item to become pure, as well? Why does the impure always overpower the pure?

It’s explained that when it comes to the world of purity and impurity, each side has aspects that are certain and aspects that will be doubtful. And it is the world of purity, in fact, that has more cause for doubt and uncertainty than the world of impurity. More often than not, one can tell when something is impure or problematic. It is much more difficult to confirm purity because looks can be deceiving.

An illustration of how difficult in can be to confirm purity can be seen in the laws of writing scrolls for the mezuza. Specifically, there is a law dictating that when a scribe writes a mezuza scroll, he must write every letter in order. This is unlike a Torah scroll which may indeed be written out of order should the scribe so desire. So too, a scribe may not erase mistakes in the text of a mezuza scroll.

That means that a scribe who notices a mistake somewhere in the text of a mezuza scroll, even after working hours on it, must properly dispose if it. The scroll is invalid. The scribe essentially lost all those hours of work. He must start over. If the scribe is dishonest, he might erase the mistake and correct the problematic letter or word in such a way that the onlooker will never know the scroll is not kosher due to the repair. There would be no way to tell. Looks can be deceiving. (This is why one must only buy mezuza scrolls from honest people!)

This is why the pure will usually become impure on contact with something impure and not the reverse … because how will onlookers ever know? There’s always more than meets the eye in the world of purity! But impurity is often easier to discern.

This is also a message for us in life. As we see far too often, negative influences (the impure) affect a person faster than positive influences (the pure). It is easy to tell when a person is “impure” and not as easy to tell when someone truly is “pure.” We must work on ourselves and surround ourselves as much as possible with only “pure” influences, striving to become better people!

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.





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