The Netziv[1] notes that in all the various topics and laws of Chumash Vayikra (and there are many) we only find the term ‘adam’ (‘person/man’) twice. One is in our topic of korbanos (Vayikra 1:2) and the other is in the portion dealing with tzara’as (13:2) - the mark on one’s skin, clothes, or house which comes primarily from speaking Lashon Hara. Why do only these topics deserve the word ‘adam?’ What does the word adam connote; why is it different from other words which mean ‘man,’ like enosh, gever, or ish? The Midrash[2] picks up on the word adam here and cross-references it firstly to the things in Creation which are most precious to HaShem, and then to the pasuk[3] ‘I have found one (worthy) man [adam] out of a thousand,’ which refers to Avraham Avinu or Moshe Rabeinu. Thus, it seems that the Midrash understands the term adam to connote the greatness of man. Similarly, another Midrash[4] reveals that the word adam refers to the noble qualities of love, friendship, and brotherliness - it seems ‘adam’ implies some aspect of loftiness and merit. The Ohr HaMidrash explains that of all the words which mean man, the word adam is the most positive. The word adam, he says, comes from the phrase adameh l’Elyon (lit. ‘I am/will be similar to HaShem’), which lauds the fact that we were created in HaShem’s image. Indeed, the Torah itself uses the word adam when noting the fact that we were created in HaShem’s image, as it says (Bereishis 9:6) ‘…for in G-D’s image did he make man;’ the word for man in the pasuk is adam. Furthermore, the first and most spiritually perfect human being to have ever been created was called Adam; a name which matched and reflected his greatness. So 'adam' refers to the higher, more refined qualities of man(kind). So why do we find this word used specifically in the topics of korbanos and tzara’as? The idea is that both korbanos and tzara’as have something to do with elevating man into being a more refined person; into being more of an adam…

First to Korbanos. As the Sefer HaChinuch and the Ramban[6] both reveal, the idea of bringing a korban is the casting away of the lower, animalistic urges within us. The animal, which represents these lower, base desires [an animal cannot control its desires], is brought up on the altar and burnt; representing our wish to separate ourselves from these base urges and become more refined people; more of an adam. This is why, says the Sefer HaChinuch, one does not need to have sinned to bring a korban; there is a concept of a voluntary korban (nedava) too - for a korban’s underlying concept of filtering out the lower attributes of man is universal in its application; it is not limited to when one has sinned. And it is interesting to note that the idea of korbanos is not limited to Jews; a non-Jew may bring a korban too - for this aspect of separating oneself from their lower attributes is a faculty of being a human and having been created in G-D’s image; a facet which all humans (Jew and non-Jew) share.[7] So the central concept of korbanos aims to concretise and realign a key distinction between mankind and the animal kingdom; that animals have no choice but to go after their desires, whilst humans have the ability to rise above their desires. This refined characteristic is part and parcel of being an adam; hence the use of the word adam in the portion dealing with korbanos. Now to tzara’as.

Another main thing which separates mankind from the animal kingdom is the faculty of speech. Mankind is unique in that it was blessed with the full spectrum of verbal expression known as speech. Thus, the Targum translates the pasuk in the Creation of man (2:7) ‘and man became a nefesh chayah’ as ‘and man became a speaking spirit’ - so central to the definition of man is his faculty of speech. And yes, the term for man in that pasuk is adam. Thus, tzara’as, which comes as a result of speaking lashon hara, represents the downfall of man from his lofty refined podium of being an adam; he has used his unique faculty of speech in a destructive manner. This means that the post-tzara’as purification process and temporary separation from the camp is geared at re-sensitising the person to the elegance of speech and so restoring his refined nature as an adam.

[1] Netziv, Ha’amek Davar Vayikra 1:2 [2] Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 2:1 [3] Kohelles 7:28 [4] Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 2:8 [5] See Tehillim 8:5. Also, the generation of the person called Enosh (Adam HaRishon’s grandson) was the first which saw widespread idol worship (Rambam, hilchos Avodah Zara 1:1). [6] Sefer HaChinuch mitzvah 95. He quotes the Ramban there. [7] There are certain rules which differ between a Jew bringing a korban and a non-Jew bringing a korban - our korbanos have stricter rules; see gemarra Gittin 56a for an example.

Add comment

Have something to say?
Please make your comment below!
All comments are reviewed prior to publication. Absolutely NO loshon hara or anything derogatory or hurtful to anyone will be permitted on the website.

Security code