A proper review of all that’s going on in this week’s parsha would take 10-15 pages. Do you have the attention span to read and absorb all that the RBSO set forth about childbirth, purity, the commandment to perform the bris on the 8th day, then followed by a detailed explanation of tzora’as (leprosy) and all its implications? Mistama nisht (likely not).
Though there are a few (nebech, very) that mamish read this toirah weekly from cover to cover, discuss it at the shabbis tish where it zicher (surely) enhances their shabbis, for most of you oisvorfs, the 5 or 6 pages that I put forth each week, is too much for your ADD. So far are you from the toirah that you can’t even absorb it with humor, rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid). And with that introduction, I will apologize in advance as it’s mamish impossible to give over all the beautiful things the midroshim waxed prophetically about on topics that include a detailed analysis of the woman’s uterus, sexual relations and much more. The midroshim discussed these private zachen (things)? Yes, you read that correctly and now you want 10-15 pages of toirah, yes? Such chazerrim, it mamish disgusts me.
We’re just about done with korbonis and it’s time for some straight talk about sex and childbearing. Vey iz mir: I see that I got your attention at the mere mention of sex. Just kidding: the parsha is not about sex at all; only what happens after sex. Welcome to Parshas tazria which begins by informing us how boys and girls are made. Forget about chromosomes, the X factor, sperm spinning and other such narishkeyt (bs). Want to know how to make a boy? Learn the Parsha. Says the possik:
|Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be unclean for seven days; as [in] the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be unclean.||ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ וְיָלְדָה זָכָר וְטָמְאָה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים כִּימֵי נִדַּת דְּוֹתָהּ תִּטְמָא:|
Way before scientific journals and other at-home experimentation techniques put forth various theories on gender selection; the heylige toirah summed it all up in but a few words. Parshas Tazria which we read this year as a single parsha due to Adar Sheynee, begins with Moishe telling the BNY all about childbirth. Well. Not all about it; but a few key halochois.
Says the heylige gemorrah (Niddaa 31a): If the woman gives seed first, she gives birth to a male; if the man gives seed first, she gives birth to a female. Nu, do I have to spell it out for you? And that’s precisely why we takah have so many more girls than boys and of course the shidduch crisis. Because you chazerrrim have no control over yourselves and don’t allow your partners to seed first. Case closed, no need for further discussion or scientific facts: we don’t argue with the heylige gemorrah, chas v’sholom. I see you like this topic; lets’ learn another possik while I have your attention.
|6. And when the days of her purification have been completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a sheep in its first year as a burnt offering, and a young dove or a turtle dove as a sin offering, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the koihain.||ו. וּבִמְלֹאת יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ לְבֵן אוֹ לְבַת תָּבִיא כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן שְׁנָתוֹ לְעֹלָה וּבֶן יוֹנָה אוֹ תֹר לְחַטָּאת אֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד אֶל הַכֹּהֵן:|
You hear this? Seemingly, having a baby is epes a shtikel sin. Grada I thought that having sex without making a baby was the Aveyro, what’s p’shat here? What terrible sin did the mother commit in having a child? Didn’t the RBSO command Odom and Noiach each (twice) to be fruitful and multiply. Why should a mother be declared unclean for fulfilling a Mitzva? And why must she offer a Korban Chatas?
Says the heylige Tanna Reb Shimon bar Yochai (Nidda 31a) in response to a kasha posed by his talmidim: When she kneels in labor, she swears impetuously that she will have no intercourse with her husband. The Toirah, therefore, ordained that she should bring a sin offering [to atone for her false oath.] Grada, I’m not at all certain that the woman should bring a korban for swearing falsely as it seems more likely than not, that takah the woman meant what she said. Horaya (a proof of this is): the more children one has with his eishes chayil, the less sex they have on an ongoing basis (forever). We can therefore kler (posit) that, when she made that oath, she really meant it. Ober- veyst zich ois (it appears) that a korabn Chatos is takah in order but not because of the physical process of giving birth, but rather, to atone for the mother’s thoughts (of not servicing her husband properly and often, following childbirth): guilty as charged!!
