The previous Parashah concluded with the mitzvah that Israel sanctify themselves: “For I am Hashem your G-d; you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, for I am holy” (Vayikra 11:44). Parashat Tazria opens with the laws of purification after birth: “If a woman has conceived seed, and given birth to a male...” (Vayikra 12:2). Ba’al HaTurim explains that the Torah juxtaposes the description of the woman who has conceived with the command to be holy in order to teach that one must sanctify oneself at the time of intimate relations. In Judaism, marital relations can be one of the holiest acts a person ever performs. Through marital relations, one becomes a partner in creation. Even when no physical children are conceived, the holy union between husband and wife causes souls to be brought down from Heaven. These souls later enter the bodies of converts as the Midrash explains when referring to, “the souls that they [Avraham and Sarah] had made in Charan” (Bereishit Rabbah 84:4 quoting Bereishit 12:5).
The Fruit of Their Affection
Why is the verse describing the woman who conceives juxtaposed with the section about prohibited foods? Ramban explains in Igeret HaKodesh that eating forbidden foods can influence the embryo negatively and cause the baby to be born without spiritual sensitivity. Just as food is a factor, imagina¬tion and thought also influence the embryo. When husband and wife unite with thoughts of love, the Shechinah rests between them, and their child becomes the fruit of their pure desires and affection. This principle can be understood in light of our current medical knowledge. A pregnant woman is instructed to avoid x-rays, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. The reason given is that while the fetus is forming its initial features it is most susceptible to outside influence. From this we can infer that at the time of conception the embryo is even more impressionable, and thus greatly influenced by the mental state of the parents.