Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas Tazria/HaChodesh - The Making of a Mensch      28 Adar II  5779 

04/04/19 10:01:05


The Yiddish word ‘mensch’, German for human being, is loosely translated as "a person of integrity and honor". The opposite of a "mensch" is an "unmensch", meaning an utterly unlikeable or unfriendly person. According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, the colloquial term ‘mensch’ translates to mean "someone to admire and emulate; someone of noble character”. The key to being 'a real mensch' requires nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, and decorous (that would be polite and refined). The term is used as a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual's qualities. But is that the true meaning or connotation of the word mensch?

Rabbi Wein, YBL”C, explains a section from the morning prayers: “L’Olam Yhei Adam Yirei Shamayim BaGalui U’Baseter”-“A person should always be God fearing in the open and in the closed or behind closed doors.” Rabbi Wein, in his imitable fashion, put a comma after the word ‘Adam’ to be read, ”L’Olam Yhei Adam” – “A person should always be!” Don’t worry about being God fearing. First and foremost, be a human being…be a ‘mensch’. Man, Adam HaRishon, was created B’Tselem Elokim, in the image of God. The first man from the time being formed is called ‘Adam’ and continues to be referred that way until another stage is created, that of his partner, Chava. In Bereishis 2:22 the Torah states: “God built the rib/side that he took from the man into a woman and He brought her to him”. The next passuk states: “The man said, Now, this is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called Woman (Ishah) because she was taken from man (Ish). When man and woman are together, they share the extra letters that of yud and hey, representing Hashem’s name. We are fused together and built around the name of God and ultimately to represent Him in this world as He does from above. The challenge we face as human beings is to always ensure that we live up to that lofty status. Shlomo HaMelech describes man as ‘There is no individual who graces the world who doesn’t sin’. This ruins and blemishes the purity of the image we are supposed to live up to. So, what do we do about becoming and maintaining the Adam within all of us?

In this week’s parshas Tazria we once again hear the term ‘Adam’. The Torah states in Vayikra 13:2 “Adam Ki Yihyeh B’Or B’Saro S’es oh Sapachas oh Baheres, V’Haya B’Or B’Saro L’Nega Tzoraas, V’Huva El Aharon HaKohein, oh El Achad MiBanav HaKohanim”: “If a person has a white blotch, discoloration, or spot on the skin of his body, and it is suspected of being a mark of the leprous curse on his skin, he shall be brought to Aaron, or to one of his descendants, who are the priests”. Rav Mordechai Leiner* in his sefer Mei Shiloach points out there are four levels or rungs to the makeup of an individual,: Adam, Gever, Enosh, and Ish. The paramount of the list is Adam, as it says in Bereishis “God created Adam in His image” and “Because in the image of God was man formed”. If there is some type of skin condition, he is brought to the Kohain. Every person who develops some type of leprosy and impurity is brought to the Kohein to regain the Kedusha/holiness. An Adam on such a high level cannot merely sit and remain with the impurity,; he must be brought to the Kohein so that Hashem could purify him to the level he had been at the time of creation with the original Adam, Adam HaRishon.

Sinning is the animalistic tendency that comes out when we lose sight of the holiness of man. The term ‘Gever’ symbolizes the strength of man to overcome those tendencies; the term ‘Enosh’ is humanity ,another description supporting that we are superior to our animalistic side. As we sin we lose a part of who we are as an Adam. It is interesting to note how man was created from the ground and a part was taken and then brought back to him. In today’s scientific world this is known as regeneration, whereby cells can reproduce and regenerate, sometimes creating complete new organisms. The Hebrew word to regenerate is ‘Arucha’ which is the same root for length and long. With Tzoraas /leprosy, the area of the skin affected must be ‘brought’ to the kohein and examined to determine if the skin is afflicted. If it is, it’s as if the skin is not there. If decided that it is leprosy, the skin needs to regenerate itself, making itself new and wholesome again. We need to make ourselves in the image and form that God made us in the beginning. When the skin does produce again it goes through the process of ‘Arucha’, literally regenerating, signifying it continues. With a refreshed and healthy body with which the skin rejuvenated itself there will be Aruch, long life will extend to a longer life.

The Midrash Tanchuma Tazria 8 explains the unique connection between Hashem the King to His subject Adam in contrast to a human king and his servant. Why is it when a person sins against Hashem, that Hashem brings physical signs such as leprosy to the body? It is because the character and Middos of God are different than that of a human being. A king of flesh and blood punishes a sinner by striking his body with ropes, chains, leather straps (made from hide) and the like, while Hashem strikes the person from within his own body, as it states, “The leprosy is stricken in the body on his flesh (the hide of the human).

In Pirkei Avos/Ethics of the Fathers, Hillel said, "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. For man, read mensch, which means striving in our pursuit of the Tselem Elokim, the image of God. Where there is a deterioration of man, by virtue of mankind sinning, we must take control and bring back the image in which we were created; we must strive to bring back the original plan of man to live forever and never die, for it is only due to our sins that life as we know it is cut short . This relates directly to what we read about Adam and Chava being kicked out of Gan Eden because of the sin and death that had been decreed upon them. Let us ‘Make Man’ and become the shining example of a Tzelem Elokim, a true Mensch in the image of God.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izhbitz (1801-1854) was a Rabbinic Chasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Chassidus. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov to his father Reb Yaakov the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul, a descendant of Rabbi Saul Wahl. At the age of two his father passed away. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both were also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple in Kotzk. In 1839, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a rebbe in Tomaszów, subsequently moving to Izbica.

Rabbi Mordechai Yosef’s leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger (1816-1888, grandson of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. His students included Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823–1900), his son, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner (1828–1878) and his grandson Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner of Radzyn. Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried in an ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780