So, many of you may have noticed that there is a phenomenon of rather hefty women in Israel.
"What?! Malkah, what the heck, man? You are so RUDE!!!!"
No, no, there is no nation-wide epidemic of obesity, Chas v'Shalom! I'm rather talking about the inordinate number of pregnant women. Pregnant women in snoods, pregnant women in plunging necklines, on the bus, in your ulpan, at your office. It's hip to have a bun in the oven here in the Land of Milk and Honey.
Many, MANY of the women I know are in various stages of the baby-making process. I've got 3 months, 6 months with early contractions, 8 months and yakking all the time, 1 month old baby girl, 3 month old baby girl, 6 month old baby girl, 3 month old twin boys, 5 month old pug-nosed little boy. 5 of my neighbors are pregnant, in various stages. And that's just the people I'm in regular contact with.
I also must extend my sphere of baby-making love to Julie, my dear, dear friend back in America, who's been on bed rest for 2 months, with 2 months left to go. Oy! And a mazel tov to Duvi and Chana Rivka Gross on the birth of a baby boy in Flatbush. As many of my dear Kommemiutniks are reading this, they're probably thinking "wow - does Malkah know that WE'RE pregnant, too?" So I'll probably be hearing from more of you soon. Mazel Tov, I'm very happy for you, whoever you are.
In honor of the whopping number of big-tummied ladies, I've decided to write a blog about segulas (auspicious practices) for pregnant and birthing moms. If you're birthing right now, it might be a little late for you to be thinking about this, and I think it's weird that you're reading our blog during this time, you should probably be concentrating, but we'll get you on the next go 'round. Breathe! Breathe! Hee hee, HOOO. Hee hee, HOOO.
You're probably wondering how I know about all this stuff. Well, as some of you know, I have a show on Israel National Radio called the Eyshet Chayil Show
on Israel National Radio. On my show, among other cool guests, I feature a lady named Chana Weisberg, author of a nice book on spirituality in pregnancy called 'Expecting Miracles'
. You can also read some of her stuff on www.jewishpregnancy.org
I was looking through her site, and I thought "Gee, does the whole Jewish "with child" scene know about these funky customs and symbolic ways of praying?" So I decided to let the baby-making world know what's up, right here on www.kumah.org. Prayer
Segulot aren't Jewish voodoo. We have a G-d, and the segulot are customs that all relate back to a single wish-granter: the Big Guy Upstairs. Prayer is the best way to get your feelings across, the rest is icing on the cake.
The Talmud (Brachot 60a) offers these guidelines for prayer during pregnancy:
- During the first three days of conception, one should pray that the pregnancy be accepted by the body.
- Until 40 days after conception, one may pray for the specific gender of the child. (However, the request must be qualified and put into perspective. "All things being equal, God, it would certainly be nice to have a little girl after all those boys! We would certainly prefer it. But as in all things, we defer to Your wisdom, knowing that only You understand the grand scheme of things.")
- From 40 days to three months, one should pray that the child not suffer any deformity.
- From three months to six months, one should pray that the pregnancy not result in miscarriage.
- From six months to nine months, one should pray for a safe delivery.
Now is the time to connect, sisters. Go get 'em.Segulot for the Beginning Stages of Pregnancy
1. Not Announcing Your Pregnancy to Anyone for the First Trimester
Some people don't announce at all until their pregnancy is visible! In any event, this is a segula against the evil eye (tfoo, tfoo, tfoo), who upon your public announcement of your happiness during this delicate time, may seek to destroy it. Science states that pregnancies are more of a sure thing after the first trimester. If, Chas v'Shalom (!) one should lose a pregnancy, she also doesn't have to face the entire prematurely-informed public with her grief.
2. Investing in Spiritual Development
Chana cites a case of a father-to-be asking a rabbi when he should start educating his child about religion. The rabbi answered: "Twenty years before the child's birth." Your spirituality is filtered down to the kid, so a lot of women take up more Torah learning and davening during this time. According to the Talmud, an angel privately tutors babies on the Torah, in utero. So your (and your husband's) additional Torah knowledge help the baby learn from the angel.
The Talmud also brings an example of a mother who would stand by the entrance to schools for Jewish study in order to make sure that her child would love the Torah. The baby she had was Rabbi Yehoshua, one of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history.
3. Investing in Your Emotional Health
This includes not engaging in slander, gossip or crude talk, as well as not becoming angry, and not looking at anything that's scary (like horror movies or Michael Jackson).
4. The Way You Dress
Many women try to dress more modestly during pregnancy. Extra modesty in dress is a segula for a more pious kid. Raise those necklines, lower those hems. I also read that more modest dress is a segula for having children for those women having trouble.
