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Thread: Jewish Pregnancy Customs

  1. #37

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    I agree totally Melanie. And abstinence would have been admired for the self discipline in times past too. Advertisers have certainly drummed into us that we are "entitled" and "deserve" it now. Anyone who demonstrates any kind of self discipline these days is often the brunt of jokes (eg Guy Sebastian's preference to remain a virgin until he marries - good on him I say!) and caving into desire is often given a pat on the back Here I am sounding like a total wet blanket... maybe... but are people really more content with their lives these days compared to times past?


  2. #38

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    Yael - I think your pregnancy traditions sound beautiful! I only wish I had incorparated more of my faith (catholic) into my pregnancy. The idea of reading psalms and personal prayer during labour is inspiring!

  3. #39

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    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the comments.

    With regards to family purity, i have soo much to say on the matter (i did a 6 month long teachers course in it, so i teach classes on the subject), but trying desperately to get our house ready for a 10 day long festival starting tomorrow night (whilst simulatenously trying not to go into labour by over doing it!).

    Won't have a chance to post about it until Sunday at the earliest, but when i do post, i'll try to make it good and explain everything... so be prepared!

    Otherwise, Bathsheba, you are on the right track about the whole idea!

  4. #40

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    Oh Yael, have a great festival - and don't overdo it LOL!!

  5. #41

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    Yael - Can you explain the significance of reading Psalms 20 during PG? I just read it and without any Jewish history, i see no connection to pregnancy and so I assume the significance must be much deeper than that?

  6. #42
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    I'm from a conservative, mixed middle-eastern & european jewish background. I often visit elderly women from very religious backgrounds who in the past had strictly observed religious laws and customs. Now that they were older, all of them expressed the view that observance was not so important. They felt it was far more important to respect other peoples choices to do what they want, to treat others in the way they would like themselves to be treated and that family ties should be cherished. For non-jewish readers, Judaism is not one homegenous grouping; there are many differences based on geographic origins, politics, ideology and the degree to which one wants to conform with family and friends. It seems that many of you are looking for something that will fulfill your lives and thats great, but please remember it has to be good for both you, your partner and children. Just because there is a biblical law or some custom of unknown origin that was appropriate in the past, that you should do it as well. Basically, do what makes you happy, there is no one right way to do something.

  7. #43

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    mod hat on: lets remember in the religion & spirtuality forums that we are touching sensitive issues. If you don't think someone needs to follow certain beliefs that is your opinion, we need to be careful not to disregard another persons beliefs.

  8. #44

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    Hi lrf:

    First of all I would like to welcome you to Bellybelly – I can see that you have just joined! I would just like to point out that this response is coming from me not as a moderator but as an orthodox woman.

    I would like to say that from a traditional point of view I also believe you should always respect other people’s choices in regards to whatever religion, level of observance or religious standpoint they are coming from. This is one of the most basic fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism. I also agree that Jewish customs and beliefs are complex and that there is definitely not one homogenous group – Judaism is most definitely heterogeneous in nature – both in practice and beliefs! And of course family ties are paramount; you will see that the concept of family is central in many areas of Jewish practise (e.g. the Passover seder, traditional Sabbath meals etc).

    However, to keep in line with this particular thread, and not to diverge into the differences between Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, I would like to address some specific points. In terms of anecdotal evidence from elderly women about their view on traditional pregnancy customs my experiences have been quite different. It is widely practiced within my community – not just here in Australia but right around the world – that young orthodox men and women who are engaged and are about to be married receive some instruction about the laws of family purity and various aspects of family life - such as various customs during pregnancy. Traditionally this instruction tends to be taught by the individual’s parents – the girl from her mother, and the boy from his father. Therefore the various customs that I have mentioned are generally taught from the older generation to the younger generation – and I personally know many elderly women who remain true to these customs.

    I would say that many individuals right across the age spectrum choose to become either more or less observant everyday – so I guess it just depends on who you mix with. In fact it has been fairly well documented that in recent decades that more and more people who have in the past been connected to less orthodox communities are returning to orthodoxy in great numbers. This group has been named as part of the ‘ba’al teshuvah’ movement. How these particular people act in their old age remains to be seen. However, there seems to be little doubt that as these people’s children begin to get married they are teaching them the more orthodox approach to family life, including pregnancy.

    Also, historically speaking one would need to say that given the vibrancy of the orthodox community throughout the last couple of millennia, the vast majority of the elderly do not give up their orthodox beliefs that easily. There will always be small numbers (or around the time of the enlightenment, perhaps these numbers were slightly higher), however, I don’t think this would be representative of the community at large.

    Unfortunately, as you said
    “Just because there is a biblical law or some custom of unknown origin that was appropriate in the past”
    will have to remain a point of disagreement. Obviously, as an Orthodox person I believe these customs do have known and genuine origins, and equally obvious is the fact that I would believe the bible is divine in origin. However, this is a matter of my personal beliefs and research, and I would encourage everyone to do their own research and develop their own beliefs in line with what is best for you and your families.


    I believe this thread was started to discover what is the traditional Jewish way to act during pregnancy to which I responded, and I’m sorry that I haven’t answered everyone’s questions so far – I’m still intending to, its just things are a little hectic for me at the moment!

    I never intended to preach to anyone that this was the one and only way to act during pregnancy, and I apologise if this was the way it was taken. I welcome anyone else’s input into what are the different Jewish customs during pregnancy. I have only answered from my personal experience – that being of Jewish customs within the (ultra) orthodox Eastern European perspective (and there are many other ultra orthodox groups from Eastern Europe, who would have slightly different customs, but for the most part they would be very similar).
    Last edited by Yael; October 25th, 2007 at 02:56 PM. Reason: clarifying

  9. #45

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    No Yael, your responses have been great. I (and I think everyone else) was just curious about your customs and wanted to understand them. I don't think anyone was looking for a religion to 'fulfill their lives' or something (just misundertood that way I think). We were just genuinely interested. I think we can all learn from others religions and experiences. I have really enjoyed your responses so thankyou!!

  10. #46

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    OK, I am not a moderator but just a poster. I did not feel anyone was being preached to in this thread. This thread was created out of curiosity regarding Jewish customs and quit frankly a curiosity regarding the differences between Judaism and Christianity. If we can not have this discussion from a friendly, comparing and curios standpoint then there are problems.

    Yael, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. thank you for letting us invade your thread with curious questions. To all the other posters, I feel you have kept this thread what it should be and I thank you and encourage you to continue to do so. It has been very enjoyable for me to read and post in this thread and I hope it will remain so. Yael, I hope you too have enjoyed this discussion.

  11. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by lrf View Post
    but please remember it has to be good for both you, your partner and children. Just because there is a biblical law or some custom of unknown origin that was appropriate in the past, that you should do it as well. Basically, do what makes you happy, there is no one right way to do something.
    I feel that maybe IRF could have said this a little more gently so I see where the mods are coming from. But he/she is only new to BB so I'll forgive

    Regarding doing what makes us happy... hmmm... I personally don't feel that observing traditions of faith is about personal happiness. It would make me happy to be able to sleep and potter around the house in my jammies instead of going to church some Sundays LOL so with regards to happiness I would rather follow a different definition (eg what God says will make me ultimately happy) than what makes me happy on any given Sunday.

    Yael, I always enjoy reading your posts, thankyou

  12. #48

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    Yael I, too, thank you for the wealth of knowledge you're willing to share with us about Judaic practices. It has been good to delve a little deeper into this very interesting area. I look forward to things slowing down for you so you can tell us more about family purity.

  13. #49

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    I agree, I have found this thread (and some similar ones) very interesting. I admire Yael for taking the time to answer so many questions and give us her insight into what is a very personal subject. I am looking forward to reading more.

  14. #50

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    Can I fifth or sixth what everyone has said

  15. #51

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    I get what IRF is saying, and I am going to give the benefit of the doubt, too, and say that I don't think it was meant to be antagonistic - probably more of a disclaimer to explain that not every Jewish person you meet (from whatever background) will necessarily believe it important to their faith to follow these or, indeed, any other forms of observance Just as with any faith, I believe.
    If it was a disclaimer, it was probably a little redundant, as Yael has already mentioned that observances vary from group to group.
    Thanks, Yael

  16. #52
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    Hi, I'm new to the forum (googled Jewish birth and ended up here! on the otherside of the globe). I thought you might be interested to stop by at my blog hameyaldot ha'ivriyot which is a combination of Jewish and midwifery interest. Hope you like it.

