Catastrophic Miracles and Miraculous Catastrophes

The Torah of Pregnancy in Tazria and Toldot

Rabbanit Leah Sarna

From one perspective, pregnancy is a miracle. But from another, pregnancy is a nightmare. R. Sarna argues that the Jewish tradition makes space for both of these stories about pregnancy. One, based in Parashat Tazria, addresses pregnancy in the abstract, reflecting on the miracle of how pregnancy is supposed to work in theory. The other, based in Parashat Toldot, addresses pregnancy in the particular, acknowledging the catastrophe of how pregnancy often actually works in practice. This duality models an important and potentially life-saving way of thinking about the experience: in the abstract, we can—and even should—marvel and wonder, but we may not let those assumptions overshadow particular experiences of suffering.

This essay was awarded the Ateret Zvi Prize in Hiddushei Torah in 5784.