The Born Forgiveness: Tazria-Metzora 2023

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you achieve a sense of normalcy after life’s most dramatic moments? Do you rely on the passage of time, or do you find other ways to speed up the recovery process?

The Torah prescribes rituals to enable a mother of a new child the chance to restore a sense of equilibrium:

The Pitch: “On the completion of her period of purification, for either son or daughter, she shall bring to the priest, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. He shall offer it before the Lord and make expiation on her behalf; she shall then be clean from her flow of blood. Such are the rituals concerning her who bears a child, male or female.” – Leviticus 12:6-7

Swing #1: “That is why the birthing mother at the end of her ordeal brought a burnt offering to the Tabernacle as well as a purification offering. Whereas the latter signified the end of her impure state, the former embodied a joyful gesture of thanksgiving to the Almighty for an instance of unmerited grace.” – Ismar Schorsch, Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

Swing #2: “The reason why the expression וטהרה, ‘she regained her ritual purity,’ is in place is because until the expiry of these days and her having brought the requisite offerings, she cannot partake of food which is the residue of animals that have been slaughtered on the altar in the courtyard of the Temple, as well as agricultural products to be given to a priest.” – Daat Zkenim

Swing #3: “Our sages of old hold that the reason why most women are in personal need of atonement is that during the excruciatingly painful experience of giving birth they vowed never again to have marital relations with their husbands. Seeing that such a woman swore out of extreme pain and her oath is therefore not really effective legally, since she is contractually obligated to have relations with her husband, God wanted her to escape the consequences of such an oath, and by allowing her to bring this sacrifice He forgave her.” – Tur HaAroch

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think that the Torah text is sensitive to a new mother’s emotional and spiritual needs? Do these seem to be helpful rituals for such a woman? How does the arrival of a new life cause us to reassess our own?

On-Deck at TBT: I’m excited to welcome my friend Rabbi Jeni S. Friedman, PhD, as this year’s Klein Weekend scholar. Please join us and support the program, taking place May 5th-7th, as we explore Global Jewish Peoplehood.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of reestablishing normalcy, I always liked the way the 2016 Chicago Cubs celebrated each victory. For the first 10 minutes upon entering the clubhouse after winning a game, the players would have a raucous dance party. Then, the lights went up, and the players and coaches regrouped to focus on the next game. If it sounds odd, well … they did win it all that year.

Shabbat Shalom!