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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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When a woman conceives, and bears a male child: then she shall be unclean seven days as in the days of menstrual separation shall she be unclean.
A man who has in the skin of his flesh a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh the plague of tzara'as, then shall he be brought to Aharon the priest, or to one of his sons the priests.
Rabbi Yehuclah Leib, the son of the Chofetz Chaim, received a letter from his father which said that when Rabbi Yehudah Leib would arrive home, he would be offered a shidduch by the mayor. The girl was the daughter of a rich man, and the Chofetz Chaim warned him not to accept the shidduch.
That is exactly what happened. Upon his arrival in Radin the Mayor offered Rabbi Yehudah Leib a shidducb with the daughter of a tremendously wealthy man who possessed several large whisky distilleries. The man was offering a large dowry of three thousand rubles plus support for many years. Remembering the Chofetz Chaim's warning, Rabbi Yehuclah Leib refused the shidduch, saying that he could not decide on his own without his father's permission, and at present his father was away.
The whole matter was a puzzle to Rabbi Yehudah Leib, since the wealthy man was known as an honest and generous person; but he soon forgot the incident, and shortly afterwards became engaged to another woman and married her.
A few years later, the Chofetz Chaim wrote a letter to Rabbi Yehudah Leib which revealed the following:
"I would like to tell you of the great chesed that G-d did for us by saving us from entering into that shidduch which the mayor suggested. After that proposal, the sister of the recommended girl was sent by her father to learn in Grodna at a non-religious high school. There she became involved with a gentile army officer whom she probably met at the theater. He had a suave manner and managed to persuade her to agree to convert to Christianity and marry him. Her father was furious, and went to Grodna to bring her back, and he spent several thousand rubles towards that purpose, but was unsuccessful. In the end she became pregnant and died in childbirth at the tender age of fifteen.
"Do you see what a family we were saved from? What a chillul Hashem [desecration of G-d's name] it would have been, since people would have said that we married into such a family for money."
How the Chofetz Chaim knew that all this would happen remains a great mystery.
The Chofetz, Chaim had a strong influence on his son, Because he used this leverage properly he was able to be of great assistance. Similarly, we all have influence on our own children through the example we set in our marriage. We need to take this responsibility seriously so that we too can help our children.
What is written first? "When a woman conceives, and bears a male child." 1 What is written afterwards? "A man who has in the skin of his flesh ... [a leprosy.]"2 What is the connection between the two? Rabbi Tanchum said, "It is comparable to a female donkey that became ill, and because of the medication she received, was burned. Who caused the baby donkey that is born to her to be burned? Her mother that was ill and was burned. Here also, the mother caused her baby to be a leper, since she was not careful about the laws of niddah.
Rabbi Avin said, "It is comparable to a vegetable garden that has a spring in it. As long as the spring is in it, the garden is muddy. Here also, anyone who has relations with his wife while she is a niddah causes his children to be lepers. Rabbi Avin said that this idea is well suited to the verse which says, "Fathers ate sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge."3And they [the children] read regarding their parents, the verse, "Our parents have sinned and they are gone, and we have suffered [for] their sins."4
Rabbi Avin said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, "It is written, 'And if she [the woman who gave birth] will not have enough money to buy a lamb." 5 It is written afterwards, 'A person that has on the skin of his flesh [a leprosy].'6 What is the connection between the two verses? G-d said, 'I told you to bring a sacrifice [to the kohen] at the time of childbirth, and You did not do so; I swear that you will inevitably have to come to the kohen anyway, as it is
written, 'And he will be brought to Aharon the kohen [to decide if the leprosy is unclean].' " 7
Why does it happen that if the mother is not careful with the laws of niddah, she has children who are lepers? How is the parable of the vegetable garden with a spring comparable to having relations with a niddah? How do the two verses cited apply to the lesson of the vegetable garden analogy? Why is someone who does not bring the sacrifice after childbirth punished by being forced to come to the kohen for a different reason? The mother who does not keep the laws of niddah allows her physical pleasure to take precedence over her obligations to G-d. The Torah commands that a man and his wife must be separated from each other after the appearance of blood. The woman is obligated to recognize the situation and inform her husband. But if she neglects to do this and continues to have relations with her husband, she will be punished by having children with an illness. In other words, the leprosy comes to show her that she should have abstained from relations with her husband.
