At the beginning of our parsha the Torah commands the woman who gave birth, to bring a sin offering. The commentators struggle with the following question: what is the sin that the woman who gave birth committed? What is the transgression that obligated her to bring a sin offering? The Talmud in Tractate Nidah 31b says the following “The disciples of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai asked him ‘For what reason does the Torah say that a woman who has given birth brings a sin offering?’ He answered them ‘When she crouches to give birth she bursts and swears, due to the intense pain, that she will not copulate with her husband again. Therefore the Torah says she will probably violate this oath.” The Talmud discussed this reason at length and challenged it, but nevertheless, this reason was accepted. I would like to analyze this reason.
The woman is giving birth, the pain and the difficulty of childbirth is tremendous. The feelings of motherhood are about to come to fruition and she will be responsible for bringing a child into this world and increase hope and light. This motherly instinct does not stop her from bursting out with an oath that she knows deep in her heart that she will not fulfill. She knows that after the pain there will be love and tranquility. I would like to suggest that this is the emphasis of the reason given in the Talmud. Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai points out that the sin is not what we superficially thought; being that she took an oath and did not fulfill it. Instead, the sin is the lack of patience, despite the pain and the emotional instability in the time of birth. This situation applies not only to women who give birth, but to each one of us. We all go through difficult chapters in our lives. We all face challenges that shake us to our core. However, we are expected despite the grief, pain, and afflictions, to be patient and to look at life with the right perspective and a long-term vision.
We are approaching Israel Independence Day; our beloved State, which was established in 1948 faced a very difficult and complicated reality in the beginning. The Shoa destroyed communities upon communities, six-million Jews perished. There were conflicts with the Arab population and our neighbors, plus our army was not yet equipped and or formed. Despite this negative reality, the decision was made and the State of Israel was declared. This proclamation changed not only the fate of the Jewish people, but the fate of the entire world. Now, when we stand in 2013, we also face a complicated reality, including existential threats that are a growing danger. However we, like the generations before us, should not jump into an impetuous decision, rather we should see the entire picture that is comprised by our past, present, and the future, which has not yet been seen. Our nation, Am Yisrael, is the nation of eternity and a long journey does not deter us from accomplishing our destiny and future. For more than two-thousand years we dreamt of returning to our homeland to create an army, a state, an economy and a society. For us it is a given to have an independent state, but it was not obvious for generations before us. The expectation that we all should have for ourselves is to be able not to let short-term complications deviate us from the miracle that we live in, namely, the State of Israel. There are no quick or magical solutions for the complex and perplexing situation that Israel faces. We need to have patience and understand the task in order to be able to fulfill our mission and destiny.
When Moshe was approached by Hashem to be the leader of the Jewish people he responded “Please Hashem, send through whomever you will send.” The commentators offer different interpretations to who Moshe referred to in this statement. One of the interpretations is that Moshe referred to Elijah, saying to Hashem “Don’t send me, send Elijah, the ultimate redeemer that will bring the Messiah”. Moshe claims “Why do we need to go through the desert, exile, and all Jewish history? Why can’t you, Hashem, just send Elijah and conclude our journey?” Hashem responded to Moshe by saying “It is you and not Elijah who’s time it is to redeem the Jewish people.” The messag is very clear; redemption is not a quick fix, rather a long journey that requires patience, faith, and commitment. This Independence Day we should all strengthen our faith in our ability to continue to walk on the pathway for redemption.