Jewish Childbirth Protection

The dangers of childbirth, and fear of Lilith the temptress, led to the development of various Jewish practices designed to help women give birth safely.

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In addition to the three angels, the prophet Elijah is thehero of the Jewish version. His counterpart in the Balkans is frequently St.George; the three angels are represented as Sinoe,Sisinoi, and Sisyodorus, the brothers of Melita, in the European version.

Achieving & Sustaining Pregnancy

Many aids to induce conception, as well as to preventmiscarriage, were used. Some of the specifically Jewish techniques revolvedaround Jewish rituals. For example, the sight of a circumcision knife wasconsidered prophylactic. Mandrakes, given by Reuben to his mother Leah, wereused by women to promote fertility.

Various protective measures were relied on at the criticalmoment of birth. Iron, in the form of knives, horseshoes, and amulets, wasuseful, since demons were considered pre-Iron Age creatures and the sight ofmetal would scare them. Light, honey, salt, and the words of the Bible werealso considered protective.

Although childbirth is an easier and less critical ordealtoday, it is still a period of many uncertainties. Broadsides for theprotection of mother and child are still being printed and used today.

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Rabbi Jill Hammer

Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is an author, educator, midrashist, myth-weaver, and ritualist. She is director of Tel Shemesh, a website celebrating Jewish earth-based traditions, and co-founder of Kohenet: The Hebrew Priestess Institute. She is the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women (Jewish Publication Society, 2001) and The Jewish Book of Days (Jewish Publication Society, 2006).