By Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer, Guest Torah Columnist
Torah Portion: Tazria-M’tzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)
I remember I was teaching a deaf boy for bar mitzvah, and he said to me, “Even though I can’t hear, I can see very clearly, and I see in the Torah that it was on the fourth day that G-d created the sun, moon and stars. So why does G-d say in the Torah, on the first day, ‘Let there be light’?”
I explained to my young friend that the Zohar teaches that this was a special light called the Or Ganuz that G-d created to be hidden away for the righteous. This light teaches awareness of wholeness, that we are all one with G-d. With awareness of this light, we also recognize that we should seek to maintain G-d’s Masculine and Feminine form within us. When we do, there is wholeness, unity and there is health. This light was present even before the physical world came into being, before the light of the first day became visible. This light makes all else possible, including not only our potential to become healthy, but also our potential to become truly righteous and good people.
In this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, it states, “When a man shall have on the skin of his flesh a rising or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes in the skin of his flesh the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest.” (Leviticus 13:2)
Sefer Noam Elimelech explains this verse by writing, “The gemara teaches ‘in Rabbi Meir’s Torah, it was found written ‘garments of light’ (or with an alef). (Genesis Rabba 20:12) In truth, when G-d created Adam, his whole body was one great light lacking any yetzer hara.”
In truth, Adam originally was not made of flesh and blood. He was like an angelic being, sent down into the Garden of Eden to perform G-d’s will. The presence of G-d was completely within him. The Feminine Presence and the Masculine Presence. Adam and G-d were One, with no separation. This led to an Adam that was free from all illness. When you manifest the presence of the Masculine and the Feminine Nature of G-d within you, you eliminate illness crouching at your door. Furthermore, Adam and Eve existed beyond our imagination. Not only could they see “from one end of the Universe to the other,” but the molecular structure of their bodies was completely different than our molecular structure today. Indeed, their bodies were not physical, but their bodies were pure light. And because they were pure light, they were completely connected to the source of light, Hashem and could travel to different dimensions.
In his great commentary to the Torah, Rabbi Moishe Alshikh (1521-1600) teaches that Adam and Eve were initially clothed in garments of light, the chaluka d’rabanan (Rabbinic mantle) of the Garden of Eden. Their bodies were energy bodies, thought forms, subtle and light. Only after they embraced the duality of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil did they become physical skin, flesh and bone.
Initially, Adam and Eve and Hashem and all the animals were one. And when they were one, physical and spiritual health prevailed. They manifested the Feminine and Masculine Nature of G-d within them, balanced in such a way that their focus was not of separate ego, but it was a focus of being part of the whole. The lesson in this week’s Torah portion is not how to clear oneself of the ever annoying acne, nor is it about any other skin disease. I believe it is about the ways in which our attachment to ego obscures the divine light within us that G-d created on the first day. The more we realize our connection to G-d, the more the light will radiate and we will sense our skin to be a garment of light.
We must walk the earth shining with the light of G-d within us. This brings us closer to the original Adam as G-d had intended all of us to be. When the light of G-d shines within us, balanced equally between Feminine and Masculine, we, like the original Adam and Eve, not only commit our love for G-d, but we also abandon our commitment to separate Self.
When I make an effort to live with the complete Presence of G-d within me, by doing meditations on joining the Shechina with her Male Consort, I recognize I do not exist separately from anything or anyone else. And the more I do these meditations (many of which we share at our regular Kabbalistic Shabbat services) the more I bring back the original or ganuz, hidden light of G-d. And, with joy, I allow this light to permeate me as it did the original Adam. Parsha Tazria is about becoming one with G-d again and not holding on to a sense of separate self. This text asks us to let go of our separateness and ego concerns that drive so much of our lives. Acne and skin disease is a metaphor for being separate from G-d. Our text teaches that we need to replace our separate self with a self completely filled with the light and presence of G-d. And if we practice this daily and regularly, who knows – we also can become like the light beings of the original Adam and Eve.
Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer is senior rabbi of Congregation Bene Shalom, Skokie, and president and professor of Jewish mysticism at Hebrew Seminary, Skokie.