  17. #53

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    Well, we've been TTC for a while now and AF has come again So today I turned to my trusty bible for some inspiration and I also remembered about this thread and talking about the jewish customs around AF time and how it seems God has told us in the bible to abstain from sex for a week after AF and then when you dtd that will be around O time (still amazed about that, lol).
    So, this is what the bible says:

    Leviticus 15
    19 " 'When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.
    20 " 'Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 22 Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening.
    24 " 'If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.
    25 " 'When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. 26 Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. 27 Whoever touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening.
    28 " 'When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge.
    31 " 'You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.' " 32 These are the regulations for a man with a discharge, for anyone made unclean by an emission of semen, 33 for a woman in her monthly period, for a man or a woman with a discharge, and for a man who lies with a woman who is ceremonially unclean.
    So anyway, I've decided to try this from now on and leave it in Gods hands! Obviously I'm having no luck on my own so I thought I should turn to Him and let Him help me. So I have been researching it all morning and it seems rather complicated! So I think I'll just follow pretty simply what the bible tells me. Is there anything else I should know/do?

    ETA- does anyone know of any special prayers for conception either??

  18. #54

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    Hey SaraJane,

    I'm so sorry i didn't end up writing that big long post that i had been planning on - things are just a little crazy with a toddler & newborn (i barely get time to shower, let alone use the computer!).

    I'll give you a brief rundown quickly whilst they are asleep, and then I'll try and get on later to write a lot more, and answer any questions.

    Basically in Judaism you abstain from all forms of touching your spouse when you are bleeding. This blood has to come from the uterus, not from say a scratch in the vagina. When you see blood (has to be over a certain size, around the size of a circle between a 5c and 10c coin), you are considered a niddah (spiritually unclean, has nothing to do with being physically dirty or anything like that, it is just a really bad translation of the word).

    From then on you cannot touch your spouse - so no holding hands, kissing, marital relations etc. You do not sleep in the same bed. Technically the torah Prohibition during this time is only marital relations, all the other laws are from the rabbi's, to basically put a fence around the law to make it easier to keep (i.e. if you were hugging and kissing in bed, it might be hard not to have relations). You also don't pass things to each other during this time.

    You must wait until you stop bleeding (the minimum time you wait must be 5 days, the longest is til when you are not bleeding anymore). Then you count 7 'clean days', where you wear white underwear, sleep on white sheets. At the end of the 7 days, you go and immerse in a ritual bath (mikvah), and then you are considered 'tahor' (spiritually pure). Before you immerse in the mikvah you have a bath for an hour and clean yourself everywhere (cut nails, wash hair etc), so once again, going to mikvah has nothing to do with being physically clean or dirty.

    That is basically it. Men go to mikvah also, (obviously nothing to do with periods), some men go every day, some only go before holy days. After childbirth you must wait at least 7 days if you have had a boy before you count the clean days, and 14 days if you had a girl. Most people bleed for a lot longer than this after a baby though, so in reality it doesn't matter what you had, most people don't go before 6 weeks.

    Anyway, there is a whole lot more to it, this is just very brief. There are a lot of benefits from keeping this - Jewish women have a significantly lower rate of cervical cancer than the general population (mainly because you notice if you bleed mid-cycle and you get it checked out a lot earlier.. you are also a lot more aware of your cycles etc). There is the benefit that you have relations generally around when you ovulate. There is also the benefit in abstinence within marriage, as it makes relations something special as you can't have it all the time. Even touching hands means something a whole lot more if you haven't touched your spouse for 6 weeks because you had a baby. There is a significantly lower rate of divorce within the religious community (maybe for this and a variety of different reasons). A lot of non Jewish marriage councillors realise the value in this and recommend periods of abstaince to revive a marriage.

    Anyway, like i said, there is a lot more to it, this is just a brief outline. If you look up 'Jewish family purity' or something like that, there is probably more of it on the web.

    Just a note in case you know anyone religious: This is normally a subject that is not really discussed within the community for a reason of modesty. New brides and grooms and people becoming religious are taught about it one on one by somebody who keeps the laws and has done a course (i have done this), but you don't generally talk about it with your friends or anything, you don't tell people if you are bleeding or not, because you don't want people to know about when you were with your spouse. Sometimes you need to tell people (rabbi if you are having problems with the laws, gyno if you are bleeding a lot (obviously only if your gyno knows what you are talking about), the lady at the mikvah who helps you), but that is about it. So I wouldn't bring this up with somebody cos they might be a little shocked. The only reason i posted this stuff here is because 1) it came up from the discussion on pregnancy and 2) this information is available on the net anyway.

    Ok, have to run, need to get everything done before the kiddies wake up.

    If you have any questions i am always happy to answer them.

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