Tazria-Insights, Midrashim & Mefarshim

The laws of a woman who gives birth:[1]

Hashem told Moshe to tell the Jewish people. Speak to the Jewish people and say: When a woman gives seed and gives birth to a male child she is impure for seven days. She is to be impure for seven days similar to the days of her Nida illness.


General Q&A

Why does the Torah repeat the command to Moshe to speak to the Jewish people?

The first verse is telling Moshe to teach the laws to Jewish people while the second verse is telling Moshe to tell the Jewish people to teach the laws to their wives, as it is s the wives who are at the center of fulfilling this Mitzvah.[2]   


Why are the laws of child birth recorded after the laws of Kashrus written in Parshas Shemini?

There are various explanations given behind this order:

1.       Just as the creation of man was after the animals, so too the laws relating to the birth of a human is recorded after the laws of Kashrus regarding the animals.[3]

2.       After discussing the laws of purity and impurity of foods the Torah discusses the laws of purity of humans, beginning with birth which is the first impurity.[4]

What is the connection between the last verse of Shemini and the beginning of this Parsha?[5]

The end of last week’s Parsha relates an important message to the topic of intimacy and marriage discussed in the beginning of this week’s Parsha, and for this reason they are approximated in the Torah. The end of Parshas Shemini concludes with the Mitzvah of being holy, not to act in a repulsive manner and to distinguish between the pure and impure. This teaches us the following messages:

·         The connection between the Mitzvah of being holy and the beginning of this week’s Parsha is regarding the necessity for the couple to sanctify themselves during intimacy.

·         The Mitzvah to not be repulsive teaches us that one who returns from the bathroom is to delay relations from taking place immediately afterwards.

·         The Mitzvah to distinguish between the pure and impure teaches us that a divorcee or widow woman must wait three months prior to remarrying. It also teaches us that the couple is to separate during times of the wife’s expected menstrual cycle.


Q&A on giving seed

Why is the term Tazria/seed used to describe her pregnancy?

There are various explanations given behind this choice of word:

1.       It is a formal term to describe pregnancy.[6]

2.       This is coming to teach us that even if she miscarried she is impure.[7]

3.       This is coming to teach us that when a woman gives seed first she conceives a male child.[8] [see next!]

4.       It is coming to teach us that a woman only becomes impure when she gives birth naturally, from the same area from where she seeded.[9]

How does a woman conceive a male child and whose seed is a child created from?

There are various explanations given in the Mefarshim explaining how a woman conceives a male child:

1.       The orifices of the womb:[10] It states in Sefer Hatoldos that a woman contains seven orifices in her womb and depending into which orifice the seed enters determines the gender of the child. If the seed enters into the one of the three right orifices, she will conceive a male. If the seed enters into one of the three left orifice she will conceive a female. If it will enter the middle orifice she will conceive a Tumtum or Androgynous.

2.       When a woman gives seed first she conceives a male child.[11] Various explanations are given in the Mefarshim regarding the intent of this statement:

3.       Moisture of woman: A male is born when the seed of the male overpowers the seed of the female. Naturally a man’s seed freezes the woman’s egg and forms a male. However when the woman gives seed last, she causes warms her egg and gives it the strength to overpower the male seed, causing the child to be a female. The female seed in this context refers to the moisture that she experiences in the area during intimacy.[12] [According to this explanation, a female child comes from a female and a male child comes from a male.]

4.       Blood of woman:[13] The child is not born from the seed of the woman, as although a woman has eggs similar to a man, either it does not make seed at all, or the seed does not have ability to form a child. The term seed used in the above context refers to the blood that gathers in the woman’s womb at the conclusion of relations. When a woman gives blood first it causes the husbands seed to form a male. This follows the saying of the Sages[14], and so is the opinion of the doctors, that a man contributes the bone structure to the child while the woman contributes the blood and skin. According to this explanation, both a male and female child comes from both the male and female, although the gender is determined based on when the woman’s blood gathers in her womb.

5.       Greek philosophy:[15] According to Greek philosophy both a male and female child comes from the female, and the husbands seed is simply a catalyst which activates the formation of the woman’s egg into a child. Their proof is from the egg of a chicken, in which a fertilized and non-fertilized egg look exactly the same, and it is only that the male seed heats the egg and activates its formation into a chick.

6.       Jewish philosophy:[16] Jewish philosophers explain that the change of gender is a result of the fact that when a woman gives seed first, the seed of the man enters last and determines the gender of the child, following the rule of Tatah Gavar. Therefore, in such a case the child will be a male. Likewise, when the man gives seed first then the seed of the woman is last, thus causing the gender of the child to be female. According to the philosophers, a male child derives from male seed and a female child derives from female seed.

7.       Chassidic and Kabbalistic explanation:[17] Although the root of a woman in the Sefiros is from Gevurah, nevertheless she also contains within her an aspect of Chesed, which is called Chesed Shebegvurah. Likewise, although men are from Chesed, they nevertheless contain an aspect of Gevurah that is Gevurah Shebichesed. During Zivug [marital relations], the father, who is from Chesed, contributes his aspect of Gevurah to the future child, while the mother, who is from Gevurah, contributes her aspect of Chesed to the child. Since the mother contributes her aspect of Chesed found in her Gevurah, if she were the first to contribute, the gender of the child would be based on her contribution of Chesed and would thus be male, as the male comes from Chesed. However, if the father is first to contribute, since his contribution is his aspect of Gevurah found in his Chesed, the gender of the child would be based on his contribution of Gevurah, and would be female. 

Q&A on impurity

What does the term Nida mean?[18]

It means distance, and refers to the distance that she has with her husband during these days.

Why did Hashem deem a Nida impure?

The Talmudic Sages[19] give the following reason behind the laws of Nida: “Why did the Torah state a women [becomes impure] for seven days [every time she sees blood]? As otherwise he will have intimacy with her whenever he wants, and will eventually lose desire for her [due to becoming immune to his constant pleasure]. Thus the Torah said “Let her be impure for seven days in order to rejuvenate and replenish the husbands desire and affection towards her like the day she entered the Chuppah”.

Why do women menstruate? Is it truly an illness as descried in the verse?

Although a woman feels sick when she menstruates, feeling heaviness in her head and limbs[20], nevertheless it in truth is not an illness. The menstruating blood is cleansing for her body, getting rid of impurities.[21]


Is a woman impure during childbirth even if she does not see blood?[22]



Is the child also impure when a woman gives birth?[23]

No. The child remains pure, only the mother is impure.



Circumcising the child:[24]

On the eighth day the male child is to be circumcised.



Why is the child circumcised on the 8th day?

Various reasons are recorded for this mater:

·         Happiness of parents:[25] As by the 8th day the mother of a son is able to become pure. It is improper to make the joyous celebration of a Bris during the first seven days when the parents are saddened by their inability to be with each other. We thus wait for the 8th day, after the wife has immersed in a Mikveh, in order so the couple may also be in a state of joy.

·         Purity of child:[26] The child is sustained by the Nida blood throughout his period of gestation. It takes seven full days after the child is born for him to expel this impure blood and become pure to eneter into a covenant.

Why is the Mitzvah of Mila repeated in our Parsha after already being stated in the Parsha of Lech Lecha?[27]

This is to teach us that the child is to be circumcised on the 8th day even if it falls on Shabbos.


Days of impurity:[28]

She remains in Yimei Tohar [pure days] for 33 day. She may not enter the Mikdash or touch Kodshim during this time. If she has a girl she is to remain a Nida for 14 days. She remains in Yimei Tohar for 66 days. At the completion of her days for a male and female she is to bring a year old sheep as a Chatas offering to the Kohen. The Kohen offers the sacrifice on her behalf and purifies her. If she cannot afford a sheep she is to bring two birds, one for an Olah and the second for a Chatas.



Why is a woman impure after birth and why does she need to bring a sin offering?

Giving birth is one of the most daunting and awesome experience known to human life, experienced only by women. Conception and birth is the greatest kindness towards the future child and enables humanity to continue. It represents the bringing of a new life, and a generation of new lives, into the world. Why does this act of such immense magnitude to civilization deem a woman impure and require her to bring a sin offering after she purifies herself? She has fulfilled the greatest of Mitzvos through birthing a child and has gone through tremendous pain and suffering throughout the nine months of carrying the child and the time of birth. Why such a woman is required to be impure after the act and atone for a sin is mindboggling and requires clarification. The following explanations are offered in the Mefarshim:

·         Atone for swearing:[29] When a woman crouches to give birth she swears that she will never be intimate again with her husband. The Torah therefore commanded her to bring a Karban to atone for swearing.

·         No sin:[30] The Chatas offering is not coming due to a sin, and it is for this reason that in this scenario the Ola is written before the Chatas.

·         Sin of Chava:[31] The offering is not due to the mother’s sin but rather due to the sin of Chava, the first mother, who caused the entire idea of pain in childbirth and pregnancy. She therefore bring an atonement for the primordial sin of Chava.

·         Atone for prior sins:[32] Suffering and pain is a sign of sin. If a woman suffers during childbirth it is due to some prior sin that she had, and the Chatas is brought for that sin and not for the actual childbirth.

·         Atone for impure blood:[33] The Chatas offering is brought as atonement for the impurity of her blood [and not due to an actual sin].

·         The fall after the rise:[34] The Sages[35] taught that the keys of birth are only found in the hands of Hashem. This means that Hashem Himself comes and assists the woman in her birth. The time of birth is a great spiritual experience where one unites with Hashem Himself and brings something from nothing into existence. This sublime and ecstatic experience is lost after birth. This loss invites impurity, similar to a body of a Jew becoming impure after death, as opposed to the body of a gentile or animal. It is similar to an open jar of honey which invites a lot more insects and bees then does an empty canister. It is not the woman herself who is impure, as on the contrary, she is found on very high spiritual plane during this time. However, due to this leave of holiness upon giving birth the impurity is attracted to her and contaminates her. It is similar to one who was very wealthy and then suddenly in one day loses his money. The emotional fall is due to his emotional high that he once experienced. The sin offering is brought in order to atone for this impurity, although it being no sin of her own.


Why is a woman impure for seven days by a boy and 14 days by a girl?[36]

Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai stated: When a woman crouches to give birth she swears to never again be intimate with her husband. It takes her seven days to regret swearing upon having a boy and 14 days to regret this swear when having a girl.


Will woman be impure in future after giving birth?

Some[37] write that birth impurity will not apply in the future. The Alter Rebbe in Tanya write that it will.[38] Possibly one can reconcile the two views by explaining that they refer to two different periods in the redemption.



When one has on his skin a lesion of Tzaraas he is to be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen is to view the ailment and if its hair is white and deeper than the skin, it is Tzaraas, and he is declared impure by the Kohen.



What type of people receive Tzaraas:[40]

The verse states: “Adam/Man, when he has on his skin a lesion.” There are four terms used in Scripture to describe man; Adam; Ish; Gever; Enosh. Each name represents a different aspect of man. The highest name, which incorporates all aspects and human advantages, is the name Adam. The term Adam represents a person who is on a very high spiritual level and has gained perfection in all of his qualities and abilities, having complete control of his senses and emotions. He has control over his aspects of Chesed, Gevurah, and mercy, and he is able to use them as he sees fit. People that have not reached the stage of Adam are only in control of one attribute or characteristic, such as Chesed or Gevurah. Alternatively, they are in control of both aspects of Chesed and Gevurah, but are not in control of their other aspects. The Adam is in control of all of his aspects and personality traits. Even Moshe Rabbeinu was called an Ish and not an Adam, as the verse states, “Moshe Ish HaElokim.” Although the level of Moshe is very high, the level of Adam is even higher. The Adam is able to soar from level to level and the entire world is dependent on him.  Even when one has reached the level of Adam, it is possible that there remains some external aspect that he has not yet refined from evil and waste. It is thus in the area of his skin, which is external in comparison to the remainder of the body, where this Adam grows a miraculous skin lesion. [We should note that Tzaraas would come as a result of Lashon Hara, which in itself is considered an external sin that occurs using one’s speech, which is also external. Likewise, there are forms of Lashon Hara that are very refined.]

What is Tzaraas?

Tzaraas is commonly mistranslated as “leprosy”, which is a fatal flesh-eating bacterial disease that causes the loss of limbs and eventual death. In truth, however, there is no evidence from Scripture or its commentaries that the Tzaraas disease has any connection with leprosy. On the contrary, from the simple understanding of the sources, Tzaraas is a harmless skin ailment that appears on the person without any relation to a medical disease.[41] This rare skin disease came as a result of sin, as a sign from Heaven for the sinner to repent and return to G-d. Specifically, Tzaraas came as a result of the sin of Lashon Hara, speaking evil against another Jew, as we find in the Torah that Moshe received Tzaraas for slandering the Jewish people before Hashem, and Miriam received Tzaraas for slandering Moshe.[42]

A miraculous skin lesion:[43] The skin lesion of Tzaraas is not a typical rash or skin disease, but is a supernatural ailment that Hashem brings to the Adam as a sign of his high level that only requires an external fixing. A normal rash usually contains some moisture. This rash is completely dry and appears lower than the rest of the skin. The Tzaraas was no less than a medical miracle taking place on the skin of the person who reached the level called Adam.

Tzaraas today:

Why there is no Tzaraas in today’s times:

There is no longer Tzaraas found amongst people. Ideally, since Tzaraas comes as the result of evil, and in the later generations we are on lower spiritual levels than in previous generations, there should therefore be even more Tzaraas amongst people today. Why is it then that people no longer have Tzaraas? The reason is because the Tzaraas can only come onto a person who has completely refined his inner soul from evil, and thus Tzaraas appears on his skin as a sign that there remains an external aspect that still requires refinement. However, in today’s times such people are not found, as even the Tzaddik has some evil mixed with his good. 

Is a Metzora obligated to wear Tefillin?[44]

No. A Metzora is forbidden to wear Tefillin until he becomes pure. Today, the concept of a Metzora no longer exists.[45]



[1] 12/1-2

[2] Or Hachaim ibid

[3] Vayikra Raba 14/1; Rashi ibid

[4] Even Ezra ibid

[5] Baal Haturim ibid

[6] Rasag ibid; Rashbam ibid

[7] Nida 27b; Rashi ibid; Ramban ibid

[8] Brachos 60a, Nida 28a and 31a;

[9] Toras Kohanim 1/4; Chizkuni

[10] Chizkuni

[11] Brachos 60a, Nida 28a and 31a;

[12] Seforno ibid

[13] Ramban ibid

[14] Nidda 24b

[15] Ramban ibid

[16] Likkutei Torah p. 22

[17] Likkutei Torah p. 22

[18] Chizkuni ibid; Rashbam ibid

[19] Nida 31b

[20] Ramban ibid; Rashi ibid

[21] Ramban ibid

[22] Mishneh Nida 30a; Rashbam ibid; Rashi ibid; Michaber 194/1

[23] Toras Kohanim 1/8; Chizkuni ibid

[24] 12/3

[25] Nida 31b; Chizkuni ibid

[26] Seforno ibid

[27] Toras Kohanim 1/3; Chizkuni ibid

[28] 12/4-8

[29] Nida 31b

[30] Sifra Tazria 3

[31] Rabbeinu Bechayeh ibid

[32] Abarbanel ibid

[33] Ramban 12/7

[34] Based on Sheim Meshmuel Tazria ibid and a teaching of his father the Avnei Nezer and his grandfather the Kotzker Rebbe

[35] Taanis 2a

[36] Nida 31b; Chizkuni ibid

[37] Sheim Meshmuel ibid

[38] Tanya Igros Kodesh 26

[39] 13/1-2

[40] Likkutei Torah p. 43

[41] See Ralbag; Abarbanel and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Parshas Tazria

[42] Rambam, Tumas Tzaraas 16/10

[43] Likkutei Torah p. 43

[44] Michaber 38/13; Ittur in answer of question raised in Moed Katan; omitted in Admur 38/11

[45] Miaseif Lekol Hamachoanos 38/50 based on Pesikta Zurasu

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