In Leviticus 12, God commands Moses to tell the Israelites that when a woman bears a son she is considered to be niddah (state of marital separation when a woman has her menstrual cycle) for seven days. When a woman bears a daughter, the amount of time of separation is doubled to two weeks.
Huh? Why should there be any difference between the birth of a boy and the birth of a girl…aren’t the births equally miraculous?
Niddah (often mistranslated as a state of impurity) is NOT a punishment of any sort. It is simply a state of being. Because of woman’s ability to carry life within herself and give birth to life, she has the opportunity to emulate God more closely than a man ever can. (This is not, of course, to deny the importance of the male contribution, just a basic fact of the difference in how life is created.) However, each monthly menstrual cycle is a sign that a new life was not created and, in fact, died.* In Judaism, human life is sacred, and any connection with the loss of life alters one’s spiritual state.
During pregnancy a woman contains “double life.” When she gives birth, the amount of “life-force” within her diminishes; she therefore enters a state of niddah. Since a female body contains extra life (a woman does not produce new eggs throughout her life, as a man does sperm), when a woman gives birth to a daughter, she has lost not just the baby’s “life-force” but also the baby’s procreational power as well. Thus the double loss of the power of life is the reason for the double time during which a woman is in an altered spiritual state.
Click here for Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald’s explanation of this subject.
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