By: Rabbi Aryeh Citron
In the Torah portion of Tazria, the Torah writes about the laws of conception, birth and circumcision and how after completing a specific number of days of ritual impurity, the new mother must bring sacrifices to thank G-d for her new baby.
As explained by the Midrash and Talmud, G-d performs many miracles to bring the baby into this world and nurture it after birth.
- G-d sees to it that the most superior part of the man’s seed reaches its destination.
- He then ensures that the seed of the woman and that of the man mold together to grow into a baby.
- Despite the relatively warm temperature of a woman’s body, G-d guards the fetus so that it not spoil but rather develop as a healthy baby.
- As the baby grows, all of its body parts develop in their own unique manner and coloring.
- No matter how much the expectant mother eats, there is always room for the baby in her body.
- As the baby grows, instead of it descending further down in its mother’s body, it actually ascends upwards.
- The wombs of female animals that walk on all fours are horizontal. For them, it is not a wonder that their babies do not fall out during pregnancy. Human beings, however, walk erect. This signifies that our nature is to strive towards heavenly matters and not towards earthly matters as animals do. Thus, the womb of a woman resembles an upside- down bag. One would not expect this “bag” to be able to keep something inside it for nine months. This is a kindness of G-d who “guards” the fetus and ensures that it doesn’t fall out.
- When the time comes for the mother to give birth, her womb opens up slowly so that the baby does not come out too suddenly.
- While the baby is in utero, it eats and is nourished by its mother’s food. It doesn’t defecate as this would endanger its mother. As soon as the baby comes out into the world, what was closed (the mouth and respiratory system) opens, and what was open (the blood flowing in and out of the navel) closes. If this would not happen exactly on cue, the baby would not survive at all.
- When the baby is born, it is covered with various smelly fluids. Nevertheless, G-d, in His kindness, implanted in the nature of the human race that despite this they love and care for this little creature.
- During the months of pregnancy and beyond, G-d causes the woman not to menstruate so that the (nutrition in her) blood can be used to produce milk for the baby.
- The mammary glands of most animals are near their reproductive organs. G-d, in His kindness, placed the human mammary glands of woman on their chests so that the babies can nurse from a place of wisdom.
The In Utero Experience
The Talmud describes the baby in utero in the following manner. (The explanations are from the Ben Ish Chai in his commentary Ben Yehoyadah):
“R. Simlai delivered the following discourse: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the bowels of its mother?
- “(Its body is like) folded writing tablets.
- This alludes to the fact that all of one’s life will be recorded in a “book.”
- “Its hands rest on its two temples respectively,
- This indicates that the mitzvot one does with his hands should be done with all of one’s concentration and thought.
- “Its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks.
- This indicates that one should rule over his feet and direct his steps consciously.
- “Its head lies between its knees,
- The fact that the head is placed near the waist at that time, indicates that one should always pay careful attention to the purity of one’s brit (sexual organ). The perfection of man depends on this. He must therefore be fully conscious of this aspect of himself.
- “Its mouth is closed
- This indicates that one should try to attain the quality of silence
- “And its navel is open,
- The food enters the baby from the middle of the body to allude to the fact that one should take the middle path (i.e., moderation) in matters of eating, drinking, and other self-indulgent activities.
- “And it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks,
- This alludes to the fact that one should only consume that which is rightfully and legally his. (The food received from one’s mother is lawfully given from the mother to child. So, too, whenever one consumes anything, it should be legally acquired.)
- “But produces no excrement because otherwise it might kill its mother.
- This alludes to the fact that one should do mitzvot which are clean and are not tainted with any ulterior motives.
- “As soon, however, as it emerges into the air of the world, the closed organ (the mouth) opens and the open organ (the navel) closes, for if that would not happen, the embryo could not live even one single moment.
- “(When it is in utero) a light burns above its head, and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as it says, ‘Then His lamp shone above my head, and by His light I walked through darkness.’ … And there is no time in which a man enjoys greater happiness than in those days, for it is said, ‘O that I were as the months of old, as in the days when G-d watched over me.’ What are days that make up months and not years? This is referring to the months of pregnancy.
- The light is referring to the soul which is not yet enmeshed in the body but rather hovers above it.
- “It is then taught the entire Torah from beginning to end, as it says, ‘And he taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart hold fast my words, keep my commandments and live.’ … As soon as it is born, an angel approaches, slaps it on the mouth and causes it to forget all of the Torah.”
- Although the baby is made to forget the Torah, the learning is still beneficial in that the child is now connected to holiness before the evil inclination has any hold on it whatsoever.
Prayers of the Parents
The Talmud indicates that the prayers of the parents can impact the child in a very significant way.Similarly, the Zohar Chadash says that the parents of Ahavah (father of Rav Adah bar Ahavah) would pray that G-d grant them a son who would serve G-d, be afraid of sin, involved in mitzvot and not turn aside from the Torah to the right or left.
