By Shalom Olensky
This week in the Torah:
The Mitzvah of the sacrifice a woman brings to the Holy Temple upon the birth of a child; introduced by the words, “A woman, when she conceives, and bears a male child….”
Gemara (Tractate Nidah, p. 31a):
From this verse we learn that when a woman gives seed first, the child is male, but when the man gives seed first, the child is female.
Two interpretations (of the mother’s input):
- That of the “philosophers,” (quoted by various early Rabbis) who say that the child being male actually comes from man’s seed. The mother’s input first is merely a catalyst for this.
- That of the Alter Rebbe (Founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) who says, that the child being male issues directly from the mother’s seed coming first.
Two interpretations (of the male child):
- “The birth of a male symbolizes evoking superior spiritual light commensurate with the efforts of man.” –The Alter Rebbe.
- “The birth of a male child symbolizes a revelation of the very Essence of G-d Almighty, far beyond commensuration with the efforts of man.” – Or Hachayim.
These four interpretations all follow the same system of thought. If the mother is considered merely a catalyst to the child being born male, the symbolism of the child is of a lower level, “commensurate to man.” However if the mother is considered to be the one directly responsible for the child being male, then the child symbolizes a revelation of the Essence of G-d Almighty.
“Father” and “mother” are G-d and His bride – the Jewish People. Their “child” is the result of their relationship. “Father” and “mother” are really one unit. But G-d desired that the Jews appear separate from Him, dependent on Him, important to Him, and, eventually, bearing Him “children.” (The “children” are the degrees of love we have for G-d.)
While our efforts remain in an atmosphere of being separate from G-d, indeed, in Exile, we do our part which is “merely a catalyst” in evoking His Divine influence “commensurate and within some range of our deeds”. The secret to our success (of transforming the dark world into a comfortable abode for G-d), though, is the fact that we are truly one unit with Him to begin with. Just as He creates something from nothing, so too we, creatively, turn egotism into humility. That way, the child of “our union” is a revelation of G-d’s Essence, His creative force within us. Hence, in the end, we (“the woman”) are the ones credited for the “child,” as we are shown to be one with G-d.
(Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 12, Tazria)