Rabbi’s Torah Thoughts

Here’s a video of this week’s Torah Thoughts read by the Rabbi if you’d prefer not to read it:  Torah Thoughts Tazria/Metzorah with Rabbi Alex

Torah Thoughts Tazriah Metzorah 5777

Between my mother and my Uncle Jeffrey, my grandmother gave birth to another daughter who died after only a few days of life. My grandfather and great uncle took her remains and buried her in an unmarked grave in Harrisburg. My grandmother never let go of the pain of loss, harking back to it throughout the rest of her life.

I mention this story in connection to a comment by the great medieval French rabbi Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, about the title word of the first of this week’s two portions – Tazriah, meaning conception. The portion begins with laws related to childbirth, especially with the birth of a boy. The Torah states: “when a woman conceives (tazriah) and gives birth to a male, she shall be impure for seven days.” Rashi, who believes that every word of Torah is chosen for a reason, wonders why the verse doesn’t simply say: “when a woman gives birth…?” What does “conceives” add to the verse’s meaning? Rashi suggests that afillu yaldato machoyee, even if the birth dissolves, the woman is still obligated to observe the rituals related to child birth.

The woman’s story in the Torah is often a neglected one. In particular, despite all of the focus on Biblical woman struggling with child birth, there is no mention at all of miscarriages or still births. The use of the word tazriah is one of the only hints of this dreadful possibility. I still remember my grandmother asking in her final days about where her daughter, my aunt, was buried, still hoping to have an official memorial and ceremony for her loss. This week I ask you to remember and reach out to others who have experienced similar pain, the dreams of a healthy birth dashed in an instant. The path toward life is fraught with danger, making every new life a miracle of creation, but, as Rashi suggests we must have ritual for births that do not come to fruition. To all of those souls, alive for only an instant, or perhaps, never even having taken a breath at all, may they and their memories always be for a blessing, and may God watch out for the parents who bore them, loving and protecting them in their moments of pain and loss.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Alex

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Last updated: April 28, 2017 at 8:18 am