The Torah commands a woman to bring korbanot after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) — a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.
Clarity and Connection
“And upon the completion of her days of purity” (12:6)
The greatest political blunder of the Feminist movement was its failure to allow men to have babies.
Nothing sorts out the ladies from the boys more than nine months of gut-churning (literally) physicality.
Nothing is as physical in this world as the gestation and delivery of another life; from morning-sickness to afternoon sickness to plain-ol’ sickness, from the repulsion to all green vegetables and the craving for waffles drowning in maple syrup to the wholesale hijacking of the human body into a Mothership ferrying a precious cargo to a safe touch-down. Nothing compares with childbirth.
Take it from me. I've never done it.
In the Torah, the concept of tuma (spirtual impurity) is most often connected with death. The greatest source of tuma in the world is a cadaver and contact with it. Why then does a woman become tameh (spiritually impure) when she gives birth? Isn't birth the polar antithesis of the grandaddy of all tuma – i.e. death?
Another question: Why does death frighten us so much? A Jew knows that this life is but a brief candle, and when it is snuffed out G-d reveals a great palace of eternal light beyond it.
But it sure doesn't look that way when we are confronted by a lifeless corpse. It looks like “THE END”.
The reason that death is the greatest source of tuma in the world is that a dead body shakes to the core our belief in the resurrection of the dead.
In Hebrew, the word tuma is connected to the word meaning sealed – satum. The elevation of the soul to its place on High is sealed from us. All we are left with is the frightening physical reality. The opposite of tuma is tahara. Tahara is connected to the word Zohar – shining transparency; the ability to see through the barrier to a life beyond. The most exposed part of the Holy Altar was called the Tohoro Hamizbe’ach; the brightest part of the day is called Tzohora'im. Everything is clear.
Giving birth is almost as physical as dying. Maybe even more so.
Just as contact with death can cause a great disconnect with the spiritual reality of our elevation to another world, so too can nine months of total involvement with the body, hormones, fluids, tests, scans and all the other physical features of childbirth, lead to a very large disconnect with the spiritual reality of G-d bringing another soul to the world.
It is for this reason that the tuma of disconnection requires a mother to bring a korban — an atonement — as part of the process of returning to the world of tahara – of clarity and connection.
- Sources: based on Sforno; thanks to Rabbi Mordechai Perlman