Mistama you’re perplexed by this entire concept of a woman having to bring a sin korban following childbirth as logically speaking, one would think punkt farkert (quite the opposite). Isn’t’ childbirth one of the most amazing and awe inspiring events that a woman can experience? And if a korban is required, wouldn’t a more appropriate korban for the naya mama (new mother) following such an event be a Korban Todah (thanksgiving sacrifice)? What’s p’shat, what gives here?
Ober Raboyseyee, even though you think your kasha is so gevaldig, the Medrish already thought of this hundreds of years ago. One Medrash explains that since childbirth is a painful experience there may have been a split second of extreme pain in which the mother may have thought that it would have been better not to have the child at all. Even though the mother did not mean this seriously, the very fact that this thought entered her mind, is reason enough to make her give a Korban Chatas (sin offering) instead of a Todah.
The Abarbanel suggests that in order for a mother to honor the RBSO after He caused her pain and suffering, she should go to the Bais Hamikdash and give a Korban. However, the Abarbanel’s idea does not explain why a Chatas, and not any other Korban, is given. Let’s look elsewhere.
Another Midrash discusses how the baby comes from a dirty place, just like marble and beautiful wooden furniture. One should remember where the baby comes from inside the mother, and she must also remember that her child comes from the RBSO. Therefore, she must go to the sanctuary where Hashem dwells and bring a korban.
Nechama Leibowitz calls the laws of purity concerning childbirth the “most perplexing phenomenon” of all such laws. A seemingly excellent kasha (question) might be: If the first commandment is Pru –U’rvu (to procreate), why is the mother fulfilling the mitzvah made unclean and why does she have to bring a sin Korban? Ver Veyst? She suggests that when a child is born, the mother looks at this pure and innocent child and looks at herself and what she has become. More often than not, the mother will realize that when she was born she had so much potential to become an amazing person; however, as time went on, she drifted farther and farther from that goal. The very fact that the mother comes to terms with this and realizes how little she really has accomplished is reason enough to give a Chatas to the RBSO. A shtikel shver (hard) to follow, especially from a woman ober that’s what she says. Unless of course she was referring to all the extra weight the mothers forget to take off following childbirth.
Veyst tzich ois (apparently) the meaning must lie deeper…so le’ts takah go tiffer (deeper), if you chap… Says the Midrash Rabbah azoy:. Reb. Abba b. Kahana waxes lyric at the miracle of pregnancy and childbearing: “In the usual way, if a person holds a bag of money with the opening downwards, do not the coins scatter? Now the embryo has its abode in the mother’s womb, but the Holy One, blessed be He, guards it that it shall not fall out and die. Is this not a matter for praise?” He also goes on to remark that nature has placed udders where the womb is, but a woman “has her breasts in a beautiful part of her body, and her baby sucks at a dignified place.” (avada, youre thankful that your Esihes chayil’s breasts haven’t fallen all the way down to the womb- yikes). All this sounds more than gevaldig to me, perhaps too sensual. Perhaps all of you should bring a Korban Chatos after reading this p’shat.
Other rabbis remarked that the mother never expels the child after eating, and that menstrual blood is alchemically turned to milk for nursing. Furthermore, in utero the baby absorbs food through the navel, exactly what it needs, no matter what the mother eats, and it never needs to defecate. Finally, R. Aihu remarks on another aspect of the RBSO’s presence. When the baby is born and “full of ordure and all manner of nauseous substances,” everyone kisses and hugs the baby anyway, especially if it’s a male. I don’t know how these are responsive to the kasha of the korban chatas, but the color commentary was enjoyable.
Shadal (Rabbi Shmuel David Luzzatto, Italy, 1800-1865) suggests that the obligation of the mother to bring a sin offering is similar to the obligation of bringing an offering in other cases of impurity such as the leper and the ‘zav’ and ‘zava’. (This is information
overload and mistama we’ll cover these impurities next week). He suggests that the common denominator of all these cases of impurity is, as stated above, their connection to death. This contact with the morbid and the survival of it require an offering. While giving birth the woman’s life is in danger. She owes a sacrifice for having survived the birth process. Sounds good to me. Avada bazman hazeh (here in golus), there is no korban so the women (some) come to shul and say a few words of thanks.
