Shabbat Parshat Tazria – Not to feel awkward

And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying:

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר הֹ’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ 

וּבִמְלֹ֣את ׀ יְמֵ֣י טׇהֳרָ֗הּ לְבֵן֮ א֣וֹ לְבַת֒ תָּבִ֞יא כֶּ֤בֶשׂ בֶּן־שְׁנָתוֹ֙ לְעֹלָ֔ה וּבֶן־יוֹנָ֥ה אוֹ־תֹ֖ר לְחַטָּ֑את אֶל־פֶּ֥תַח אֹֽהֶל־מוֹעֵ֖ד אֶל־הַכֹּהֵֽן׃

“On the completion of her period of purification, for either son or daughter, she shall bring to the Cohen, the priest, at the entrance of the Mishkan, the Tent of Meeting, a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.”

The obvious question is:  What sin did the woman commit? Bringing a new baby to the world is a Mitzvah rather than a sin. So why should she have to bring a sin offering?

The Gemara in Nida (31) is dealing with this matter and explains that a woman in labour can get so upset about the hardship involved that she makes a vow – never to have another child – and this, says the Gemara, is the unintentional “sin” for which she brings an offering.

Now, this raises a new question. Why wouldn’t we ask the woman herself whether indeed she made such a vow? After all there might be quite a few who did not commit this unintentional sin?

Let me start with an anecdote: We had a very nice member in our Synagogue, Mr Herzl. (No relation…). His seat happened to be right at the entrance of the Synagogue. I have noticed over time that when Mr Herzl comes in, he never stops at his own seat, but walks deep into the hall, and then makes a U turn back to his seat. I thought he might have some Kabbalistic intentions, above my own Judaistic knowledge.

Then, I decided to ask him. Mr Herzl said plainly “Because my seat is near the entrance, guests find it the first seat they can settle into and when I come, I do not want to look towards my seat, making them feel uncomfortable. So I first walk into the Shul and only after making sure that nobody is occupying my seat, I go back and sit there”

I thought to myself – This man is a real “Mentsch”.

Back to the offering. Our sages ז”ל knew of course that many ladies will not make the sin of the vow never to have any more children, but if one start quizzing them, those who did, might be embarrassed about it. And to prevent this, the Torah prescribed bringing the offering by everyone, so that nobody gets embarrassed.

Better to get everyone to bring an offering, than to make one of them feel awkward.

Shabbat Shalom and Good Chodesh Nissan

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld