A Vacuum of Life
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week’s portion starts out: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the
does the word tamei mean? And why the discrepancy between a male child and
are words written in the Torah that defy simple explanation. For example, on
Shabbos, we are forbidden to perform “melacha”
(Shemos 20:10). Melacha is
commonly mistranslated as work. If this is so, however, it leads to a frequently
asked logical question: Why is schlepping a case of soda from the basement to
the dining room on Shabbos permitted, while simply flicking on the television
forbidden? If melacha means work, schlepping the soda should be forbidden, and
turning on the TV permitted. The answer is that melacha does not mean work. What
is the best way to translate melacha? There is no one word. Melacha is a concept
related to the act of creating.
too the word tamei. Many people mistranslate tamei, saying it means impure or
contaminated. This leads to the recently popular accusations that the Torah (and
traditional Judaism) are misogynistic.
truth is that tamei, similar to melacha, is a concept.
concept is a vacuum of life. When a woman menstruates, there is a vacuum of
potential life, i.e. her eggs; thus she becomes tamei. Similarly, when a woman
gives birth, although she is doing the most beautiful act known to humanity,
bringing life into the world, in regard to her own physical
body there is a vacuum of the life she had been carrying inside her. And
when a woman gives birth to a female child there is a double vacuum, as it is a
life that can potentially create life; thus
she is tamei for two weeks, instead of one.
highest form of tumah (tumah is the passive form of tamei) is a dead body, as
where can there be found a bigger vacuum of life?
there is a misconception that the Torah is anti-woman. Hashem Forbid! Men and
women are equally important before Hashem. That being said, they are also much
different, both physically and spiritually; this shows her intrinsically
high level of holiness. So much so, that only a woman can give life. Popular
Kabbalah is much in vogue right now, as people claim that the ritualistic aspect
of the Torah is too rigid and lacking in spirituality. The reality is that the
words of the Torah are what has guided us for 3300 years. True Kabbalah and
spirituality come from the rituals, such as the rules of tumah. Thus it is
crucial for us to educate ourselves as to what the Torah really