Rabbi David Zvi Hoffman says that the obligation to bring a sin offering is not due to the process of giving birth nor to the thoughts going through the woman’s mind. Rather, it is due to the outcome of being impure and thus being prohibited from entering the sanctuary. The state of impurity creates a barrier between man and the RBSO. This distance and separation requires atonement.
Nu, since we’re tif (deep) into the woman, I meant the sugya (topic) of childbirth, let’s takah learn one more halocha about post delivery activities (of a sexual nature). As you can imagine, these opening pisukim of the parsha, about seeding, conception and childbirth and the ensuing impurity of the child-bearing mother, didn’t go unnoticed and there’s quite a bit of commentary in the midrash.
Says the heylige toirah azoy: ….see possik 4 below for boy delivery status and then possik 5 for the mother’s status following the birth of a girl.
|4. And for thirty three days, she shall remain in the blood of purity; she shall not touch anything holy, nor may she enter the Sanctuary, until the days of her purification have been completed.||ד. וּשְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּשֵׁב בִּדְמֵי טָהֳרָה בְּכָל קֹדֶשׁ לֹא תִגָּע וְאֶל הַמִּקְדָּשׁ לֹא תָבֹא עַד מְלֹאת יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ:|
|5. And if she gives birth to a female, she shall be unclean for two weeks, like her menstruation [period]. And for sixty six days, she shall remain in the blood of purity.||ה. וְאִם נְקֵבָה תֵלֵד וְטָמְאָה שְׁבֻעַיִם כְּנִדָּתָהּ וְשִׁשִּׁים יוֹם וְשֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּשֵׁב עַל דְּמֵי טָהֳרָה:|
Nu, before we turn this shir into a class on anatomy, a topic my oen Rebbe and pirchei leader taught by show and tell, let’s see what others said. First: the 13th-century Reb Chezekiah ben Manoah, aka ‘The Chizkuni’. (a rishon who lived later than Rashi) Quoting the Sefer Ha-Tolados he writes:
A woman has inside of her [uterus] seven chambers, three on the right side and three on the left side, and one in the center. When the seed enters on the right side, she will give birth to a male child; if the seed enters on the left side she’ll give birth to a female child. And if the seed enters at the center, she will give birth to a tumtum (child with ambiguous genitalia) or an androgynous child. Then he gives a primer on gender selection: Follow this if you have too many of any one gender (or just for fun).
When the woman rests, after intercourse, on her right side, the seed will enter the chambers on the right side, and she will have a boy…ober (but) if she rests on her left side, the seed will enter on the left and she’ll have a girl. (Interesting to note that there is no mention of the man following intercourse. Takah why? Because he’s already sleeping or long gone). As proof of his scientific theory, he cites an intimate possik (verse) from ‘Shir Hashirm, “His left arm is under my head and his right arm embraces me” (2:6).
While the heylige Germorrah (Kiddushin 19) , cautions against interpreting Shir Ha-Shirim literally, this verse, which may be understood as an image of the two lovers engaged in a special moment of intimacy, is interpreted by the Chizkuni as a purposeful arrangement of bodies so that the woman would give birth to a male child! If the man’s left hand is under the woman’s head, and they are facing each other, then it must be that she is lying on her right side – the appropriate arrangement for having a boy. Is this p’shat? Ver veyst (who know)?
Grada today’s leading experts on the Uterus (including some of you) and medical halachah state that Chizkuni’s description of the anatomy of the female uterus, while takah common in Jewish exegesis in the middle ages, coincided with the prevalence of that anatomical view among medieval scientists. Ober: the so-called doctrine of the seven chambered uterus is a product of medieval imagination; in other words: nisht geshtoigen nishst gifloygin (a bunch of bs).
Today, scientists and later commentators no longer believe in the doctrine of the seven-chambered uterus; have you seen seven on anyone? You chazerrim shouldn’t even look: some say its ossur (verboten). But once upon a time, there was a rich body of brilliant Toirah interpretation that drew on this idea. Anyway, guys are happy with one chamber too! Ok, veyter.