Just like a lot of women watch their nutritional content during pregnancy, Jewish women are extra careful with the spiritual content of their food during pregnancy. Even strictly kosher women try to take extra steps to keep kosher during their pregnancies, as they believe that the kashrut of what they eat has a direct effect on their babies. For info on koshering your kitchen, check out an explanation at Judaism.about.com
6. Melave Malka
Eating King David's post-shabbat meal is a segula for bringing the rest and holiness of Shabbat into your week. For you particularly emotional-wreck-type pregnant ladies, this is a segula to keep you even-keel during the week.
7. "Raziel HaMalach"
Word is that this book of Jewish mysticism was written by Adam (the first person). Apparently is so holy, that it can't be read or even opened. They say that you should double wrap it and keep it in the house to promote Divine blessing. They also say you should bring it along to the birth and put it under your pillow, as it is a segula for an easy birth. The idea of having something too holy to open sitting around seems pretty freaky, but I read somewhere that they print it super small and that it comes already sealed in one wrapping, for those of us who are easily overcome by temptation.The Ninth Month
1. Going to the Mikvah
Pregnant women are known to do a ritual bath (without a blessing) in the ninth month, a kind of spiritual bath before the birth. If you have a friend who's having trouble having kids, go to the mikvah with her on her mikvah night: you go in first, then leave, then she dunks in the water that you just dunked in - it's a segula for her to get pregnant. You can find a mikvah anywhere in the world at www.kosher.co.il
What do we say on Yom Kippur? Teshuva, Tefillah, Tzedaka Maavirin et Roa HaGazeirah - Repentance, Prayer and Charity Annul an Evil Decree. That doesn't apply just to Elul, but to the whole year. Birth is another type of Yom Kippur. Some women give charity during labor itself. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov highly recommends this, and draws a direct correlation between charity and ease of birth, basically saying that as charity opens G-d's ear to you, so charity will open the womb (as pain during childbirth is a curse that G-d placed on Chava after the sin of the Forbidden Fruit).
This means "opening" in Hebrew, and it refers to the opening of the ark to retrieve the Torah before Torah reading. Have your husband go to shul and request this honor during your ninth month. In Jewish mysticism, the word used for the womb is the same as the word for the ark. Therefore, there is a mystical connection between the opening of the ark and the opening of the womb when it's time to give birth. Having special kevana (concentration, intent), is especially good for him during the opening of the ark.
As Chana Weisberg, from www.jewishpregnancy.org
puts it, "There are three commandments that are associated especially with women- lighting of Sabbath candles, attendance of the ritual bath and all the laws surrounding that,a nd making and separating challah. All of these commandments are traditionally credited with bringing about "Shalom Bayit" or peace and love between husband and wife." Chana once told me that G-d is particularly attentive to our prayers during the separation of challah
, so she prays for women who are having trouble having children during this time. Other women pray for all kinds of things. Preggers - pray for the health of the baby, for a good birth, all that good stuff.
Get this: I know of some women who, in their ninth month, prepare a challah dough or a cookie dough, and then as they get that first contraction or whatever indication they get that they're going into labor, they bake up cookies or bread and give it to married women who don't have kids yet, as a segula for them to have kids. I think this segula is awesome.
5. Your Mezuzot
Check 'em. Make sure they're kosher. In the merit of keeping a mezuza, G-d guards our homes from harm. And the people inside. I have friends whose baby was sick for months. After putting up a final mezuza in one of their doorways, which they'd failed to put up when they moved in, their baby was well in a week.The Big Moment: B-Day
1. Good verses to say
(thanks for the great compilation, Chana):
- (Shemot 11:8) "And all of these servants of yours will come down to me and bow down to me, saying 'Go out, and all of the people who are at your feet!' and only then will I depart."
- (Shemot 1:19) "And the midwives said to Pharoah, 'The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are lively. Before the midwives come to them, they give birth."
-(Tehillim 19:6) "And he is like a groom coming out from his wedding canopy, rejoicing like a hero who has run the whole way."
- Recite Tehillim 20 12 times and chapter 100 once.
2. Give that Charity!
3. Keep a siddur, Tanach, or Noam Elimelech under your pillow
By now you've got quite a stack under there. Mazel Tov!! You Did it. But you're not done with your segulas.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that right after the birth the parents should show the baby Hebrew letters. He says "It is true that the child was just born, and cannot yet distinguish between light and dark or between sweet and bitter. Nevertheless, since the child has already come into the world and possesses eyes with which to see the world, we should see to it that before the child's eyes should be the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, from whose combinations all of creation has come into being."
So you've read through this huge blog. And you're asking yourself "Cool - but what does this have to do with Aliyah? What does this have to do with Kumah?" The answer: Not only are Jewish women known to be the merit of the Jewish people (Moshiach will come in the merit of the Jewish women of the generation), but they are the purveyors of her building blocks. As my husband, Yishai, is always saying "There are two things you see a lot of in Israel: Pregnant women and cranes."
The Jewish women are the builders of Israel, and the possessors of her future. It's looking pretty bright from here.
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