At first I thought maybe I’d be most upset by the fact that a woman who gives birth to a girl is ritually impure twice as long as one who gives birth to a boy. But by the end of this chapter, that just felt like garden-variety sexism.

No, what got to me was that she has to give a sin-offering after her period of impurity is over.

Now, I know that “sin” is something of a loose term here, and can mean a ritual violation as well as harm to others. Chapter 5 listed things covered by sin-offerings (versus offerings with penalties), and they include touching unclean things, be they animal or human. Menses, and night emissions are both human impurities (sorry; peaked ahead because I wanted to know), and it doesn’t seem entirely fair to demand sacrifices for these, simply because they happen so often. 12-13 times a year for most women, and… well, lots for men.

And then to cap it all off, afterbirth? Yes, it’s an “accidental” contact with human uncleanness, but all contact seems to be “accidental,” in that it’s a natural biological function. The inclusion of afterbirth in particular just feels wrong because it’s, well, anti-birth. If humanity has a mizvot to “be fruitful and multiply,” it seems utterly unfair to treat the natural result of multiplying as something you have to atone for. The other three items listed you have some choice over. These are involuntary.

It’s not anti-woman so much as anti-body. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from the Cathari, not from Judaism.

The Japanese: shussan suru “to deliver, to give birth to, sanbu “pregnant woman,” gekkei “menstruation” (v 2), hodokosu “to conduct, to perform” (v 3), shukketsu “bleeding” (v 4), jun jiru “to conform, to follow” (v 5), moshikuwa “or else, otherwise” (v 6).

I might add that Japanese religion has had its own laws on women being impure after menstruation or childbirth, with a parturition hut called an ubuya that a woman would stay in. But at least they didn’t demand that you make an offering to a priest to get back to purity; you just needed time and some washing-up.

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