Ritual impurity, Jewish doctors and having a baby

Inisghts into Judaism connected to the parsha.

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple,

 Raymond Apple
Raymond Apple


A person who was in a state of tum’ah, ritual impurity, could not enter the sanctuary.

Maimonides thinks this was in order to evoke awe and reverence for the sanctuary. One had to be in a fit state to come into the holy place.

Nachmanides had a different idea, that the human body was capable of a temporary negative experience.

In both cases a person could change his or her own situation for the better. The Jewish idea is therefore that nothing is permanent in the human situation. One does not have to accept things as they are, either in the world or in one’s own self.

As an optimistic religion, the Jewish belief is that one not only can look forward to the future but can work towards it.


Doctors were always highly regarded in Judaism, and parents were so proud if their child became a doctor or married one.

Was it that they thought doctors brought in a good living, not that the doctor always receives an adequate reward for his or her years of training and expertise? Was it that the doctor was considered a miracle worker, able to restore a sick person to health, not that the doctor always succeeds in finding a cure?

One would hope that a few parents also remembered that in this week's Torah portion the healing arts are associated with the priesthood, implying that the doctor is somehow doing God's work.

In a sense the doctor is a kohen who ministers in the sanctuary. The kohen brings man and God closer together; good doctors bring their patients closer to God.

When they achieve a cure, doctor and patient should both offer thanks to the Divine Healer.

During the struggle to find a cure, both need to ask God to be with them. If, God forbid, no cure eventuates, they should implore Him to have them in His keeping.


Because the sidra begins with the religious procedures that follow the birth of a baby, it’s a good occasion to talk about babies as a whole. As far as I am concerned, they are one of the finest pieces of evidence that there is a God.

Our ancestors, who did not quite know how to explain pregnancy and childbirth, automatically said the baby came from God.

It wasn’t a very sophisticated answer but it had the advantage of being true. It isn’t that the baby came down on a cloud from heaven wrapped in a blanket, but Someone was the intelligent Mind that worked out the method of procreation and endowed human parents with the capacity to create new life.

This fact explains one of the puzzles of the Ten Commandments. The tradition is that the first five commandments are between man and God, the second five between man and man. Nice symmetry, but how is it that our relationship with our parents is in the first and not the second category?

Answer: the ultimate parent is God, who works through an earthly father and mother to bring the new generation into being. In honouring our earthly parents we honour the heavenly Parent.

Let’s go further. Only the Intelligent Someone that we call God could enable every child to bring its own blessing into the world. The sages said in Mishnah Sanhedrin that when humans mint coins, the coins they produce are identical, but when God ordains the birth of a baby, every child is different and unique.

That’s why we can all enhance our daily morning prayers with the words, “Blessed are You who made me me”.



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