Good evening Mr. & Mrs. Catholic, and all you other Christians at sea. We’re still on our year long track through Scripture (using The Coming Home Network’s guide to reading the Bible and the Catechism in a year), and again we’ve run across an odd little detail in the narrative. It might fall under the radar of the big blogs, but we here at The Newsreel keep our eyes low to the ground and are able to bring you the scoop. Now off to press.
DATELINE: LEVITICUS CHAPTER 12
Leviticus is widely known as the book of the Bible which kills many an attempt at reading the entirety of Scripture. But if you stick it out you eventually find that buried amidst all of the lesions and discharges which make up the Jewish ritual purity laws are things… even more weird. Take for instance this passage. “If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days… But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks.” Given the unavoidable mess of childbirth, we can understand the ‘unclean’ part, but why the unequal time for the difference in sexes? Are women really more unclean than men?
Absolutely. You see, Robert Fulghum was right, all we really need to know we learned in kindergarten. And if we learned anything in kindergarten, it’s that girls have cooties! They’re nasty, filthy, dirty creatures. Don’t take our word for it. A recent study by the University of Colorado found that women have a greater variety of bacteria on their hands than men, as well as more bacteria living under the surface of the skin where they are not accessible to washing. Ewww!
Still, in order to retain a semblance of journalistic integrity (as if anybody still cares about that these days), we suppose we must present an alternate theory to the yucky girl hypothesis. Dr Ellen Frankel explains that “it must be noted that ritual impurity is not, in of itself, a bad thing. Ritual impurity comes from any number of natural acts, and is not connected with sin or evil. It happens to everyone at one point or another, and the process of re-purification is not difficult. But impurity is considered problematic, especially for men, since it results in them not being able to fulfil important mitzvot. But, even so, why would birthing a girl result in twice the period of impurity? The general consensus… is that this specific impurity is related to blood. Bleeding renders one impure, and women bleed on a regular, natural cycle… The new mother's impurity, therefore, was connected to her own issuing of blood during the birthing process, but the end of her period of impurity was related to the issuing of blood of her child. A male child does not bleed according to a regular cycle, but he does bleed at the time that he is entered into the covenant during the ritual of Brit Milah - "the covenant of circumcision". The mother's impurity comes to an end at this time. But for a girl, the mother's blood is now compounded by the future blood that will be issued by her daughter, thereby "doubling" the impurity through the addition of a new female to the family.” In short, the extended time period is a spiritual and psychological reminder of the creation story and has no direct relation to the general cleanliness, or inherent worth, of women. Apparently there are no cooties in the Bible.
With that thought, we leave you until next time, passing along as always the words of the great Les Nessman, “Good evening, and may the good news be yours.”