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The Proximity of Being Far (Tazria)

Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire. — Francois de la Rochefoucauld

The Torah reading of Tazria delves into what might be considered arcane laws of the ritual purity of a woman after childbirth. According to Torah law, a woman after childbirth becomes ritually impure for a determined period of time. After that time, she needs to bring a sacrifice as part of her purification process enabling her to once again access the Temple and visit that holy location.

The Chidushei HaRim on Leviticus 12:2 delves into what’s behind that period of distancing, of keeping a woman who has just given birth, far from the Temple. He draws on the story of Abraham bringing Isaac to Mount Moriah to be sacrificed as per God’s command. The verse there describes how Abraham had seen the place from “afar.” He was far away when he encounters some aspect of divinity. To make the quandary more poignant, the Chidushei HaRim implies that Abraham, who is about to undertake the most meaningful and trying moment of his life, the fulfillment of God’s apparent command to sacrifice his son, finds that God is “distant.” Nonetheless, Abraham pushes on, despite the distance, and aims to bridge that gap, not only geographically but spiritually as well.

After the fact, after Abraham successfully passes the challenge of obeying God’s command and after Isaac is spared, Abraham realizes that God’s apparent distance was a good and necessary thing. It made him tap into his love of God. It made him dig deeper into the inner recesses of his soul and realize that God is always with him, no matter how “distant” God may seem.

Abraham passed on this capacity to feel God to all of his descendants. It is one of the reasons that in the Amida prayer we reference the “shield of Abraham.” It energizes and invigorates our ability to connect to God, whether we are feeling near or distant. In a certain sense, there can even be an advantage to feeling distant as that can increase the yearning, the desire and the impetus to reach out to God and to explore our own inner reserves to find and connect with Him.

May we always find God, no matter how distant He may seem.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of Yazan Fallah from Kasra Samia, and Shirel Aboukaret from Netanya, the two Border Police officers killed in the terrorist attack in Hadera on Sunday.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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