Blood Purification, a Midrash


Robert Manaster



Why must a mother be unclean for a male child one week as during her menstruation and 33 days for blood purification but for a female child two weeks as during menstruation and 66 days for blood purification?

(Based on Leviticus 12:2-5)


One used to say a mother is unclean after giving birth, for she's utterly drained since her spirit has branched out to her child. This uncleanliness, the lifeblood given, stresses the time to heal her spirit as well as body. Since a mother expends more beforehand to plead for a son— she weeps drunkenly— she spends less to nurture him inside her, for it is said, Those the loudest outside are the quietest inside. And since she spends less to nurture a son inside her, she needs less time to recover. She could be likened to an apple tree. One apple drops before it has wholly ripened into red, and the tree's sun-drenched branch needs little time to recover. Another fruit, which has blossomed into a deep-shade red, thumps the earth after being more in wholeness with this tree, whose branch then needs more time to recover. Thus, a female child doubles the waiting period while the male child is unfortunately let go with an unripened spirit.



A Vision as She Prays at the Well



Against your taut belly, you press

For pushes of hand or foot. Existence

Surprises you like bulky idols when

Accidentally bumped. You lean over

And feel for deep-well breaths pushing

Back out. I've been there too as if waking

To the slate-blue surface of a dream

Where darkest pigments had peeled off sky.

Alone and unafraid, our cries

For love are let go like loose rope.

Where have you come from, Hagar,

And where are you going? Caught in flight,

Your name hangs in God's voice. You feel

A restless tug and know your child

Outlives this banishment. He'll sever the grounds

Against which the wind and sky resolve.



You Hear the Future of a Parting Sea



Your father has just steered you to where God

Could be heard by him again, and you Dinah

Keeping silence like a dried almond shell

Listen to a godfulness others have not found.

Your father will never know well enough the time

In which you’ve suffered like a long-held mare.

Thus, you leave him and your brothers taming fields

And cattle, growing years in food and wealth;

You leave your mothers and maids to bridle hours

At home, where there are strange twists on stone faces.

If only for a time, you abandon duty

Quietly and hurriedly, adorned

In topaz jewels and dove-white garments.

For you, there’s more than stone gods, land, or a passing

Exchange of wares and glances. No, you leave

As if you know that God will manifest

Among the daughters of the land you’ll encounter,

As if your voice will ease into another place.

You leave without word, without promise.




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