Tazria: Great Source(s)

We can also consider a connection between menstruation and covenant. The prophet Zechariah speaks to “daughter Jerusalem” and “daughter Zion” about “your covenant of blood” as that which releases prisoners from the dry pit (9:9-11).* It does not say “the covenant of blood,” as most translations render it, but rather emphasizes that blood is the focus of the covenant. The address to the feminine persona suggests that all “daughters of Zion” have that covenant of blood. It is through menstruation — from puberty when we accept our responsibilities as Jews, through the elder years when bleeding stops and deep wisdom starts — that the entire world is saved from the dry pit of death, in which there is no water, no womb, no regeneration, no rebirth.

See menstrual blood, then, as women’s covenantal blood — just as blood of b’rit milah (ritual circumcision) is men’s….
–Elyse Goldstein in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary** (p.675)

* gam-at [also you (fem. sing.) b’dam [in blood] b’riteich [of your (fem. sing. possessive) covenant]

** Please see Source Materials for full citation and additional information.


The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

Mishpatim: A Path to Follow

This portion’s many rules/laws [mishpatim] are followed by powerful narrative (chapter 24) which includes the people’s famous utterance — “we will do and we will listen [or hearken/heed/obey]!” — and an episode in which a group of Israelites “beheld God, and they ate and drank” (Exodus/Shemot 24:3, 7, 11).

There is a great deal of commentary on “na’aseh v’nishma,” which is variously translated as “we will do and we will obey” (Stone*) or “we will do and we will hearken/listen,” (Fox*) or “we will do and we will heed” (Alter*). Some of the earliest can be found in Shabbat 88a-b in the Babylonian Talmud*:

R. Eleazar said: When the Israelites gave precedence to ‘we will do’ over “we will hearken,’ a Heavenly Voice went forth and exclaimed to them, Who revealed to My children this secret, which is employed by the Ministering Angels, as it is written, Bless the Lord, ye angels of his. Ye might in strength, that fulfill his word. That hearken unto the voice of his word [Ps. 103:20] first they fulfill and then they hearken?

Some other places to explore paths leading from this verse are: Schwartz’s Tree of Souls,* Reform Judaism magazine’s piece on “Healing the World,” R. Jill Jacobs’ article “Do First, Understand Later” on My Jewish Learning.

For another path, consider a contemporary midrash with many notes on the “lunch with God” episode, Exodus/Shemot 24:9-11, see “One Woman’s Conclusion.

* For complete citations and more details on Torah commentaries and other works — including a link to the Babylonian Talmud in PDF — please see Source Materials.

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The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.