After missing a slew of mazel tov shout-outs, the Oisvorfer is “back” with a special mazel tov to our dear friends Dasi and Moti Weitz –nicer and finer people hard to find, upon the marriage this past Sunday of their fabulous son David, to Leelah Paul, she the beautiful daughter of Tziona and Elliot Paul. May Leela and David enjoy many decades of blissful marriage. Mazel tov to both extended families.
Raboyseyee and Ladies
Childbirth and Atonement
This week we begin with a complaint from reader and Oisvorf follower Jonathan Siegman who wrote azoy:
“So I’ve been reading every issue the past 8 years. Never missed one! They are all great and I am learning so much. Even all the chaps!!!
I sometimes laugh so hard in Shul everyone wants to know what I am reading. LOL! But I noticed lately very few chaps and the past two weeks none. Cold turkey. Shoin. Is it my imagination, are you going cold turkey, or are you out of all the chaps? Let me know what is going on, if you chap!”
The Oisvorfer responds:
Jonathan, whoever you are: Ersthens, the Oisvorfer’s heart is mamish gladdened to read that you have been following his weekly parsha reviews for the past eight years. Ober, be aware that we will soon –with Parsha Devorim- be completing year nine. Let me know which year you missed. Regarding your “chap” comment: a very keen observation indeed and it’s a shtikel emes that I have been a shtikel light and more reflective in recent postings. What is reduced to writing each week is based on how I feel on the particular day when pen is put to paper. The Oisvorfer has long believed that much material is absorbed and remembered when a shtikel humor and sarcasm is injected. Thank you for your comment.
It’s taka emes that just last week, we learned Parshas Shimini which is all about the events which took place on the eighth day. Sadly, those events included the instant deaths of Nodov and Avihu, a topic we covered. This week we’ll learn about another eighth day, this one, mentioned in the heylige Toirah way back in Bereishis: the bris on day 8. Efsher you’ve been wondering why the bris is taka on the 8th day? Is there any significance to this number eight? Mistama you never gave this much thought because whenever you do attend a bris, you are primarily focused on breakfast, the omelet station and the lox, maybe even on a hot cinnamon Danish. Why people line up and wait for an omelet, ver veyst? In a few weeks, most of you will be stuffing your faces on omelets of every variety as every Pesach program offers them. This week the Oisvorfer will teach you a few new things; it won’t kill you to learn epes a shtikel Toirah.
We’re just about done with studying korbonis (ritual sacrifices) and it’s time for some straight talk about sex and childbearing. Vey iz mir: the heylige Toirah discusses sex? Mamish? Yes and no! The emes is (truth be told), it mostly discusses what and especially who not to do; it’s quite a long list and many of you chazerim would do well to chazir it over and again. Shoin: now that I have your attention at the mere mention of sex, let’s review the parsha, ober raboyseyee; the parsha is not about sex at all. In fact, nowhere other than a shtikel mention way back in Parshas Bereishis where we learn that a man should cling to his wife, is there a discussion of what is permitted sexually, only what happens after. On the other hand, if you want a primer on that topic –and more- you should avada pick up the heylige Gemora where its codifiers were not at all shy and there you can find all the answers you want and don’t. Our sages were mamish geniuses and chapped that in order to induce the masses to study the oral tradition, if you chap, they needed to include coverage of such activity.
What taka happens after sex? That depends. By a good amount of people, especially by those without plans (di tinkele), a baby is born. Ober by intz Yiddin (us nice Jewish) people, avada ershtens (firstly) we get married and der nuch (afterwards) we have children. Welcome to Parshas Tazria, where we learn all about menstruation, childbirth, and much more. It would take over 15 pages to mamish review this parsha thoroughly and given that many of you suffer from severe ADD when it comes to learning the heylige Toirah, the Oisvorfer will try to limiting himself to four, and efsher (maybe) five. Lommer unfangin (let’s begin). And Raboyseyee, do you realize that while you’re also learning and smiling, you’re also mamish learning a few holy Yiddish words, and what could be better? An added benefit mamish.
Said the RBSO to our Zeyda Avrohom Oveenu (Bereishis 17:12) “And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days”. Ober like many commandments in the heylige Toirah, the RBSO never told our Zeyda why. Why not on lucky 7, why not on day 30 and why not on Shabbis? Why not at night, and so many other questions. And what has this to do with our parhsa? Nu, here in Parshas Tazria we learn as follows:
|2. 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:|
|וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי יִמּוֹל בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ|
Nu, mistama you have lots of questions and let’s taka try to chap pshat. Efsher you’re wondering why women get these menstrual cycles altogether, is this mamish necessary to put the women through such yisurim (unpleasantness)? And why should husbands be forced to go without, if you chap, before, during and even after? Guess who knew the answer, at least one of them anyway? Says the heylige Gemora, that abstinence from marital relations during the wife’s seven unclean days is related to strengthening the bond between husband and wife. Asked and answered Rebbe Meir in a Berayso (Talmudic quote from the authors of the Mishna): “Why did the Toirah dictate menstrual uncleanliness for seven days? Because he (the husband) grows accustomed to her (his wife), and tires of her; so the Toirah said, let her be unclean for seven days so that she again may be pleasing to her husband as when she first came under the bridal canopy” (Niddah 31b). Nu, mistama there are other reasons why the husband is no longer as attracted as he once was oy vey-ober that for another time.