Rabbeinu Yonah says that the best time to pray for a child’s parnassah (ability to make a livelihood) is before the child is conceived since the question of whether or not the child will be wealthy is decided at the time of conception.
Some have the custom to read the following prayer of the Ramban. (This prayer was composed to recite before fulfilling the mitzvah of Onah.)
“May it be Your will, protector of all of the worlds and righteous in all generations for the sake of Your great name that comes from the verse ‘G-d, who remembers us, bless’ that you should give me new children, holy seed. (They should be) pleasant, proper, good, beautiful, correct, accepted, deserving to live and exist with no sin or guilt. And bless me with Your name and my house with sons. And I should know that there is peace in my tent.
“And draw the source of my seed from the wellspring and source of all of Israel. And purify my body and sanctify my soul and my thoughts and my intellect and my understanding and all of my feelings. Let me be strengthened and cloaked with Your good, pure, generous spirit. May my prayers be accepted to enable me to fulfill Your will.
“And complete my children. And build them and give them life. Form them and make them with truth and fairness. Let them continue and remain firm in their successes. Allow all of my pleasures to be for the sake of fixing him (the child) and giving him existence. And to establish him with understanding, grace, kindness, strength, health, strength, firmness and gevurah.
“And have mercy on him to make him, shape him, stretch him out, cloak and establish him in health and with a firm foundation. Bring him into existence, create him, form him, make his soul, spirit and neshamah, both his innards, and his actions. There should not be in him or in any of his limbs, neither damage nor anything missing. No accident, illness or pain, affliction or disease, sickness or weakening. He should never be missing “the very best” during his entire lifetime.
“And bless me together with my family and children with everything that will enhance our understanding, intellect and feelings to do all of our actions according to Your will. And bless us with heavenly blessings from above, and blessings of the deep from below. And let your servant be blessed by Your blessings, forever, Amen, Netzach , Selah!
Rabbi Aryeh Citron was born in California and learned in Yeshivahs around the world before receiving his Smicha in Melbourne Australia. He lives in Miami where he teaches Torah to Jews of all ages. He sends out a weekly email called Parsha Halacha and recently authored a book called “The Practical Parsha” Weekly Halacha for Daily Living. To subscribe to his email you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Niddah 31a “Rav Chaninah bar Papa expounded… ‘Man is created from the choicest part of the drop.”
 Ibid “Rabi Yossi HaGlili expounded… ‘Normally when a man plants various seeds in a vegetable patch, each seed grows into a separate plant whereas, G-d forms the baby in the mother’s womb to become one.'”
 Vayikrah Rabbah, 14, 3 “Rav Eliezer said, ‘If a man would stay in hot water for an hour would he not die? The womb of a woman is hot, and the child stays in it and G-d protects it… Is this not a fulfillment of the verse, ‘You have granted me life and kindness, and Your providence watched my spirit?’ (Job, 10, 12)”
 Niddah, ibid “When a dyer puts various dyes in a vat, they will all blend into one color. Whereas, G-d forms the baby within the womb in such a way that each limb Is colored appropriately.”
 Vayikrah Rabbah, Ibid. Although the digestive tract and the reproductive organs are completely separate, it is still a wonder that no matter how full the digestive tract is, it never displaces the baby beneath it (Chidushei HaRadal).
 Niddah, ibid. “When a human being places something on a scale, the more he puts on it, the more the scale goes down, whereas G-d causes the baby to ascend in the womb as it gets heavier.”
 Anaf Yosef in the name of the Nishmat Chaim
 Vayikrah Rabbah, ibid
 Ibid “Rav Simon says, ‘The womb of a woman is made with different compartments, openings and muscles. When she sits on the birthing stool these do not open at once. Rather one at a time…”
 Niddah, 30b. It is regarding this moment that we thank G-d every time we say (in the Asher Yatzar blessing recited when one arises in the morning and after going to the bathroom) “If one of the openings would close up or if one of them would open up, we would not be able exist for even one moment.” (Bait Yosef O.C. 6)
 Vayikrah Rabbah, ibid, 4 with Eitz Yosef
 Ibid, 3
 Ibid. “Rav Abba bar Kahana said, “The way of the world is that animals have breasts in the place of their womb so that the babies nurse in the place of their private parts. The breasts of a woman, however, are in a nice place so that the child can nurse from an honorable place. This is the meaning of the verse (Job, ibid) that ‘You have given me life and kindness.'” See also Brachot 10a
 Niddah 30b
 Job 29, 3
 Ibid, 2
 Proverbs 14, 4
 See Niddah 71a
 Quoted in Piskei Teshivot 240, note 169
 Brachot, 5b
 Tzava’at Rebi Sheftel, son of the Shelah
 Psalms, 115, 11