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Parshat Tazria Dvar Torah

This week’s parsha is Parshat Tazria. Last week’s parsha, Parshat Shemini, concludes with the topic of kosher versus non-kosher foods. However, this parsha begins with the following words: "אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר” - “When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male.” (12:2). 

What is the connection between the end of Parshat Shemini and the beginning of Tazria, which jumps from kosher foods to the discussion of childbirth?

The Torah aims to teach us a valuable lesson. Even though one would think that a parent’s obligation to their child begins when he is born, it exists even when the child is in his mother’s womb. The pregnant mother must be careful with the food she is consuming because whether it is kosher or not can have an effect on the unborn child in her stomach.

There is a story in the Gemara (Yoma 82b) regarding a pregnant woman who—despite her desire to eat on Yom Kippur—fought it and kept her fast. Later, we see she gave birth to the great sage Rabbi Yochanan.

Similarly, another pregnant woman who was unable to suppress her cravings and broke the fast, ended up giving birth to a rasha known as “Shabbatai Otzar Peirot” (the hoarder of produce [for speculation]).

The final pasuk of last parsha, Parshat Shemini, which sums up the laws about kosher and non-kosher food, alludes to the above:

In Hebrew, the term for a woman who gives birth is “chayah.” Thus, the Torah is telling us: “lehavdil bein hatamei uvein hatahor” — “to distinguish between the pure (child) and the contaminated (child)” — is contingent on “uvein hachayah hane’echelet” — “the distinction between a ‘chayah,’ — a mother who was lax during pregnancy in the observance of kashrut” — “uvein hachayah asher lo tei’acheil” — “and a mother who was careful not to eat food of questionable kashrut” (11:47).

In summary, the Torah connects two seemingly different topics—eating kosher food and childbirth—to teach us something important. Just as the dietary choices of a pregnant mother can impact the child's development, so too do the actions and decisions of parents shape the spiritual and moral character of their offspring. So the Torah is reminding us that being a parent is about more than just taking care of a baby after they're born; it starts from the very beginning, even before a child enters the world.

By: Tova Bossewitch (10th) & Eliana Wolfson (10th)

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