Another possible explanation is that some commentators (for example, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch) compare the idea of tumah with the loss of life. The blood that was contained within the woman's womb could have been a source of life if she would have conceived, but since she did not, she lost that source of life and now is "unclean." The leprosy in a man's body is also a "tumah," since it causes part of his body to lose its vitality and become like dead flesh. So we see that since the woman would not acknowledge that she was a source of tumah because of the blood, it is fitting that she be punished with more tumah in her children (the leprosy.)
The spring that is mentioned in the parable of the vegetable garden could have been a source of life, but in the wrong place, as in the midst of a garden, it only makes mud. The woman has the capacity within her body to conceive and bring forth new life into the world. But at the time when she is a niddah, that source of life is not to be tapped, and the "vegetable garden" cannot grow its proper produce. She is not allowed to have relations since this time is set aside to acknowledge this physical state of being. If she ignores this warning, continues to have relations, and does conceive, that child will be blemished, since it lacks that living spring. Thus her children who will be born will have leprosy.
Concerning the two verses, "Fathers ate sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge" and "Our parents have sinned and they are gone, and we have suffered [for] their sins," our Sages are telling us that when parents act irresponsibly with regards to this matter, they cause damage to their children. The suffering they create is twofold. On the one hand, the parents see their beloved children in pain and this hurts them deeply. On the other hand, the children blame their parents for causing them harm, which breeds family disunity. The children think of their parents as selfish, because they followed their natural desires and did not consider the results that their actions would have on future generations.
Our Sages are warning us to be aware of the guilt that such parents will come to feel if they are not careful to think ahead.
What is the connection between "a woman who has given birth and does not have enough money to buy a lamb" and "a person that has on the skin of his flesh [a leprosy]"? The woman who willfully does not bring her obligatory sacrifice after childbirth is lacking in gratefulness to G-d. Every woman who goes through childbirth must feel indebted to G-d that she is still alive, and that she was given the Divine gift of a child.
Not bringing the sacrifice may show that she is not willing to spend the money or take the trouble to thank G-d. She does not feel that she owes G-d anything or that she needs to express her appreciation for what she has received.
Her Punishment is that she will develop leprosy, and she will have to take the trouble of going to show the leprous skin to the kohen. Since she did not appreciate the wondrous gift of having a child, she will be deprived of even the most essential things, such as having healthy skin. This teaches us that when someone does not appreciate great gifts, then he does not deserve to have even the most ordinary necessities of life. This should be a lesson to us as to how thankful a person must constantly be.
We can learn from the words of our Sages to be careful in marriage. The results of negligence in the area of niddah are catastrophic. Even though there is no such leprosy today, there is no lack of illnesses that can befall our children. The utmost caution must be taken to thoroughly learn the laws of niddah, so that everything will be observed precisely to the letter of the law. The consequences of carelessness are too grave to leave room for error. Everybody wants children who are healthy in body and soul, and we cannot jeopardize this with thoughtless actions.
Just as it is important for a couple to follow the laws of niddah, it is also important for there to be harmony between parents, so that there will not be any ill effects on their children. It is known that where there are arguments between parents or, even worse, divorce, this discord almost always has a negative effect on their children. These children often suffer from a lack of confidence, and when they grow up and marry, they may not know how to treat their spouse, because they lacked positive role models. Children's emotional balance requires that they have parents with a healthy, loving relationship to model for them how to have a happy marriage.
Think of the tremendous positive influence you have over your children when you are raising them in a home committed to family stability and purity. Children born of such a union have all the advantages to tackle life's problems properly. They themselves become stable in their emotions and in their personalities, since they have been nourished by supportive and righteous parents.
When you are working to have a successful marriage you are also working to ensure that your children will have successful marriages in the future because they will emulate your actions.
Thus, you should do your utmost to make your marriage as strong and as happy as you can; not only for your own sake, but also for the sake of your children.
1. Vayikra 12:2
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network