Childbirth has become a popular topic around Savannah lately, so that will be our subject this week. We Jews are pro-childbirth, especially in Savannah. We love children; they bring out something youthful in us. They remind us that there’s a lot to be excited about in life.
The beginning of Parshas Tazria describes some of the Torah Laws relating to childbirth. (These do not involve boiling water or freshly painting the baby’s room before delivery.) They include performing a bris on a baby boy eight days after delivery (even if that eighth day is Shabbos) and the mother immersing in a mikvah after her body heals from the stress of childbirth.
Why does the Torah instruct a Jewish woman to immerse herself in a mikvah after childbirth? Immersing in a mikvah is a spiritually elevating experience for both men and women (many men immerse in a mikvah every Friday afternoon, preparing themselves for the holiness of Shabbos). But isn’t childbirth itself an elevating experience? Why should a Jewish woman require further elevation after experiencing the miracle of giving birth to a new human being, conceived and nurtured in her own womb?
Though we long for simplicity, our lives are complex, our emotions enigmatic. Our Torah understands this (even though we are often confused). Joyous events can be inspiring in some ways, yet perplexing in others. It’s possible for a woman to feel a sense of letdown after giving birth, while rejoicing over her new baby at the same time. Although she’s constantly busy caring for her newborn, she may feel a void in herself, as that baby is no longer a part of her.
The Kotzker Rebbe explains that these complex feelings originate in a deep source. The Talmud (Tractate Ta’anis 2a) teaches that G-d keeps three keys solely in His possession: the key for childbirth, the key for rain (sustenance), and the key for the resurrection of the dead (in the messianic era). Only G-d can open the awesome gates to these treasure houses of infinite potential. Childbirth is an open miracle and thus G-d manifests His Presence at the arrival of every new baby into this world. Thus, at the moment a woman begins to give birth, she is filled with a new spirit of holiness. But when the baby is safely born, that extra spirit of holiness departs. The miracle has been performed and G-d returns to His more hidden posture.
Experiencing moments of tremendous inspiration, which pass becoming memories, cannot leave one unchanged. While memories of inspiration are valuable, there is a danger as well. When inspiration fades, the potential for letdown is great. This is the challenge immediately following every inspiring simcha, be it a birth, a bris, a bar or bas mitzvah, or a wedding. The Kotzker Rebbe explains that this letdown is rooted in a profound idea. When forces of spiritual elevation depart from a place, lower spiritual forces vie to occupy their vacated spot. This is the nature of the universe that G-d created. Empty spaces have a tendency of getting filled fast.
This is a deep idea. Perhaps a little too deep. But we’re mentioning it here because it applies to all of us. The Torah recognizes that simchas and inspiring events must be followed up by further pursuit of inspiration, or there is a danger of losing even ground that was previously gained. Spiritual battles, like their earthly counterparts, are affected largely by momentum. When momentum is not maintained, it can quickly dissipate and even reverse.
One level of understanding the mitzvah for a Jewish woman to immerse in a mikvah after giving birth is appreciating that the miracle of creating a new life is only the beginning of a journey. It must be followed by step after step of continuing elevations. There is a bris or baby naming. The child’s Jewish education must be considered and planned for. (So must the parents’ continuing Jewish education). Every simcha requires following up. A true simcha is really a new beginning.
When I attend simchas, I like to wish the hosts: “We should merit sharing many more simchas together.” But future simchas don’t necessarily flow naturally from past celebrations. We have to do our part to continue growing towards them. Reaching one plateau is never a guarantee in itself that the next level will be conquered. It is not even a guarantee that it’s own inspiration will be maintained. Inspiration and growth require constant attention in order to continue flourishing.
Thank G-d, we’ve been enjoying many simchas these past few weeks in Savannah, and we are eagerly looking forward to many more. Obviously, everyone associated these simchas has worked long and hard, sacrificing and overcoming countless hidden trials, in order to ensure that these celebrations would be transformed from dream into reality. May we all merit continuing the journeys on which we have embarked and seeing them through as far as G-d gives us the strength to carry them. Please accept my blessing to y’all: “We should merit sharing many more simchas together.”
to Jason Eichholtz on your Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos!
Mazal Tov to your proud parents,
Susan and Ricky, grandparents, Pam and Harry Eichholtz and Anita and Nathan
Karnibad, and your entire family! Jason, may you fulfill all the promise
that your family and friends see in you and that your Creator has endowed in
you as you continue growing as a Jewish adult in Torah, Mitzvahs and Good Deeds.
to Captain David and Evie Gardner and your entire family on the birth of
your new son! May you merit raising your little soldier to a life filled
with Torah, Mitzvahs and Good
Deeds, constantly moving up the ranks in the army of Hashem!
to Yankie and Dina Goldsmith and your entire family on the bris of your new son, Yechiel Meir! May you merit raising your new
son and all your children to lives filled with Torah, Mitzvahs and Good Deeds!
By Popular Demand!
New STEP Four Part Women’s Learning Series
“Anger: The Inner Teacher.”
Presented by Fruma Frost.
Miss the Kollel’s Thursday Night Parsha
Class at 8:00 PM in the BB Chapel.
This Dvar Torah page created and hosted courtesy of OU.ORG. No responsibility for its contents may be implied or taken by the OU