Parshat Hashavua Tazria-Metzorah
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
In a nutshell, Parshat Hashavuah Tazria continues to discuss the laws of purity and ritual impurity.
Upon the completion of the days of her purity for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a sheep within its first year for an elevation – offering, and a young dove or a turtledove for a sin-offering. (12:6)
A yoledes, woman who has given birth, brings two korbanos: a sheep, as a Korban olah; and a fowl, as a Korban Chatas. Chazal explain that the Chatas, Sin-Offering, is brought because a woman who goes through childbirth suffers so much pain that she vows not to have more children. Such a vow is sinful. Breaking it, which is likely to occur, is more sinful. The reason for the Korban Olah, however, eludes us. The usual reasons that catalyze a Korban Olah do not apply to the yoledes.
Abarbanel explains that the Korban Olah is a form of gratitude to Hashem for granting her a child and for sparing her life through the ordeal of childbirth. This reasoning is supported by a number of Midrashim that obligate the woman to acknowledge Hashem’s beneficence during her involvement in the motherhood process. While all this is true, a Korban Todah, Thanksgiving-Offering, seems more appropriate than an Olah. Horav Avigdor HaLevi Nebentzhal, Shlita, addresses this question and suggests two approaches. He explains that; either the criteria for bringing a Korban Todah do not apply to a yoledes; or the demands of halachah which apply to the Jewish woman do not correspond with the halachic application of a Korban Todah.
The first approach is based upon the halachah that one must consume a Korban Todah in one day and one night, while one has two days and one night to consume the usual Korban Shelamim, Peace-Offering. The reason for this is that gratitude must be spontaneous. One must express gratitude amidst joy and enthusiasm with a heart filled with song. Once one waits and allows his obligation to fester, a significant component of the appreciation is diminished. Thus, as the time for consuming the Todah passes, the level of simchah, joy, is decreased. Therefore, the Torah shortened the time span allotted for its consumption, so that it would be eaten at the time of heightened joy.
This halachah concerning the Korban Todah creates a problem for the yoledes, who cannot bring a korban for forty days for a male birth and eighty days for a female birth. After such a lengthy time passes, the emotion that permeated the yoledes at the time the miracle of birth took place might have waned. Without a doubt, if she desires to bring a Todah, she may, but to say that every yoledes should be obligated to bring a todah does not seem consistent with the halachos that apply to that korban.
Second, another halachah which pertains to the Korban Todah does not coincide with the manner in which a bas Yisrael, Jewish woman, should act publicly. Together with the korban Todah, one must bring forty loaves, of which four are given to the Kohen. The Netziv, zl, explains why this korban necessitates so many breads. He says that since everything must be eaten in a short period of time, it behooves him to invite friends and relatives to share in the celebration of his good fortune. The greater number of participants involved in the celebration, the more magnified is the Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem’s Name, which is the underlying purpose of Todah – thanking Hashem.
This halachah, however, does not concur with the halachos of tznius, modesty, that are the hallmark of the Jewish woman. It is inappropriate for a woman to call attention to herself in front of a crowd. The impropriety becomes more grievous when it is a married woman, which is the case by a yoledes. Kol kevudah bas melech penimah, “The entire glory of the daughter of the king lies on the inside.” (Tehillim 45:14) This pasuk, which underscores much of the Torah’s attitude toward the role of a woman, has been used by Chazal as a statement describing the private nature of the female role as well as a panegyric on the private nature of the religious experience in general. Indeed, the private sphere should be the dominant area of a woman’s life. Implicit in the woman’s creation was the idea that she focus on a specific trait of the human personality – tznius.
While a woman may certainly offer a Korban Todah, to oblige her to do so after childbirth would not be consistent with the parameters of hilchos tznius. This statement will surely be cause for considerable discussion, especially in light of the influence of western civilization on contemporary Jewish society. Rav Nebentzhal cites two mitzvos that women do not usually perform, specifically because of constraints on them made by the laws of tznius.
Women do not light the Chanukah lights unless there is no man in the house. Why? The Chasam Sofer explains that because of the criteria of pirsumei nissa, publicizing the miracle, one should light the candles outside, in public. It is not the manner of a woman to stand outside of her house and publicly light the candles. It is not tznius. How far we are removed from the Chasam Sofer’s perspective on Jewish life!
Kiddush Levanah, sanctifying and blessing the New Moon, is a time-bound mitzvah. Yet, while women do recite a brachah upon performing a mitzvos asei she’hazman grama, time-bound mitzvah, they do not recite the Kiddush Levanah service. A number of reasons are cited. The Rama says that since this mitzvah should be performed publicly beneath the sky, preferably on the street, it is not consistent with the laws of tznius.
We have only to return to the sources to realize that to reverse a G-d-given role is to invite censure, both Divine and human. Regrettably, the effect of the society in which we live has somewhat distorted our perspective on what really is the G-d-given role of woman. Adam Harishon gave Chavah a name which he saw b’ruach Hakodesh, with Divine Inspiration, was to reflect her fundamental – though not necessarily exclusive – role in life: eim kol chai, mother of all life. Perhaps, if more people would accept this truth, there would be many fewer issues concerning our children’s educational development.
He is to call out: “Contaminated, contaminated!” (13:45)
Rashi explains that the metzora must warn people to distance themselves from him lest his tumah, spiritual defilement, contaminate them. The following narrative indicates how far we are removed from reality and the definition of sin. Horav Elazar M. Shach, zl, related that his uncle Horav Issur Zalman Meltzer, zl, the venerable Rosh Hayeshivah of Eitz Chaim, would give a shmuess, ethical discourse, on Motzoei Shabbos, during the month of Elul. The words that came from his heart entered the hearts of his students and deeply inspired them. The emotion that was felt in that room was overwhelming.
One time, the Rosh Hayeshivah stood at the lectern. He looked at the crowd, declaring, “When a Sefer Torah is found to be pasul, invalid, we take a gartel, sash, and wrap and tie it around the outside of the Sefer. This way people will be aware that it is pasul, and they will not use it.”
Suddenly, the Rosh Hayeshivah burst out in heartrending tears and screamed, “If so, how many gartlech, sashes, should we be wrapped with, so that people will realize how pasul we are? Yet, we still do not learn from our actions!” As soon as these words left Rav Issur Zalman’s mouth, the entire assemblage broke down in bitter weeping. Rav Issur Zalman was a tzaddik. His students were talmidim of their revered rebbe. He was their religious role model. Yet, they all wept sincerely. What should we say?