September 5, 2021

Beitzah 2

Almost all of the first daf of Massechet Beitzah (2) deals with the law of נולד (literally ‘that which is born’) – which is the term used with reference to an item or substance that either evolved into existence on Shabbat or Yom Tov, or assumed a new form that it did not previously have. And since this item was not available prior to Shabbat or Yom Tov, it is deemed to be ‘mukzeh’ and may not be used on these days. This is why our Massechet is called Beitzah (egg), because it refers the classic case of a נולד (i.e. when an egg is laid on Shabbat or Yom Tov).

However, as we are just days away from Rosh Hashanah, it is important to distinguish between the physical case of נולד (which is ‘mukzeh’ on Shabbat and Yom Tov), and the spiritual opportunity of נולד (which is encouraged every day – and especially on Shabbat and Yom Tov!) – which is a core theme in the things that we say and do from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. Let me explain:

1. As we find in the Machzor, Rosh Hashanah is known as היום הרת עולם – ‘the day of the birthing of [the culmination of] the world [through the creation of Adam & Chava]’ – which means that a central message of Rosh Hashanah is the idea of נולד – being born – and being spiritually reborn.

2. This message is further affirmed in the Torah reading and Haftarah of Rosh Hashanah – which tell us about the נולד – birthing stories – of Sarah and Hannah.

3. Interestingly, one of the more unusual things that we do on the Yamim Noraim is prostrate ourselves to the ground. As Harav Immanuel Jakobovits explains, by doing this ‘we… return to the posture we had in the mother’s womb before we were born’. Then, moments afterwards, we rise up – and in so doing, ‘act out’ being נולד – reborn.

4. It is customary to immerse in the Mikveh on Erev (Rosh Hashanah &) Yom Kippur, which is often described as representing a form of נולד – rebirth.

5. Finally, in seeking to explain why we recite the Shehecheyanu bracha on Yom Kippur, a creative solution is posited by the Belzer Rebbe who explains that we do so over our new selves that we have become (נולד).

I shall end with one of the most exquisite ideas found in the writings of Rav Hirsch – and an especially fitting one having just started a new Massechet – who explains that there is an etymological connection between the word הרה (the process of conception leading to birth) and תורה (Torah). This is because what is found in Torah ‘are the teachings of truth and goodness that were revealed by God [which] we are to absorb… in our minds and hearts, so that they should beget in us the awareness of truth and the desire for good’.

On this basis, if we are looking to be נולד, we should look to the תורה and reflect on its teachings, for it contains the spiritual material to guide us in our growth and our journey towards our new selves.

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