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Parsha Mitzvot: Metzorah: Mitzvah 180 – Concept 460

“A man from whom there is a discharge of semen shall immerse his entire flesh in the water and remain impure until evening (Vayikra 15:16).”We are commanded to observe the laws of impurity caused by a seminal emission (Rambam, Hilchot Sh’ar Avot haTumah – The Laws of Other Major Sources of Impurity).


This is the only time in connection with the legislation of ritual impurity that the Torah speaks of washing “the entire body.” Even when purification from more severe levels of ritual impurity is discussed, such as the person suffering a discharge, the Torah did not demand that the “whole body” be washed. The reason for all this may have to do with the four basic raw materials man is made of; fire, spirit, water, and dust. This was not the order in which these elements appear in the report of the creation where the first element mentioned is spirit, followed by water and fire, and dust (earth). In Sefer Yetzirah, air-fire-water are listed as the three “Mothers,” so-called because they are like mothers to all that is found in the universe. These three elements are perceived as “descended” from the other; air begets water, and water begets fire.

When these three elements surface as part of a human being they have been metamorphosed, the white part of man corresponds to the element water; the red part of man corresponds to the element fire; the black part of man corresponds to the element dust. The element spirit, which is a fundamental part of man, is the basic element and dominates all the other elements of which he is composed.

It is common knowledge that every such element contains with inlet particles of each of the four elements; seeing that this is so when ever one of these elements displays signs of becoming dominant, the other parts of the same element which up to that point were dormant with in their respective “master” element, now awake.

Let us say that the, “element called the Spirit of desire,” awakens in a person, the parallel minor particles of that element which had been lying dormant with in the other three elements now “awaken” even while the other three elements and their respective minor particles with in them remain “asleep, dormant.”

Seeing that the elements spirit was the basic element that aroused these “dormant” particles of it within the other elements, it may be considered as “eternally awake, never dormant.”

Seeing that this is so our first demands that the person who has had and emission of sperm wash his entire body as due to the desire awakened in all parts of the body as a result of that omission, or “wakeful state of the Spirit of desire,” the secondary particles of that spirit threw out the other parts of the body have been awakened, have been activated. “Seeing they were all participants, they all have to be immersed in water for the entire body to become purified.

The element called “Spirit of desire” is different from the other three elements making up the body, as the other three are “dead” when the body is asleep. This force element, “the Spirit of desire,” is not “dead” even while the body is asleep.

The reason that there is a need for purification of the entire body in water is that the drop of sperm in question was not even potentially able to fertilize a woman’s over seemed that its “partners” in the body of the person emitting it had been asleep, “dead” when this emission occurred. They had not agreed to it. Seeing that as a result of these considerations the sperm was defective, useless, it produced a greater degree of impurity. (Rabbeinu Bachya)

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