Anything we can do to make others feel better, to cheer someone up or otherwise brighten a person’s day is of prime importance according to the Torah.
This week’s Torah portion (outside of Israel) is the double reading of Tazria-Metzorah (Leviticus 12:1-15:33). The reading opens with a discussion on childbirth and the laws of purity that are applicable in the days and weeks following. Although many of these laws are no longer relevant nor practiced today (or, in some cases, practiced in a very different manner) – a topic that is beyond the scope of this article – the lessons that we can learn from their original intention and application are meaningful.
A woman who gives birth to a male is ritually impure for seven days. On the night following the completion of these seven days, she immerses in a Mikvah (ritual bath), which purifies her. On the morrow, the eighth day, the baby is circumcised, just as all baby boys are circumcised even today.
Based on the above biblical ritual, the Talmud offers a very interesting explanation as to why a Jewish circumcision is performed on the eighth day. The Talmud notes that during the seven days of impurity following the birth of a male, a husband and wife are forbidden to have relations. On the eighth day, following the woman’s immersion in a Mikvah, relations are resumed. (Nowadays, however, husbands and wives usually abstain for much longer than seven or eight days following childbirth.)
It is explained that the reason the circumcision is delayed until the eighth day is in order for it to take place after husband and wife have resumed relations. This is because a married couple’s happiness is slightly diminished when they are remain separate. Once intimacy has resumed, a certain measure of joy returns to the marriage. The Torah wanted the parents to be in the most joyous mood possible when celebrating the circumcision of their son.It is for this reason, among many others, that the circumcision takes place on the eighth day.
The message is clear. The Torah is teaching us the importance of taking others into consideration. God wants us to show care and concern and to do our best make others happy, even if it means delaying a mitzvah (commandment). It’s not enough that parents are celebrating the circumcision of their son and his joining the Jewish people. We want them to do so in the best mood possible!
So it is with us. Anything we can do to make others feel better, to cheer someone up or otherwise brighten a person’s day is a tremendous mitzvah (Torah commandment) and is praiseworthy.
For more insights on the Torah portion by Rabbi Ari Enkin, click on the links below: