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Happy Birth Day!

by Aviva Rappaport


Library » Life Cycle » Birth » Reproductive Issues | Subscribe | What is RSS?


We are a holy nation of holy people. With every breath we take and every action we do, we can express our spiritual greatness. Birth, especially, is a very elevating experience, and is, in many ways, a lot like Pesach. Both involve a great deal of physical activity (hard work, to put it plainly, from whence "labor" takes its name) in preparation for the great event, and for both, the real meaning would be missed if we stopped there.

Think of someone spending weeks and months cleaning, shopping and cooking for the Seder, and then, when the great moment finally arrives and everyone is sitting at the table, rushing to get through it, acting as if it was just another regular meal. This is, unfortunately, the attitude of many women (and their caretakers) toward childbirth.

As one young woman put it: "We don't wash our clothes by hand like they used to; everyone has a washing machine and most of us have a dryer - so why shouldn't we want to use all the modern medical techniques available to help us get through birth faster?"

Our answer is: If you feel that giving birth is just like washing the laundry, then of course your approach to the experience will be one of, "Let's get this over with!" But if we think for a moment, we can perhaps come to a deeper understanding of the birth process and how it can develop us spiritually.

Birth is a peak moment for every Jewish woman, and this experience has remained unchanged from the time of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah
Our Sages tell us that there are three keys that until this day remain solely in Hashem's hands: the key to rain, the key to revival of the dead and the key to birth.1  Bringing a new human being into the world, actualizing the potential for life, is something only Hashem can do.

Birth is a peak moment for every Jewish woman, and this experience has remained unchanged from the time of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. While so much of human life has changed drastically over the millennia, the basic way we give birth has remained the same, giving us the same opportunity to experience closeness to Hashem.

No matter how simple, straightforward and yes, even easy, a birth may be, each woman feels that she is being swept along by forces - physical, emotional and spiritual - more powerful than she. Before the actual event, every woman hopes and prays that the baby born to her will be healthy, that she will live through the experience and as an extra favor, that giving birth will be as painless and easy as possible for her.

No matter what our approach - whether we busy ourselves with making sure that the doctor will "just put me to sleep until it's over", or take herbs and practice breathing until we're breathless - we all have a sense of facing a fateful moment.

And we're right: When a woman gives birth, her record is reviewed in the Heavenly Court - it is a time of judgement like Yom Kippur. We can take these moments (and the months of anticipation leading up to them) and turn them into a spiritual springboard.

Every expectant mother wants to know what she can do to have an easier birth. Of all the contributing factors, there is none more significant than attitude. If you are hearing this for the first time, the thought may seem surprising, but observation proves conclusively that a woman's attitude toward the birth - both before and during the experience -  is the most powerful human influence on the birth outcome.

Once we know that childbirth is basically a spiritual experience, we approach it in an entirely different way than the medical-mechanical view often prevalent nowadays. After all, who delivered the Jewish babies during the Egyptian exile? None other that Shifra and Pua, who were actually Yocheved and Miriam, great Jewish women on the highest spiritual level.


  • 1. Talmud Taanit 2a.


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Intimacy » Reproductive Issues

Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
Third of the four Jewish matriarchs. Daughter of Laban, favorite wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Died while giving birth to Benjamin in 1557 BCE.
Fourth of the four Jewish matriarchs. Elder daughter of Laban, wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of six of the Tribes, including Levi and Judah.
Older sister of Moses and Aaron, and a prophetess in her own right.
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
(Yiddish) Pray.
(Yiddish) Praying.