(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 02:26:51 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Tuma After Giving Birth

In BM Vol2n24 Rav Shmariah Shore defends the traditional 'Toomah=death'
theory. Rav Shmariah mentions in detail the application of this theory to
leprosy, emissions and births.  Allow me to restate Rav Hirschs views which
were formulated as a reaction to the idea that "birth" should be "perceived
as death".

Rav Hirsch's basic view is that TAHARAH, PURITY, is a psycho-spiritual
state where the person is aware of their freedom. By contrast, TOOMAH,
IMPURITY, is a psycho-spiritual state where a person does not feel free. It
is akin to certain states of depression since it is characterized by a
feeling of helplessness and lack of activity. Let us go thru the laws and
see how this is developed

1st) A dead body suggests to everyone that life ends - that 'there is no
difference between righteous and wicked..that all life ends the same way'.
Hence there is no reason to be good since all people end up the same This
is the TOOMAH feeling of helplessness--that we lack freedom

2nd) Involuntary bodily emissions suggest that mans physical nature is
predetermined--things must happen--the menstruant must menstruate and
people must have emissions. It follows that perhaps other activities are
also predetermined. Maybe we can't avoid them happening. Thus our freedom
in the sphere of intimacy is challenged. Again we have the Toomah state of

3rd) Human birth is a purely animal process. It is totally physical. The
idea that a human baby should grow up to be a GADOL seems absurd--for the
baby is born and acts like an animal. Again the idea that freedom is there
is attacked.

4th) The purification ceremony for the person in contact with a dead person
emphasizes mans spirit. We take water (=spirit) in a clay vessel (=body)
and stir dust (=body) into the water. Eventually the dust settles (=death)
but the water (=soul) remains. By sprinkling this on the person who was in
contact with the dead we 'purify' him since we remind him that he not only
has seen death but is reminded of the eternal soul.

But the people involved with the sprinkling become impure. Rav Hirsch
explains that the purification ceremony symbolizes the MIXTURE of soul and
body. Hence it purifies someone who thinks there is only a body.  By
contrast a normal person who is aware of his soul who comes in contact with
the water becomes impure because he is reminded of the body that will one
day decay.

5th) Sexual intercourse does not render impure (even though other seminal
emissions do) since whereas other emissions are involuntary sexual
intercourse is wanted and has elements of freedom.

This is a very brief introduction to a deep, profound and beautiful topic
that Rav Hirsch spent several 100 pages discussing. I believe his approach
has many advantages over the other approaches and offers a great deal of
challenge. The ideas above were partially covered at

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Moderator Rashi is Simple