Newborn babies
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Our Parasha opens with Hashem saying to Moshe :(12:2-3)’Speak to the Children of Israel, saying:When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male..;On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.’

Our Sages note the seemingly ‘extra words’, as the pasuk need only have said:’When a woman gives birth to a male’, the word ‘conceives’ seeming superfluous.

They therefore expound (Niddah 30:) that it comes to teach that:’If the woman emits seed first, she gives birth to a male, if a man emits seed first, the baby will be a female, as it is written:When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male’’.

Rav Baruch Halevi Epstein comments:”Since the Torah should have simply said: ‘When a woman gives birth to a male’, why did it precede this with the words ‘When a woman conceives’? To teach us that which our Sages expounded: When the woman emits seed first, she gives birth to a male’.

“The reason for this is given by the naturalists, that the sex of the child is determined by the final force, the last seed emitted, and thus, if hers is the first seed, and his the last seed, then the child is formed from his ‘force’, and is a male.”

Rav Shlomo Kluger brings this teaching of our Sages, and offers the following ‘reason’ for this outcome:”Our Sages teach that there is no reward in this world, for performing Mitzvot, because they are all, as it were, ‘preceded by’, and ‘recompense for’ all that Hashem has done for us.

“However, when one performs a deed which he is not commanded to do, it is only right that it should be rewarded in this world, and immediately.

“As is known, a woman is not commanded with פרו ורבו: to procreate, only men are so commanded.

“Therefore, if a woman, for the sake of Heaven, procreates, then it is only right that she should be rewarded in this world- her reward being that she gives birth to a male child.

“This is what the Torah is telling us here: ‘If a woman תזריע:conceives’, her sole intention being to bring forth זרע: generations, not just for her pleasure, I guarantee that she will be rewarded, and give birth to a boy, because she acted solely לשם שמים: for the sake of Heaven.”

The Ktav Sofer sweetens our understanding, commenting:”Why did the Torah juxtapose the Mitzvah of circumcision on the eigth day, with the passuk:’If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male’?

“Our Sages”, as we brought, “expounded that this was to teach that if the woman’s seed was first, the child would be a male, and if the man’s seed was first, the child would be girl.

“But might I proffer another reason for Hashem instilling this, and it is because there are some Mitzvot which only women can perform, and, similarly, there are some Mitzvot which only men can perform.

“Since the child, in the Mitzvot it performs, gives merit to those who brought them into existence- their father and their mother - Hashem wanted לזכות: to give merit both to the father and to the mother for ALL the Mitzvot.

“Hashem therefore ‘gave’ woman, who is not obligated in time-bound Mitzvot, that she should still have a share in them, through their performance by her son; therefore, when she casts seed first, and gives birth to a boy, her ‘share’ in him is greater than that of the father.

“She therefore also merits to have a greater share in his good deeds that the son performs, which she herself does not do, as she is exempt from them.

“The Mitzvah of circumcising the son falls on the father, and this Mitzvah is for the whole life of the son; as the mother has the greater ‘share’ in the conception of the son, as we learn from our Gemara, therefore the Torah gave the Mitzvah of circumcising the boy to the father, so that he, too, would have a share in this Mitzvah which is ‘weighed against all the Mitzvot’.

“This is why the Torah chooses here to give the Mitzvah of circumcising the boy on the eighth day, to the father, and not to the mother.”

The Netivot Shalom sees in this a much more fundamental lesson in our Service of Hashem:”The twin foundations of Serving Hashem are אהבה ויראה: love and ‘fear’.

“However, the first step has to be יראה, as we learn from Matan Torah- which was given in an awesome way of thunder and lightning- AND, similarly, from the Ten Commandments- which start with וידבר אלקים את כל הדברים האלה: G-d, in His attribute of Strict Justice, spoke all this’.

“Though serving Hashem out of love is a higher level of service, than out of ‘fear’, the attribute of ‘fear’ is the instrument, and key, to being able to reach the level of serving Hashem out of love- which is why the preparation to receive the Torah, had to be through the attribute of ‘fear’.

“This is alluded to by our passuk: If the first seed is that of the woman, the child will be a boy, because woman alludes to the attribute of ‘fear’, as we read (Mishlei 31:30):’A woman who fears Hashem, she will be praised’. Man, on the other hand, alludes to love, as he is the one more engaged in positive Mitzvot, which arise out of love of Hashem.

“Therefore, when the first seed is cast by the woman, the progeny will be a boy, the higher level of love that arises after the necessary foundation of fear has been instilled.”

A parting insight from our Sages(Baba Batra 10:):’What should a person do to have male offspring? Rabbi Yehoshua says: He should gladden his wife before they engage in the Mitzvah of conjugal relations’.

Expounds the Ben Ish Hai, in his commentary Ben Yehoyada:”The pleasure the wife derives from this conversation and attention, will stir her feelings, and increase her desire for her husband, and will therefore cause her to cast her seed first- and thus, the progeny will be a boy, as our Sages learn from our passuk!”

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.

Danny Ginsbourg is a retired lawyer who made aliya from Australia a decade ago. He has written five volumes of Torah thoughts in Hebrew,and was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.for the two volume Davsha shel Torah to which there are already several sequels.