Says the heylige toirah that after giving birth, the woman is impure for seven days (in the case of a male child) and like the ‘nida’ (a woman during her menstrual period), is mamish forbidden from entering the temple or from having sexual relations. Nu, sex they can zicher forgo but no temple? Yikes!
Following these seven days of impurity, the thirty-three days of “blood purification” begin. During this period she is only forbidden to enter the Sanctuary or to touch consecrated things. However, she is permitted to have sexual relations (mistama also to touch your consecrated thing). She is not completely pure nor is she totally impure. As an aside, The Kara’ites, a sect which accepts only the toirah she’bechsav ( written) but rejects the oral tradition, differed from our Sages in their understanding of this period. They considered a woman during the thirty-three days to be completely impure and deemed her to be prohibited from sexual relations. However, their interpretation is textually problematic since it is unclear why the Toirah would state that she may not enter the sanctuary and not mention the other prohibitions. Grada most of the neshey chayil hold that they are forbidden to their husbands for at least 133 days following childbirth.
Says The Ramban (12:4) “… in my opinion the meaning of the word ‘tahora’ is cleanness [in a physical sense], similar in meaning to ‘zahav tahor’ (pure gold), which means smelted and refined. Thus the meaning of the expression here is as follows. Having commanded that a woman who gives birth of her impurity, because then she usually sees issues of blood from the interior of the womb [from which the menses are discharged], He further commanded that she should wait for another thirty-three days, staying in her house (no shopping) in order to cleanse her body; for during all these days she will emit the remnants of blood and the turbid secretions which come from these bloods, and then she will be cleansed from the childbirth, pregnancy and conception, and she may come to the House of God. Now our Rabbis have received the tradition that during these [thirty-three days for a male child and sixty-six for a female], she is pure for her husband, because with reference to the seven impure days it says that they are as in the days of the impurity of her sickness, but in connection with these [thirty-three days etc.] He said that she is impure as regards [eating or touching] hallowed things and entering the Sanctuary, but not for non-holy things nor for her husband, just as the Rabbis have said, ‘Her husband is not a holy object.'” Far from it.
The Netziv (Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, Lithuania, 1817-1893) offers a completely different explanation for the impurity caused by childbirth. He bases himself on the rationale offered by the sage, Rabbi Meir, for the impurity of the ‘nida’ (A woman during her menstrual period). Got that ladies? You may be with your husbands after day seven. And listen to this.
“It was taught (Nida, 31b): R. Meir used to say, Why did the Toirah ordain that the uncleanness of menstruation should continue for seven days? Because being in constant contact with his wife [a husband might] develop a loathing towards her. The Toirah which avada understood men, therefore, ordained: Let her be unclean for seven days in order that she shall be beloved by her husband as at the time of her first entry into the bridal chamber.”
Added The Netziv: that this must also be the reason for the impurity following childbirth. Since, according to the Toirah, a woman is permitted to have sexual relations during the thirty-three-day period of her “blood purification,” the Toirah prohibits her during the first seven days after childbirth. This is so that the husband and wife do not lose their attraction to one another. The Toirah prescribes a period of physical separation between husband and wife so that their excitement and love for one another remains strong and vibrant forever. Seemingly the Rabonim in their wisdom figured out that another week of separation wouldn’t hurt either.
Nu, we have space for one more topic. The students of R. Shimon ben Yochai asked him, Why did the heylige Toirah command that circumcision should take place on the eighth day? (He answered,) So that it should not happen that everyone is happy while the father and mother are grieved. What’s p’shat? Says Rashi: for they are still forbidden to have sexual relations. As you can see, lots of sex talk.
The parsha then relates the laws on ‘Tzaras.’ The Toirah definition of this is a ‘divine type of leprosy.’ Raboyseyee, this topic of leprosy is a shiir onto its own and since many believe that the root cause of this Loshoin Horah (bad mouthing), we will deal with it in next week’s toirah. Besides, let’s not shter (disturb) the mood after all that beautiful talk of the female anatomy.
A gitten shabbis…