by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS TAZRIA 5774 BS"DCh. 12, v. 2: "V'tomoh" - And she will be defiled - How is it that there is defilement given that the key of birth is not given over by Hashem to an intermediary? The birth thus has a presence of Hashem's sanctity. This is similar to the defilement accompanying death. The holy soul departs the temporal body and powers of impurity jump in to fill the void. Similarly by birth, it is exactly because Hashem's sanctity is present and then leaves when the birth is complete that negative powers enter and fill the void, defiling the woman who gave birth. (Shem miShmuel)
Ch. 12, v. 2: "Ki'mei nidas d'vosoh titma" - As the days of her menstrual flow shall she be defiled - During the years the Jewish nation was enslaved in Egypt until after the receiving of the Torah the Jewish women did not experience a menstrual flow. Our verse thus tells us that any woman who has given birth during that time also did not become defiled. This is sourced from these words of our verse, that she is defiled similar to her menstrual flow. This was not experienced until after receiving the Torah. (Mahari"l Diskin)
Ch. 12, v. 3: "U'va'yom hashmini yimol" - And on the eighth day he shall circumcise -
1) The Zohar on Vayikra page 44 and the Yalkut Shimoni on parshas Emor remez #643 say that by waiting eight days, the infant will have lived through a Shabbos. He requires this sanctity before being circumcised.
2) The Yalkut Shimoni (Breishis remez #82) says that Hashem had mercy upon the infant and said to wait until he has some strength to endure the circumcision procedure.
3) The gemara Nidoh 31b says that since the birth puts the mother into a status of not being permitted to have marital relations, the Torah said that the circumcision should wait until the eighth day, by which time the mother can purify herself and be allowed to have marital relations. Then at the time of the circumcision even the parents can also be totally happy, along with everyone else.
4) The Sforno says that the reason for the delay in circumcising until the eighth day is because the newborn boy still has a level of defilement until then because until the eighth day he is still being sustained from the residual menstrual blood he had imbibed before birth.
Someone asked the GR"A, "If a law is clearly based on a specific reason and that reason clearly does not apply any more, does the ruling still stand?" The GR"A said the fact that we still circumcise on the eighth day proves that the ruling still stands. His student explained it with the above-mentioned gemara. Since today we have an extended period of prohibition of marital relations that goes beyond the eighth day after a birth, we should have the circumcision pushed off accordingly. Yet we do not. This proves that even if the reason does not apply, the ruling does not change. According to reasons #1, #2, and #4 mentioned above, there are other reasons for circumcision on the eighth day and it has nothing to do with the mother purifying herself by the eighth day.
The concept mentioned above in the name of the Zohar and the Yalkut Shimoni does not only apply to people. The Yalkut in parshas Emor remez #643 says that the reason for an animal not being accepted as a sacrifice before eight days (Vayikroh 22:27) is the same as for circumcision not being allowed before eight days, so that they live through a Shabbos.
This goes beyond animals as well. There is a ruling that if one wants to partake of bread and has two breads available to him, one a complete loaf and one an incomplete loaf, either of which he is ready to eat, he should make the blessing "Hamotzi" over the complete loaf. The Machazor Vitri (a Rishon) says that if the complete bread was just recently baked and was not existent as a loaf of bread before Shabbos, and the incomplete bread was baked before Shabbos, the blessing should be made over the incomplete loaf since it has existed during a Shabbos. Such is the power of Shabbos that it imbues sanctity even into bread. No doubt this applies to inanimate objects as well.
We have given a few reasons for circumcision not taking place before eight days. Why shouldn't it take place later, when the baby is stronger? The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim 3:49 answers that one's love for his child increases as the child grows. The love for a newborn is not the same as for a one year old, nor is that the same as the love for a six year old. Had the Torah given the mitzvoh of circumcision when the child would be two or three years old, there is a fear that the father with his ever-growing love for his son, would refuse to pain his son with circumcision, and the mitzvoh would simply not be done. Perhaps another reason for the eighth day cut-off date is because Hashem knows that a healthy baby can withstand the surgical procedure of circumcision, but at the same time wants some level of sacrifice, "mesiras nefesh," on the part of the parents. If circumcision would take place when the child is a few years old, he would be quite strong at that time and the circumcision would be lacking this vital component. Indeed, the gemara Gitin 57b says regarding the verse, "Ki o'lecho horagnu kol ha'yom," we have risked death for you all day" (T'hilim 44:23), that this refers to circumcision of a child at the tender age of eight days.
Ch. 12, v. 7: "V'chi'peir o'lehoh" - And it will atone for her - Her sin is not intrinsically her own doing. It is atonement for primary woman, Chavoh. If not for her sin reproduction would be an act without any hormonal lusts, but rather, just as a tree brings forth fruit. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)
Baa'lei Tosfos explain "v'chi'peir" here to mean "and it will cleanse," as the woman hasn't actually sinned by giving birth.
The gemara explains that atonement is required because every woman, when in the throes of birth pangs, vows to not engage in reproduction again.
Ch. 13, v. 2: "V'huva el Aharon haKohein" - And he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohein - The Kohein is to view the skin disorder, the clothes growth, and the house growth. This procedure involves numerous visits sometimes, and the Kohein must be well versed in the numerous intricate laws. This is quite a burden for the Kohein. Why do the Kohanim have such great responsibility? Why not simply go to a knowledgeable Rabbi, as is done with all other religious matters? Since Kohanim receive the benefits of numerous (24) types of presents they in turn must provide this service. (Medrash Tadshei)
Ch. 13, v. 3: "Nega tzoraas hu" - It is an affliction of leprosy - The tzoraas brings the resultant quarantine, "bodod yeisheiv." When this is removed and the purification ritual completed, he may again come among groups of people, "atzerres," the same letters as "tzoraas." (Sfas Emes)
Ch. 13, v. 3: "V'ro'ohu haKohein v'ti'mei oso" - And the Kohein will see it and will rule to defile him - The mishnoh N'go'im says, "Kol n'go'im odom ro'eh chutz mini'gei atzmo." A person (Kohein) may judge all skin afflictions save his own. G'dolei Chasidus interpret, "Kol n'go'im odom ro'eh chutz," all the afflictions a person sees outside of himself, i.e. in others, "mini'gei atzmo," are actually his own afflictions.
Ch. 13, v. 9: "V'huva el haKohein" - And he shall be brought to the Kohein - Our Rabbis interpret "v'huva," as "v'hu ba," he himself comes. This is because he is isolated, so there is no one to bring him. (Rosh)
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