Pregnancy and Birth
Preparation During the Pregnancy
Science has already established that a mother’s diet, attitude, and actions during pregnancy have a profound effect on the development of her baby. From the Talmud (Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 2:1) we learn that this applies in spiritual matters as well.
It is thus vital that during pregnancy the mother increase her observance of Torah and mitzvot, adding in activities such as giving charity and saying Psalms, and infusing her environment with a genuine Jewish spirit.
It has been traditionally accepted that one should not publicize a pregnancy until the beginning of the fifth month. (This restriction is subject to proper discretion, and does not apply to very close relatives.) Those who have the custom to request a blessing of a Tzaddik for the birth likewise wait until the end of the first trimester.
There are three mitzvot that have been traditionally emphasized by Jewish women during pregnancy:
Charity: Placing a few extra coins in a tzedakah (charity) box each morning (except on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays), as well as prior to lighting the Shabbat and Holiday candles.
Mezuzah: Having the mezuzot in the home inspected by a qualified scribe to ensure that they are kosher. (The ink on the parchment tends to fade with time, rendering the mezuzah unfit.) If you don’t yet have a mezuzah, now is an ideal time to get one; click here to learn more about this mitzvah.
Saying Psalms: Reciting additional Psalms each day during the pregnancy, especially chapter 20, praying to God for a healthy, easy pregnancy and delivery.
Shir LaMaalot – Psalm 121
It is customary to have a copy of Psalm 121 in the delivery room during labor and at the time of birth. According to Kabbalah, these holy passages arouse God’s mercy for an easy birth and delivery.
Another reason given for this custom is that in this way a child’s Jewish education begins at birth. After the birth, these holy verses are placed within the baby’s crib (in a safe manner), on the doorway to the baby’s bedroom, and on the front door of the home. The first images the child is surrounded with are Jewish holy objects.
For the same reason, artwork incorporating Jewish themes is recommended for nursery decorations (beautiful posters and artwork are available at Judaica stores or online). Click here for a printer-friendy version of the Shir Lamaalot.
It is customary for the husband to recite the following chapters of Psalms during the delivery, as they are especially propitious for this occasion: 1, 2, 3, 4, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33, 47, 72, 86, 90, 91, 92, 93, 104, 112, and 113-150.
A Solid Beginning
The first moments, hours, and days of the baby’s life are likened to that of a newly-planted tree. The future growth of the tree is shaped by the initial care it receives, and the same is true of a child. When a child immediately enters a holy environment, this will serve as a firm foundation for the rest of his or her life.