Parashas Tazria

This week’s parashah begins with some laws pertaining to a woman who has given birth. Accordingly, the Midrashim on this parashah include some teachings about pregnancy and birth. Here we present one of these teachings along with the Maggid’s explanation. The Midrash expounds (Vayikra Rabbah 14:3):
It is written (Iyov 10:12): “Life and kindness You granted me, and Your command safeguarded my spirit.” … The way of the world is that an animal walks crouched down and its fetus is contained in its innards as if in a sack, while a woman walks upright, her fetus is contained in her innards, and the Holy One Blessed Be He safeguards it so that it should not fall and die.
The Midrash presents several additional comparisons between an animal’s way of bearing offspring and caring for its young and a woman’s way of doing so. The general message that emerges is that Hashem performs miraculous kindnesses in the process through which a woman bears a child and cares for the baby. Yet we can ask: Why does the verse use the term “command” in speaking of these kindnesses?
The Maggid explains as follows. In the Hebrew, the closing phrase of the verse in Iyov is written ופרודתך שמרה רוחי. Had it instead been written ופרודתך שמרה את רוחי with the word את preceding the word רוחי, we would know for sure that “Your command” is the subject of the sentence and “my spirit” is the object. But with the usual את omitted, we can read the verse in two ways: either as “Your command safeguarded my spirit” or as “Your command, my spirit observed.” This pattern is also seen in the phrase ורב יעבד צעיר in Bereishis 25:23 to describe the relationship between Yaakov and Eisav (and, more generally, between their respective descendants). In connection with this phrase, the Midrash comments (Bereishis Rabbah 63:7): “If Yaakov merits, his older brother Eisav will serve him (יַעֲבֺד), and if not, he will subjugate him (יַעֲבִד).” We can ask how our Sages derived this principle, given that the word that the verse uses is in fact יַעֲבֺד and not יַעֲבִד . And we can answer that the Sages derived the principle from the omission of the word את from the phrase ורב יעבד צעיר, which allows the phrase to be read either as “The older will serve the younger” or “The older, the younger will serve.” The same pattern is seen in many other verses.
In the case of the verse in Iyov, the intent of the ambiguous phrasing ופרודתך שמרה רוחי is to call attention to the reason why Hashem commanded and exhorted man to set his intellect above his impulses and not follow his natural tendencies as other creatures do. An animal can well maintain its existence simply by following its natural tendencies. Man’s existence, on the other hand, involves factors that go beyond the natural order of the world. Hashem therefore exhorted man to set aside his natural tendencies and follow the laws He laid down for him in the Torah. Hashem said to man: “Just as My command safeguards your spirit and maintains it within you, so, too, your spirit must observe My command.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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