Why Does Childbirth Require Sacrificial Atonement?
“G-d spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel, saying, ‘When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be ritually impure for a seven-day period... If she gives birth to a female, she shall be ritually impure for two weeks... Upon the completion of the days of her purity for a son or a daughter, she shall bring a sheep within its first year for an elevation-offering, and a young dove or a turtledove for a sin-offering to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the kohen’.” (Leviticus 12:1-6)
In this week’s portion the Torah teaches us that a woman is required to bring two sacrificial offerings after childbirth — an elevation-offering that is totally consumed on the Altar, and a sin-offering to atone for her transgressions. Abarbanel questions why she has to bring an elevation-offering, and also wonders what sin she did that required atonement after childbirth. In terms of the sin-offering, Abrabanel mentions first the gemara in Tractate Niddah which explains that the pain of childbirth causes a woman to swear to abstain from relations with her husband in the future. Such an oath is considered to be taken in vain since a woman is prohibited from voluntarily abstaining from relations.
Abarbanel then offers a different insight. Although a sin-offering normally precedes an elevation-offering, the order is reversed here as a result of the unique experience of childbirth. An elevation-offering expresses an individual’s desire to come closer to