States of purity:
Tumah: טומה Impure
Taharah: תהרה Pure
Ritual Impurity: Tumah
- coming into contact with a corpse
- contact with a bird of prey or eating non kosher animals
- a person diagnosed with tzaarat
- bodily emissions which do not result in a child
- a woman after she has given birth
What do these causes have in common? Why might they all be causes for tumah?
Rabbi Rachel Adler:
“Tumah is the result of our confrontation with the fact of our own mortality. It is the going down into darkness. Taharah is the result of our reaffirmation of our own immortality. It is the reentry into light. Tumah is devil or frightening only when there is no further life. Otherwise, tumah is simply part of the human cycle. To be tameh is not wrong or bad. Often it is necessary and sometimes it is mandatory.”
"Rabbi Yohanan said: Three keys remain in the Holy Blessed One’s own hand, and have not been entrusted to any messenger, namely, the key of rain, the key of childbirth, and the key of the revival of the dead . . ." - Kotzker Rebbe
Rabbi Jan Uhrbach comments on the above quote:
"Seizing upon this notion, the Kotzker says that at the moment when a woman is giving birth, God is present in an intensified, heightened way—in the Kotzker’s language, “higher holiness rests there.” He continues:"
"But afterwards, when the infant emerges into the atmosphere of the world, automatically the Shekhinah and incumbent holiness withdraw. And therefore, in this place, tumah “is born.” Because everywhere where there is a withdrawal of holiness, tumah is born in its place, as in the tumah associated with death, which arises for the same reason." (Ohel Torah, Parashat Tazria, Kotzker Rebbe)
What is the Kotzker Rebbe saying in these quotes? How is he making sense of why a woman is separated from ritual life and in essense does not require participating in ritual life?
Do you think this argument steers one away from seeing a woman's separation after childbirth as cruel and demeaning?
Rabbi Jan Uhrbach writes:
“Here, the forms of tumah associated with human birth and death are a spiritual condition arising in the aftermath of a particularly intense encounter with the Divine. Note that this is not a state of unusual distance from God (and certainly not a complete absence of God, as no place is devoid of the Divine); rather, it’s an experience of relative distance, a reduction to “normal” levels of holiness and Godliness. Tumah is the psycho-spiritual let-down after a heightened experience of holiness, which in turn creates a vulnerability— perhaps to negativity or sin, or disaffection or doubt…”
Based on Rabbi’s Uhrback’s reconstructed definition of tumah, haven’t we all experienced tumah in our lives?