Birth and rebirth are the themes of this Shabbat. This is both because of the content of the Torah reading and because of the time of the year on the Jewish calendar.

The Parshah opens with the laws concerning a woman who conceives and bears a child. The ceremonies surrounding the great event, and the idea of the brit milah, the covenant of circumcision, which brings a Jewish infant boy into his special bond with G‑d, are explained. The sages tell us that a girl is considered to have been born circumcised. Thus, every Jew enters the world with a special divine bond and responsibility.

The joy of birth is expressed by the fact that in Temple times, the happy mother would bring an offering to the Temple as thanksgiving to G‑d, as described in the Parshah.The experience of Exile is compared to a state of pregnancy

It is appropriate that this Torah reading is read in or in proximity to the month of Nissan, a joyous month inextricably linked with Passover and the redemption from Egypt. This event was the actual birth of the Jewish people. The Exodus is described in these terms by the prophet Ezekiel. He uses the allegory of birth to describe the whole experience of the Jewish people leaving Egypt, wandering in the desert while putting their trust only in G‑d, and then their subsequent development into a mature nation serving G‑d through Torah and its commandments.1

We also find Torah teachings comparing our later experience of exile to a state of pregnancy. The unborn child is fully formed, but it is not yet functioning as a normal human being. It has eyes and ears, but it cannot see or hear. In the same way we, the Jewish people, are not able to function properly with our full spiritual stature and sensitivity. While still in exile, we hopefully carry out the mitzvot—but we are not really aware of their importance. For this reason, many people do not as yet keep all the mitzvot which they should. If we had the full awareness of a mature person, we would eagerly keep every mitzvah in sight!

As in the case of a mother expecting a baby that is due at any time, we too eagerly await the ultimate rebirth and renewal of the Jewish people and the world with the coming of the Messiah. The way towards this is through mitzvot, Torah study, and especially love of one’s fellow. Through this we will achieve both birth and rebirth, for the benefit of all humanity.