Text: Vayikra 12:1-7 (based on Robert Alter’s translation)
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Should a woman yield seed, and bear a male, she shall be unclean seven days … 6 And when the days of her purity are fulfilled… she shall bring a yearling lamb as a burnt offering … to the door of the tent of meeting, to the kohen. … And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood …
- What does the Torah recognize about pregnancy and childbirth by using the word “should” (v.2)?
- What might the lengthy process of purification following birth do for the mother?
Midrash Kohelet Rabba 5:10 (Ecclesiastics)
“At the time that the child is formed in its mother’s belly, three are partners in him: The Holy One Bless be He, and his father and his mother.
His father seeds in him whiteness, from which [come] the whites, and the brain and the nails and the white of the eye and the bones and the ligaments.
His mother seeds in him redness, from which [come] the blood and the skin and the flesh and hair and black that is in the eyes.
And the Holy One Blessed Be He… gives him 10 things, and they are: Spirit and soul, and facial expression, and eyesight, and hearing with the ears, and speech of lips, and lifting of arms, and walking of legs, and wisdom, and comprehension, and intelligence and knowledge, and greatness/strength.”
- What does it take to create a human?
- What is Godly in us? What items on God’s list surprised you? Where would you have placed them? Why?
- When you describe a person, do you describe things that come from the parents or from God? What attributes define us?
Commentary: R. Adin Steinsaltz on Vayikra 12
“The uncleanliness is not caused because birth is unclean—on the contrary, it is the time when new life enters the world—rather it is the gap between high and low tension, which is the gap between life and death.
Also from the physiological side … the pregnancy demands a tremendous change in the body’s systems … all through the pregnancy, there is a constant wonder within the body, the wonder of creation, which demands adapting to. At birth, everything happens at an even greater intensity … And immediately after birth all the uniqueness, the wonder of creating new things—stops, not a winding down but suddenly.
The break of the tension is tremendous … That great gap creates uncleanliness at birth.”
- Why is the tension between life and death present so starkly at birth?
- How might the process of uncleanliness and purification help the birthing woman?
See more: Parashat Tazria
Originally posted as part of the Conservative Yeshiva at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center’s Torah Sparks. Support Torah learning from the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center/Conservative Yeshiva for leaders and seekers around the world here.