There are many lesson one can learn from the experience of childbirth, but perhaps the most important is to always say thank you.
This week’s Torah portion is the double reading of “Tazria-Metzora” (Leviticus XX), and in it we read about childbirth. A woman after childbirth was required to bring special sacrifices to the Holy Temple. One sacrifice was a “sin offering,” and the other was the standard “burnt offering.”
A sin offering? Why would a woman who had just given birth be required to bring a SIN offering? What sin could she have done? She had just performed the biggest mitzvah (Torah commandment) – she created life!
It is explained that sometimes women, while experiencing the extreme pain of childbirth, may say or even think to themselves that they will never have children again. Of course, almost always, they soon realize what a blessing their children are and willingly have more, notwithstanding the physical suffering that comes with childbirth. As such, the sin-offering atones for such words or thoughts.
But why is she also commanded to bring a burnt offering? A burnt offering is voluntary.
The burnt offering serves to express her thanksgiving to God for recovering from childbirth. Keep in mind that before modern medicine, many women had died in childbirth.
So why not command a woman to bring a thanksgiving offering? The thanksgiving offering is explicitly mentioned in the Torah and would be brought by a person who survived a dangerous situation. In this case, however, it seems that the thanksgiving offering is ignored, and the burnt offering becomes obligatory. That’s a double change from Torah norm.
A thanksgiving offering must be brought very soon after the experience for which one is performing this mitzvah. After childbirth, however, a woman is usually “out of it” for quite some time. Human nature is such that feelings of excitement and thanksgiving quickly wane. By the time the thanksgiving offering could be brought, the feelings of gratitude will have likely diminished. The burnt offering, however, can be brought.
There is much we can learn from the experience of childbirth – saying things in the heat of the moment, the thanksgiving offering, and the burnt offering. But take away this small lesson: We must always say thank you! Better late than never!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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