"A woman who brings forth seed by giving birth to a male child, she shall be ritually unclean for seven days…" (Lev. 12:2)

The inadequacy of the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus is underlined in Deut. (4:34) where G‑d describes the Exodus as wrenching one people from the midst of the same people, something that made it difficult for G‑d to justify taking the Israelites out of Egypt when He did. That redemption had been described only in "feminine" terms, and that is why it did not endure in the end and the Temple was destroyed.

Mashiach…will make his appearance during the eighth year….

This is not true of the redemption of the Future, which will occur as a direct result of Israel's merits. First and foremost among those merits is Israel's preoccupation with Torah, as described in Deut. (31:21), something that will never be forgotten even during a protracted period of exile.

The Torah continues: "…she shall be ritually unclean for seven days," describing the extent to which the mother contracts ritual impurity as a result of giving birth. Here the Torah alludes to the way G‑d initiates a process which culminates in the rehabilitation of Israel so that it will attain a spiritual level that qualifies for the description "masculine". The days mentioned here are to be understood as seven years similar to the verse Genesis (24:55) where Laban and his mother wanted Rebecca to delay her departure by "yamim" [Hebrew for "days"], i.e. a year. The years which are viewed as the "the birth pangs of Mashiach", last for seven years during which Israel will be refined spiritually in preparation of his arrival. He will make his appearance during the eighth year.

On the eight day, at the beginning of the eight day [meaning "year"] the baby is to have its foreskin removed - i.e. the concept of a foreskin which acts as a barrier between man and G‑d will be removed from the universe. We read in Zachariah (13:2) that G‑d will destroy the spirit of impurity form the earth. This will occur during the eighth year. It is well known that conceptually the foreskin is identical with the forces of the kelipa, the spiritually negative emanations. When the Torah wrote the word "unclean", describing the state of the mother, this is a simile for the afflictions experienced during the birth pangs of the Mashiach.

[Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar by Eliyahu Munk.]