As to the bris being performed on day 8, avada you’re not surprised to hear that there is more than one answer given, in fact there are three. The first, strengthening martial bonds, was just mentioned. How does cutting the baby’s penis make the marital bond stronger? Ver veyst ober mir darfen tzu farshtein (we need to chap) that since this instruction about a bris on day 8 is given here in Parshas Tazria, there must be some connection, and who better to stand firm with answers but the heylige Gemora. Says the Gemora: since the command to perform the bris on day 8 was given immediately after the few words about post partum impurity, they are somehow connected. Shoin! In yeshiva reyt (language) this is called semichus parshiois (when two subjects are very close to one another, they are often related). And the eighth day was chosen precisely because one had to wait until the woman’s seven unclean days were over. Asks and answers Rebbe Shimoin bar Yochai: “Why did the Toirah establish circumcision on the eighth day? So as not to have everyone rejoicing while the father and mother are sad [because they cannot be together] (Niddah 31b).” Avada there are other reasons why they can’t be together following childbirth including the fact that it’s sakonos nefoshois (putting one’s life in danger). In other words: intimacy in those early days could have a deleterious effect on her health. What’s pshat? Nu, try telling the eishes chayil (wife) seven days post childbirth that you’re epes in the mood and want intimacy. See what happens. That is the real sakono: her life is not in danger; it’s yours if you try chapping. In fact, I guarantee the same result 30 days later.
Says Reb Yudan bar Pazi: Why is the newborn circumcised on the eighth day? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed His mercy on him, waiting until he (the baby) be strong. And how does he know this? From two other pisukim, one in Vayikra from where we learn that just as the Holy One, blessed be He, is merciful to humans, so too to animals. How do we know this? From the words in Vayikro (22:27): ‘When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born … and from the eighth day on … it shall be acceptable as an offering.” Shoin: a baby is compared to an animal. Just as the animal may be used as a korban from the 8th day forward, so too, the boy’s foreskin may be sacrificed. Gevaldick? Oy vey!
Say the RambaM (Guide of the Perplexed III.49) in support of this view: “The fact that circumcision is performed on the eighth day is due to the circumstance that all living beings are very weak and exceedingly tender when they are born, as if they were still in the womb. This is so until seven days are past. It is only then that they are counted among the living….”
Another view is offered by the Medrish (Emor 27.10) which states that circumcision is put off until the eighth day so that the newborn will live through one Shabbis before he is circumcised. And, said Rebbe Yehoishua of Sakhnin in the name of Rebbe Levi (who efsher heard this from another source): It is like a king who comes to a certain state where he issues an edict as follows: No visitors here shall be received by me until they first pay their respects to the Madame. Nu, which king wants his subjects visiting the Madame I don’t exactly know, efsher he meant the Madamme, ver veyst? Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, said: “Do not bring me a sacrifice until it has lived through a week, for there are no seven days without a Shabbis, and there shall be no circumcision without a Shabbis.”
Nu, let’s chazir: we have three reasons for the bris on day 8. One is sociological concerning relations between spouses. This is the only explanation that is based on the written Toirah, on the Possik (verse) found on page 1, and it’s the only one explicitly mentioned in the heylige Gemora (Niddah), in the name of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai. The second is medical, concerning the weakness of the newborn; the third is spiritual, concerning the spiritual benefit of Shabbis to the newborn. The last two are only found in the medrish. Let’s go veyter. Says the heylige Toirah, azoy:
|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 (sin), 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 (sin offering)?
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 korban Chatos is taka 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 Medrish 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 Medrish 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 zich ois (apparently) the meaning must lie deeper…so let’s taka go tiffer (deeper), if you chap… Says the Medrish 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, you’re thankful that your Eishes chayil’s breasts haven’t fallen all the way down to her womb: yikes)! All this sounds more than givaldig 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.
The bottom line: women distancing themselves from their husbands, even when required by the heylige Toirah and of course by our sages, requires atonement. Of course they do; why should men suffer? At times however, such atonement is also required of the men who as a result of separation, find themselves doing impure zachin in other places, if you chap.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv