Double Torah portion Tazria-Metzora focuses on laws relating to tumah (spiritual impurity). The first type of tumah addressed is impurity resulting from childbirth. When a woman gives birth she is ritually impure for seven days (for a male baby) or two weeks (for a female baby.) Why does the Torah prescribe a different time period of impurity depending on the gender of the infant? One explanation is that the shorter time period for a male child allows his mother to be purified before the bris milah (covenant of circumcision) on the eighth day.
But why does childbirth convey impurity? Isn’t bringing new life into the world a wondrous event that fulfills the first commandment given to humankind (“be fruitful and multiply”- Gen. 1:28)? Our sages explain that simply being alive is not enough. Our purpose in this world is to acknowledge, love and serve God. Life begins with contamination to teach us that our natural state is lowly and raw. Like an unpolished diamond, a human without God-consciousness isn’t yet a thing of beauty. New parents may feel giddy with joy and pride, but it is also a time for serious reflection. They have a big job ahead of them: helping their child follow the Torah’s commandments and become a devoted servant of the Holy One. May we all embrace our lifelong task of rising above our primeval state and coming closer to God by following His laws with love!