The moment a woman gives birth is the moment her life will never be the same again. After months of aches, pains, nausea, and emotions, the new mother can finally clutch her little piece of heaven to her chest, and a new chapter in her life begins.
Yet the Torah requires waiting periods before a new mother attains purity, who must then to offer a sacrifice. What is the purpose of this?
Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch teaches that the different kinds of impurities are about the death of moral freedom amidst life, to varying degrees.
Pregnancy and having a child is chaotic and wreaks havoc on the mother’s life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It would be a surprise if under the circumstances, she didn’t lose the ability to choose clearly.
The words the Torah uses – אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ – describes the physiological process of seed forming. The greatest of blessings can be reduced to a simple biological happening. It is this impurity that needs dispelling. The process is passive, painful, and everything revolves around it. But we are called upon for conscious living.
The periods of waiting correspond to the child and to the parent, and how both must consciously and constantly strive towards greater moral consciousness. Moral freedom and the ability to choose are the gift that distinguishes humanity.
This may why the waiting period for a boy and girls are different, as the covenant of circumcision teaches this same lesson.
The process the Torah prescribes a new mother serves to rededicate her to her calling as a wife, mother, and Jew, despite the painful experience she has undergone. Submission to the forces of nature is antithetical to what it means to be a Jew.
To be a mother is not simply to give birth. To be a mother is to create human beings.