A Vacuum of Life
Vacuum of Life
week’s portion starts out: “G-d spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the children
of Israel saying: When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be
tamei for a seven day period” (Lev.
Ch.12 v.1). Four verses later the Torah states: “If she gives birth to a
female, she shall be tamei for two
weeks.” Another form of the word tamei is also found in relation to a
woman later on in Leviticus: “You shall not approach a woman in the time of
her tumas menstruation.”
What does the word tamei mean? And why the discrepancy between a male child and female child?
are words written in the Torah which defy simple explanation. For example, on
Shabbos, we are forbidden to perform “melacha” (Ex. Ch.20 v.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. G-d forbid.
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
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. G-d Forbid! Men and
women are equally important before G-d. That being said, they are also much
different, both physically and spiritually. 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