The Torah writes (12:8) that after a woman has give birth she must bring a chatas offering ‘to atone.’ What exactly does this poor lady need atonement for - has she not been through enough pain in the birth? The Kli Yakar (12:8) suggests that this is a part-atonement for the original sin of Chavah - a sin which brought about the existence of labour pains in the first place. Alternatively, this lady might have shouted obscenities against HaShem during labour (I have heard interesting things whilst standing outside labour wards), or she might have vowed never to have relations with her husband again. Any of these reasons would warrant some atonement. However, the Da’as Zekeinim (12:8) disagrees, and maintains that the word ‘lechaper’ here does not mean ‘to atone’ - for this lady has not sinned - but rather to spiritually cleanse. Perhaps this adds a new dimension to Yom HaKippurim - apart from it being a day of forgiveness, it is a day on which we become spiritually cleansed.

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