Our portion this week begins with a short section titled in some Bibles as, “The Laws of Motherhood.” In it is described the time after giving birth before a new mother could enter the Temple, and the sacrifices that accompanied childbirth.
To say that there are questions about this passage is an understatement. There are many questions and even more opinions about what is going on in this passage. Linked below are two articles by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that have good insight into some of these questions.
While the debates and questions are both good and necessary, there are other areas within this topic to cover. Consider the direct impact that this chapter had on the early life of Yeshua. His mother Miriam (Mary) had to go through this process herself. The account is recorded in the Book of Luke, along with some surprising additions.
And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”Luke 2:21-24 NASB
There are a number of things worth noting in this passage. First, the obedience of Yeshua’s parents to the commandments. This chapter covers the life of the Master from birth through twelve years old. The emphasis throughout it all was obedience. The shepherds who came to witness his birth, His parents in their commitment to the commands, and Yeshua Himself to His Father’s business. After all these things, the chapter concludes with the verse, “And Yeshua kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with Elohim and men.” The connection is clear, the increase came about as a gift from Elohim for the obedience displayed by this family.
Second, it is interesting to note in the two different titles for Torah in this short section. Verse 22 calls it, “the Law of Moses,” and verses 23 and 24 both call it, “the Law of the Lord.” We must not assume that the Law of Moses is anything less than the Law of the Lord.
Third, note the interesting difference between verse 22 and Leviticus 12. Leviticus only commands purification for the mother, yet here Luke says, “when the days of their purification…were completed.” Why the difference? More than likely Luke is combining the commands in Leviticus 12 and Numbers 18:16 where the firstborn had to be redeemed from Adonai. Here, it seems, that Miriam waited to bring the redemption price so that it coincided with her own sacrifices.
There are some reminders for us in this. The bond between a mother and newborn child is perhaps one of the strongest relationships there is. How much more is this true than when the mother includes her newborn in her Torah obedience? Cannot the same be said for an entire family? There is a bond that grows in our family relationships when we come together to obey our Heavenly Father. The joining that happens there is strong, and not easily torn apart.
Perhaps this is part of the meaning of another difficult passage.
But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.1 Timothy 2:15 NAS
We know that men and women are both saved the same way. There are not different requirements, but here women are called out specifically that preservation (Sozo in Greek which is often translated as salvation) happens through childbearing. What is this about?
This is about families. The mother is the first to bond with a new child. The first to show unconditional love for this vulnerable life. Through that process, when continued in faith and love and sanctity and self-restraint, the bond continue to grow and eventually the child will “grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with Elohim and men.”
We know that through the sin of Adam and Chavah (Eve) death entered the world. Humans no longer are permitted to live physically forever. That gift has yet to be restored to us. But, through our children we leave a legacy. We imprint, not only our genes, but our values on them. May it be, that our families, like that of Miriam and Yoseph, seek to build this bond, through the imprint of obedience to the Law of the Lord in our families.
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.2 Timothy 1:5 NASB
Rabbi Sacks – Holiness and Childbirth
Rabbi Sacks – The Sacrifices of Childbirth