|This week’s Torah reading can bring great pain to some of its readers. Parshat Tazria begins with the subject of ritual impurity as a result of childbirth: “When a woman at childbirth bears a male, she shall be impure seven days…”
What in this passage has the potential to cause readers pain? If you said it’s the word “impure,” I’d instead consider the Torah’s views on purity taboos curious and arcane, but not painful. Actually, the word in the verse that could cause pain is “when.” For “when” presumes that it is a given that a woman will experience childbirth. This, we know, is by no means a guarantee.
Infertility is a major theme in the early narratives of ancient Israel. Sarah, Rivkah, Rahel and their respective husbands all struggle to conceive. But even these stories have happy endings, as God inevitably provides each with at least one healthy child. From this point on in the Torah, fertility seems to be assumed. But we are well aware that to this day, infertility is a source of deep pain, especially in a faith and cultural community so focused on children such as ours.
This Shabbat, we are a participant in the 100 Shuls Project of Yesh Tikva, a Jewish fertility community based in Fresh Meadows. So on Shabbat morning, we’ll explore ways to raise awareness of the pain of infertility and the resources that are available to those who struggle or suffer. With Pesah, the most child-centered Jewish holiday, approaching, the topic is most relevant and immediate.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh tov,
Rabbi David Wise