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Coming Home

By: Mrs. Neima Novetsky

You have just given birth.  You have experienced the miracle of life and have become a small partner in the creation of the world. You feel so close to Hashem, so pure. And, yet, the Torah says that a woman who has just given birth is impure, and moreover, that she must bring a sin offering. Why?  What has she done wrong?  What makes her impure?

Many associate impurity with being unclean or sinning, but a glance at the circumstances that lead one to a state of impurity (being in contact with a dead body, menstruating, leprosy etc.), suggest that the Torah has a different view. The common denominator between these situations seems to be that all relate in some way to death or potential loss of life.  Where, then, does the new mom fit in? Hasn't she just brought new life into the world?  Perhaps, the idea is that for her, on a personal level, she has actually just lost the living being who has been formed inside her. For nine months, she felt life growing inside her, and now that life is missing from her body.

How, though, do we explain why she must bring a chatat?  Some commentators attempt to connect the act of childbirth with an actual sin (the possibility that in her pain the woman swore that she would never have another child or the like), but it is probably easier to see this offering as simply a necessary part of the purification process.  R. David Zvi Hoffmann points out that the specific animal brought as the offering is a dove, known for its ability to always find its way back home. The woman, due to her impure state after birth, must spend a significant amount of time away from the Mikdash. As such there is a period in which she cannot come as close to Hashem as she might want. There is the potential for a distancing from Him. Thus, when she finishes her purification process, she brings her chatat, her dove, to tell Hashem, "Look, I've come back home."  And when she does so, she shares an extra bond, for in creating she has imitated Hashem, her Creator.

Sometimes in life, even very positive experiences have unforeseen or unavoidable negative side effects.  You might have an incredible time growing and learning in Israel for the year, but in so doing, you leave your family for months on end. This has the potential to create a distance, but it also has the potential to bring everyone closer.

Shabbat Shalom




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