Preference should be given to giving birth in the hospital that you are already acquainted with [and thus will feel more comfortable in].
(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 6 Shvat, 5741)
There is an ancient Jewish custom
that has been practiced for centuries, to adorn the newborn's home with pieces of parchment or paper on which are inscribed holy verses, angelic names, and the Psalm "Shir HaMaalos
— A Song of Ascents ... My help will come from the L-rd."
In some communities the custom takes the form of an amulet worn by the mother. "An accepted Jewish custom has the force of Torah," and the different traditional versions of this practice will all bestow a benevolent radiance of protection and blessing on the new mother and the newborn infant.
When these verses are hung up prior to the labor and birth, they will certainly invoke the Heavenly blessing that the labor and birth will be easy and without complications, and afterwards extend their blessings for a good and long life.
I would like to propose that special attention be given to this practice in order to remedy the present state of nonobservance of this custom.
In past generations, mothers gave birth at home with the assistance of a midwife. Under those circumstances they certainly took meticulous care that they should be properly surrounded from the time of labor with appropriate holy words and verses.
In our times, when for medical reasons women give birth in hospitals, not enough attention has been given to this important custom. Only after the mother and child return home from the hospital are the Shir HaMaalos hung up in and around the appropriate rooms of the house.
And yet it is quite obvious that it is even more important that the appropriate items which afford protection should be present in the hospital at the time of birth.
Therefore, it is important to bring to the attention of Jewish people everywhere that even when the birthing mother and infant are in the hospital, one should endeavor to hang up a Shir HaMaalos in the room of the mother and the child, and if possible to place one on the cradle of the baby, similar to the custom which is practiced in their home. For these virtuous acts are even more important when they are closer to the birth.
Certainly, with a bit of encouragement, you will also be able to convince the hospital authorities of the benefits of this practice and they will happily agree to permit it.
Medical wisdom acknowledges that the good health and successful care of a patient depends to a great extent on his/her spiritual-mental condition.
It is therefore vital to remove any trace of worry or insecurity from a patient to ensure that he/she will have complete mental and spiritual calm, the optimum state of mind and a pleasant attitude.
This is especially true in obstetrics when the state of mind of the mother is of extreme importance and any shadow of fear must be removed. The birthing mother's attitude must be completely calm and relaxed.
When you explain to the doctor and the administration of the hospital that the Shir HaMaalos which hangs in the room will quell all fear, induce total calm and inspire an optimistic attitude in the mother, who truly believes in the power of these holy words, there will certainly be no opposition on their part, and they will happily agree to put up these papers to satisfy the birthing mother so that she will be calm, complacent and relaxed.
In the long run, the doctors will also benefit from this practice. A good doctor, who is also honest and realistic, is basically concerned with the well-being of the patient. If any complication or deterioration should G-d forbid arise in the condition of the patient, it will cause the caring doctor to be upset and disturbed.
Thus, the conscientious doctor seeks to put the patient at ease physically, mentally and spiritually. Then the doctor will also be more relaxed and calm and will be able to administer his expert medical care in the best possible manner.
Therefore, when the verses of Shir HaMaalos are hung up in her room, the mother will be at ease and the attending physician will also be at ease, and the resulting medical care will be of a much greater quality.
Consequently, it is proper and commendable to publicize this custom wherever Jews live, so that the verses of Shir HaMaalos may be put up in the mother's room and in the baby's nursery to afford a measure of protection; it would be most appropriate and propitious to put up these verses in the mother's room as soon as she arrives at the hospital, when she goes to [the birth room to] give birth, and after the birth [in the mother's room and in the baby's nursery].
Certainly, all this will be accomplished with the appropriate approval, gladly granted by the medical staff and hospital authorities.
A practice that is so beneficial should be done not only in major cities where there are many Jewish women giving birth, but also in small towns where there may be only a few Jewish mothers.
May it be G-d's will that by bringing more children into the world — a quantitative increase — and also by improving the spiritual quality of giving birth, by increasing the Heavenly protection and blessing, this will bring about the coming of the "Son of Dovid." As our Sages tell us:
"The son of Dovid [Mashiach] will not come before all the souls in Guf [the spiritual region inhabited by the souls of the not-yet-born] will have been disposed of, [i.e., will have been born into the world]." (Yevamos 62a)
This is also alluded to in this week's Torah portion (Vayeishev), where we read of the birth of Peretz, the ancestor of King Mashiach. The name Peretz, ["You have asserted yourself with such force,"] symbolizes fecundity — bringing many children into the world. It also symbolizes the one who will "break" out of the golus: "The breaker is come up before them" (Michah 2:13).
So, too, may we go very soon to greet our righteous Mashiach at the future Redemption, with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, in a wondrous way, and then the young ones will "recognize G-d first," just as in the days when we were redeemed from Egypt. [May it be] speedily and truly in our days.
(Hisvaaduyos 5747, Vol. II, pp. 37-38)
The Rebbe relates in his book, Sefer HaToldos — Admur Maharash
, that at the time the Rebbe Maharash was born, the Tzemach Tzedek
directed his older sons to recite the following chapters of Psalms: 1, 2, 3, 4, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33, 47, 72, 86, 90, 91, 92, 93, 104, 112, and from chapter 113 through the conclusion.
(Sefer HaToldos — Admur Maharash, p. 5)
The Rav shlita
is indubitably correct in his ruling that the husband should not be present [in the delivery room during the time of birth].
I wonder why you even [need to] ask this question.
(Shaarei Halachah u'Minhag, Vol. IV, p. 39)
- (Back to text) Quoted at the conclusion of the book Raziel HaMalach, et al.
- (Back to text) Psalm 121.
- (Back to text) See Tosafos, Menachos 20b.
- (Back to text) See Berachos 54b: "Three people require guarding (Rashi: against evil spirits): ... A sick person, a birthing mother...."
- (Back to text) In the case of a hospital delivery or birthing room, a Rav/Moreh Horaah should be consulted whether the Shir HaMaalos text must be "double covered."