The Atonement for Childbirth by Simcha Wagner


Parashat Tazria describes the time of purity and impurity that a woman goes through after childbirth. She begins in a state of ritual impurity, or Tum’ah, and then, after a period of time, enters a state of ritual purity, or Taharah. When this period of time is over she goes to the Beit HaMikdash and offers a Korban, a sacrifice. One may notice something unusual about the language the Torah uses when describing this. When it describes the Kohein making the Korban, it states that he shall make “an atonement” for her (VaYikra 12:7). This seems a bit odd. What on earth has she done wrong for which she must make “an atonement?”

I think that the answer can be found in a debate between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. The two schools argued as to whether or not it was better for man to have been born. Beit Hillel argued that it was good, for man has the opportunity to increase his share in Olam HaBa. Beit Shammai argued that man should never have been born, as he has the opportunity to lose his share in Olam HaBa. After a long debate, they concluded that Beit Shammai was correct and that it would have been better had man never been born. When a child is born, he comes with a fully-functioning, top-of-line Yeitzer HaRa. He is then thrust into challenges, pitfalls, and mishaps, some of which he will undoubtedly fail to overcome. He will know pain, despair, and misery, all of this on account of him having been born! And who exactly bears the responsibility for this? His mother. This is part of the reason why she must seek atonement.

However, before we jump to negative conclusions, let us look at the state of purity the mother is in. This represents, I believe, the time when man gains his Yeitzer HaTov. He begins to think about what is right, honest, and honorable, instead of what pleases him the most. One will notice, perhaps, that the period of purity is substantially longer than the period of impurity. The reason for this is that man’s capacity for good is so much greater than his ability to do evil. While one may be more inclined to selfish acts, symbolized by the period of impurity coming first, he usually changes his life for the better, represented by the much longer period of Taharah.

Additionally, the final resolution to Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai’s argument can further help prove this statement. They concluded that while it would have been better had man not been born, since he was, he should occupy his time with Torah and Mitzvot and make his life worthwhile. Let us all take this lesson to heart and strive to make our existences meaningful to prove that while life may be difficult, perhaps it is worthwhile after all.

Name Tags are Overrated by Adam Haimowitz

The Gift of Tzara’at by Yehudah Fuksbrumer