Torahs Viewpoint on Pregnancy Loss

Torahs Viewpoint on Pregnancy Loss

Procedures and customs

Note: This is a short guide of some of the main customs involved in pregnancy loss, it does not take the place of speaking to your local Orthodox Rabbi. The same laws apply to a miscarriage and stillborn, when applicable.

Every part of our lives, from the happiest moments to the terribly unfortunate ones, is recognized by the Torah, G-d's life script of infinite wisdom. The Torah prescribes instructions which help guide our attitudes, our responses and our behaviors for all of life. 

Immediately after a miscarriage, while still in the hospital, it is important that one consult a competent Orthodox Rabbi for assistance in all of the specific instructions. You may want to contact your local Chabad center for guidance. Your local Chevra Kadisha* - Jewish Burial Society should be contacted too, as they will be assisting with all of the arrangements.

Burial

By Jewish law, no formal burial or funeral is required if an infant dies before reaching the age of 30 days. Additionally, the traditional seven-day mourning period, Shiva, following the funeral of a deceased next of kin is not kept.

With the painfully high infant-mortality rates of generations ago, Jewish families would have been in mourning almost continuously without the following procedures and customs.

Historically, stillborns were buried very discreetly. Many times even family members wouldn't attend and the Jewish Burial Society (Chevra Kadisha) would perform the baby-naming, the circumcision [Brit Milah] for male stillborns, and burial. Graves were often left unmarked and the parents might not have known their locations.

Due to changes in society today, some parents do provide names and/or grave markers for stillborns, and may even attend burials, but the Torah's outlook has remained the same.

Naming

As mentioned, the child is given a name before burial, usually by the Jewish Burial Society (Chevra Kadisha). This is to ensure that its parents can identify their child when Moshiach** (Messiah) arrives and resurrects the dead***. An uncommon name is customarily chosen. 

If the infant is male, a circumcision is also performed before burial so that the body is returned to its Maker in the most perfect state possible.

As a matter of respect for the stillborn, Jewish law considers the stillborn's body holy and therefore off-limits for the normal emotional satisfaction that results from hugging, kissing, touching, photographing or looking at a living child.

The Kaddish Prayer

The Kaddish**** prayer is not recited for a stillborn. Kaddish is recited only for those who lived long enough to need the spiritual boosts created by reciting this special prayer, which earns merits for the departed by virtue of its praises of G-d. Since the stillborn has certainly died with no sin, its soul does not need the benefits of Kaddish.

Upon hearing news of loss, including miscarriage, the Jewish custom is to say: 'Baruch Dayan HaEmes' Hebrew for: Blessed is the True Judge. This blessing affirms Judaism's deep recognition that life and death are equally in G-d's hands, and it is He who gives and takes life. Decisions by human judges may be swayed by personal agendas and human deficiencies. G-d Almighty judges all matters solely for the truth and the best interests of all parties involved. 'Baruch Dayan HaEmes' thus recognizes, that even though we can't fathom the justice in losing a child, our infinite trust in the benevolence of G-d tells us that somehow, this too is for the good.

* Chevra Kadisha: (Aramaic, lit. 'the holy society'): the society that attends to the ritual cleansing (taharah) and burial of the deceased
and oversees the management of the community cemetery.

** Moshiach (lit. the anointed one) the Messiah. One of the 13 principles of the Jewish faith is that G-d will send the Messiah to return the Jews
to the Land of Israel, rebuild the Holy Temple and usher in the utopian Messianic Era.

*** Resurrection of the Dead is one of the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith, explicated specifically by the Rambam. A short formula expressing
the essence of each one of the thirteen principles appears in many standard prayer books.

****Kaddish: (Aramaic: lit. holy); brief prayer recited by a mourner and is associated with the ascent of the soul.


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