At the beginning of Parshas Tazria, the Torah says that after a woman gives birth to a male son, she is ritually impure for seven days. Then, following immersion in a mikva (a ritual bath), she returns to a state of ritual purity. On the eighth day, male sons are circumcised. The Talmud in Niddah (31b) provides a very interesting reason for performing the bris milah on the eighth day.
During the seven days of ritual impurity following the birth of a son, the mother is a niddah. In early generations, prior to subsequent rabbinic prohibitions which exist today, the husband and wife were finally allowed to fully be together by the eighth day.
The Gemara explains that the reason why we wait until the eighth day for the bris milah and the accompanying celebration is that prior to this time, the happiness of the husband and wife are limited by the prohibition against intimately sharing their joy together. The lack of ability by husband and wife to celebrate fully might even dampen the spirits and restrict the enjoyment of the other guests. Therefore, the Torah established that milah be ‘delayed’ until the eighth day, so that everyone will be able to fully participate in the joyous occasion.
Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein zt”l (the Slobodka Rosh Yeshiva) points out that the Torah is expressing tremendous sensitivity for people’s feelings. This passage essentially says that milah should really be performed sooner. The Torah has us wait until the eighth day to make sure that everyone who is present at the bris will be able to fully enjoy themselves.
The concept of sharing happy occasions and maximizing everyone’s simcha is so basic to Torah ethics that it justifies ‘postponing’ milah until the eighth day.
Rav Moshe Mordechai pointed out a parallel to a minhag during the Yizkor prayer in memory of the dead, which we say four times a year—on Yom Kippur, and at the end of the three major holidays (Pesach, Shavuos, and Shemini Atzeres following Sukkos). There is a virtually universal custom that when Yizkor is said, people whose parents are both still living leave the sanctuary during the recital. What is the reason for this custom?
Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein wrote that the reason for this custom is the very concept mentioned earlier. Yizkor is usually recited on Yom Tov. If reciting Yizkor is not exactly a joyous experience for the people whose parents are deceased, it can at least be a comforting experience to remember their loved ones on Yom Tov. But if the other people witness this and watch friends and relatives perhaps shedding tears for departed parents, that would affect and contradict their enjoyment of the Yom Tov. We are trying to avoid this. We try to provide the appropriate form of Simchas Yom Tov (happiness on the holiday) for everyone.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas Tazria are provided below:
#007 – Self-Defense
#051 – Moser: The Dilemma of the Jewish IRS Agent
#094 – Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut?
#142 – Eyeglasses in Halacha
#189 – Mikveh: Tevillah and Chaziza
#235 – Caesarian Section Births
#279 – Women’s Testimony in Hilchos Niddah
#325 – The Microscope in Halacha
#369 – Bris Milah That Causes Chilul Shabbos
#413 – Speaking Lashon Horah on Baalei Machlokes
#457 – Getting An Aliyah After Childbirth
#501 – Milah and the Sick Baby
#545 – Dangerous Medical Procedures
#589 – Pidyon Haben – Daytime or Night?
#677 – Tallis Katan – Wool or Cotton?
#721 – Eruv Pesach-More Special Than You Think
#765 – How Many Mitzvos of Sefira Are There
#809 – Netilas Yodayim -Things You Never Knew
#853 – Mila on Shabbos – Fascinating Questions
#1028-Davening Maariv Early: Does It Make It Tomorrow for Hilchos Milah, Niddah Aveilus?
#1073- How Fast or Slow Must One Eat?
#1115- Office Lashon Horah – How Far Must You Go To Avoid It?
#1157- “But the Butcher I Buy From Has a Chezkas Kashrus!” (Reliable Reputation)
#1333- OOPS! There’s a Sticker on the Kli I was Just Toivel-Must I Toivel it Again?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.