This week’s double Parasha is full of technical, physiological phenomena. However, there is an interesting pattern that can be observed between the two portions. While Parashat Tazria ends with the laws of the kosher and non-kosher species of animals, Parashat Metzora begins with the species of man. Therefore, in a sense, Parashat Metzora takes up where Parashat Tazria left off.
Rashi notes the sequence between the Parashiot:
R’ Simlai said; Even as the formation of man took place after that of every cattle, beast and fowl when the world was created, so, too, the law regarding him is set forth after the law regarding cattle, beast and fowl (Vayikra Rabba: 14).
According to Rashi based on the Midrash, the reason that man follows all the animals, here as well as in the story of Creation is because the Torah is consistent, just as at the beginning of the Torah man was created after animals so too his laws are explained after those regarding animals. What is the inherent message being offered by this Midrash as quoted by Rashi?
The Chatam Sofer explains that man is the climax of creation, he was created last to emphasize that the whole of creation was exclusively for him. Yet on the other hand he was created last to force home the point, that if he were ever to lose sight of his real objectives, he should remember that he is thus less important than the smallest of insects. Animals have no choice, they therefore have no real potential, man has potential, and man has choice. Man can therefore be the king of creation, or the lowest creature of all. In the same way that man can reach heights beyond those of an angel, he can reach depths beyond those of the most vicious animals ever to have existed. Man was created last because he is the purpose of the world, yet his laws of purity are taught after those of animal in order to show the potential depths to which man can fall.
This past week we commemorated Yom Hashoah. There are many people who spend the day grappling with the issue of G-d and the Holocaust. They ask where was G-d in the Holocaust. To me the question that should be asked is: Where was man? If anything at all, the Holocaust shows us how far man can fall if he chooses the wrong path. Whenever I see pictures of Jews being shot by Nazis, I see the two extreme potentials that man can reach. On the one hand, the animal-soldier, oblivious to the absolute evil in which he is involved, cold-blooded pointless murder. Yet on the other hand, the victim, the Jewish person, who despite everything remains a human being to the last.
As human beings we always have a choice of how to do what we do. Our aim must always be to reach our highest potential, to be the man for whom the world was created. The Torah therefore specifically at this point teaches us the guidelines for pure and impure, the distinctions between permitted and prohibited. When man makes such distinctions, he achieves holiness. He is superior to all of Creation, the apex of Creation. When man fails he is inferior to all of Creation.