The Torah has a way of making even the most mundane activities holy. Actions that are universal and perhaps even animalistic have a process by which they can be elevated. Parshat Tazria starts off with the topic of a woman’s impurity after childbirth. As Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks points out, nothing is more “natural” than procreation. After all, the purpose of a species, in any ecological study, is to generate more of the same species. However, many heroines in the Tanach were not able to have children so “naturally,” from the Imahot through Chanah and the Isha HaShunamit. Clearly, the Torah is teaching us a lesson: Jewish survival is not merely biological. Every Jewish child is a gift from Hashem.
The Ori Veyishi, Rav Uri Auerbach, points out that in Yeshayahu 45:18 it says, “The world was not created for naught, it was created to be populated.” Based on this verse, many laws were enacted by the Chachamim to ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to create children, since this was the first commandment given to man (Bereishit 1:28). In order to fulfill these, women are willing to bear the enormous pain of childbirth in order to bring more children into the world and thereby increase the number of Jews. When Leah gave birth to Yehuda, she was thrilled that she had given birth to more than her share, not annoyed that she had to suffer more pain than Yaakov’s other wives. With “no pain”, there would literally be “no gain”, and here, any advancement of the Jewish people.
Understanding the Torah’s approach to childbirth as a miraculous means to a nation-building end, we can now consider why a woman becomes impure. Although impurity is generally negative, perhaps here it is for a positive reason. Rabbi Sacks relates this to the halachic principle of “HaOsek B’Mitzvah Patur Min HaMitzvah” (Masechet Sukkah 26a), that one who is involved in a mitzvah is exempt from others. It is as if Hashem is saying to the mother that she is exempt from coming before Him in the Beit HaMikdash, the holiest place in the world, because she is involved in the holiest act done outside the Beit HaMikdash – caring for her child. Eventually, she will come and thank Hashem, but for now, she should realize that she just saw how from the pinnacle of mortality and physicality comes immortality and spirituality.
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