It is time for my annual sending of photos of our beautiful Victoria to my brother who lives in Calgary: sprays of pink cherry blossoms, blooming magnolias and clematis, all sent as counterbalance to the near dead looking grey soil of Ted’s backyard.
And yet. I know that spring will come to Calgary. I know that his backyard will be luxuriously thick with grass sooner than I could imagine. I am not quite sure how it happens but I have witnessed the revival of the earth in Calgary – it is a different miracle of welcome than what we are accustomed to here, with our quarter year of springtime.
We open Tazria, our Torah reading for this week with birth – and recovery. This week I will be attending a Brit Milah. On Sunday morning I was notified of a birth of a daughter to a former Bat Mitzvah student. I am thrilled with both births, and look forward to holding both babies very soon. Renewal happens on all fronts, but the birth of babies has always been a precious yet precarious balance, as baby traverses safety in its mother’s womb to the more perilous world. We have also just welcomed baby Victoria, who born 3+ months early spent her first months in the NICU at CGH here. With medical care she is now thriving at home. May all babies grow into Torah, mitzvot and chuppah.
When we read of the sequestering of the mother in these early sentences of Tazria, we have to let our modern sensibilities sit to the side a bit. Birthing is a bloody and visceral experience. Dam, blood, is a source of ritual impurity, of tumah; blood is both a source of life – and an indicator of death. Our ancients were cautious and protective and ritually adjacent to birth. Peril was – is – met with rituals.
Pesach marks the birthing of months – and in ritual, we recite those ancient lines, “Ha lachma anya de achalnu…” “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry – let them come and eat. All who are needy – let them come and celebrate the Pesach with us.” Matzah, the bread we eat during the eight days of Pesach is our bread of affliction and yet also our bread of freedom. Much in our Jewish lives holds two, seemingly opposite sides – but really those two are utterly one. For who can know freedom without affliction? Who can be born without pain?
Mazal tov to Zane Caplansky and Willa Bradshaw on the birth of their son, Archibald (Archie) Yitz, and to Tova Ariella Barnett and her beloved Courtney Beharrell on the birth of their daughter. May our days of joy only increase, and may our joy bring peace.