Birth of A Jewish Child

Birth of A Jewish Child

An anthology of laws and customs pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth

Pregnancy and Childbirth

Publicizing the pregnancy:

Many couples have accepted the custom of announcing a pregnancy after the mother enters the fifth month. It does not apply to sharing the news in confidentiality with immediate family.

Extra Hiddur* in Torah Study and Mitzvos:

A woman's conduct during pregnancy affects the child. Consequently, during the time of pregnancy the expectant mother should increase the care with which she attends to matters of Torah and mitzvos for the benefit of the child.

Charity:

It is proper that each weekday morning a pregnant woman donate a few coins to charity. This is in addition to her ongoing donations. The same applies before lighting the candles on Erev Shabbos (Friday evening) and Yom Tov (holidays). 

Inspecting the Mezuzos: 

During the pregnancy, the mezuzos of ones home should be inspected, to ensure that they are kosher. 

Reciting Psalm 20:

When one's wife is pregnant, he should recite Psalm 20 before going to bed. Upon finishing the Psalm he should repeat the first verse and while reciting it - or just before - he should have in mind that G-d should willingly accept the recital as though he had meditated on all the inner meanings that pertain thereto.

Kapporos for Pregnant Women:

Prior to Yom Kippur, there is a custom to do Kapporos. Kapporos means atonement. This is done by holding money, a fish or a bird while reciting certain prayers. The money, fish or bird is then offered to charity. The fowl should be consumed. Each memeber of a family does kapporos. In the case of a bird, a rooster is used for the male members and a hen for the females.

According to the custom initiated by the AriZal (Rabbi Isaac Luria), a pregnant woman should take three birds for kapporos - one female for herself, and an additional male and female because of the undetermined sex of the fetus.

[The question is asked - why would an unborn fetus require any atonement? It is explained that if the mother ate a forbidden food while pregnant, this would have been transformed into her own blood and flesh and for this atonement is required - as the food becomes blood in the woman's heart and also in the hart of the fetus.]

A Pregnant Woman Serving as a Kvatterin:

The Jewish custom is that a pregnant woman not serve as a kvatterin (the individual who carries a baby into his Bris).

During Childbirth:

It is customary to place a Shir Hamalos (Psalm 121) in the labor room immediately upon the expectant mother's arrival at the hospital. This serves as a safeguard for the mother and child during labor and delivery and for thirty days following the birth.

The Shir Hamalos also serves as the newborn's first educational initiation. Immediately upon birth, the newborn is thereby exposed to holy writings. This further underscores the importance of surrounding the newborn child with holy scriptures and kosher objects, especially immediately upon entering the world and the following formative years.

This time-honored custom has been revitalized throughout the Jewish world.

Reciting Tehillim (Psalms): 

According to the instructions issued by the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe 1789-1866) to his sons during the birth of his youngest son - Rabbi Shmuel (the Rebbe Maharash 1834-1882) - the following chapters of Psalms are to be recited by the family during labor and birth: 1-4, 20-24, 33, 47, 72, 86, 90-104, 112-150.

After the Birth of a Boy:

When a father hears about the birth of his son, he recites the blessing of "Hatov V'Hametiv". After the mother is able to wash her hands she recites the blessing of Shehecheyanu

After the Birth of a Girl:

Following the birth of a daughter, the father (upon seeing his daughter) recites the blessing of Shehecheyanu. After the mother is able to wash her hands, she too recites the blessing of Shehecheyanu.

*hiddur- a word which connotes enhancement, embellishment, and beautification


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