A Kabbalistic Birth Meditation
The following is an excerpt from my book Expecting Miracles:
During my final weeks of pregnancy, I anxiously collect birth stories. I start to believe that the stories of other women will provide some sort of omen for the birth that lies ahead of me, and I nervously ask everyone from my seventy-year-old neighbor, to my daughter’s day-care teacher about the last time she gave birth.
This chapter includes interviews that provide a perspective on birth that I never had access to- coming from midwives and Jewish scholars on the steps a woman can take to make her birth a safe and holy one.
A Kabbalistic Birth Meditation from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
The Torah teaches us that when G-d created Adam, He blew a living soul into his nostrils [Vayipach b’apav nishmat chayim], and from this we learn that the soul of a human being is equivalent to one of G-d’s breaths. The word chedva, or joy, contains the letters with the numerical values 8 (chet), 4 (dalet), 6 (vuv), 5 (hey). These various values are like the stages in breathing, which are sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.
During childbirth, a woman should meditate upon verses which will allow her to breathe with joy, and the tempo of her breathing should relate to the numerical value of the word chedva. The following are five exercises, involving breathing and meditation upon verses that have the same numerical value as the word chedva.
1. These first two verses contain the same number of letters as the numerical value of chedva.
Exercise One- Shma Yisrael
Step One: A woman should breathe in and say to herself the Hebrew letters of the words Shma Yisrael “shin mem ayn, yud sin reish, aleph, lamed” (shma yisrael, eight letters=the numerical value of the chet of chedva).
Step Two: She holds and says to herself “yud kay vuv kay (Havaya, four letters=dalet of chedva)”
Step Three: She breathes out and says to herself “aleph lamed kay yud nun vuv (elokaynu, six letters = vuv of chedva). ”
Step Four: During the rest she should concentrate on “yud kay vav kay” and then say the word “echad” [one] (four plus echad/one = five= the kay of chedva).
2. There is one most significant verse in all of the Bible which has exactly the same number of letters as the numerical value of chedva, as divided into its four letters. This is a verse which in its meaning is particularly appropriate for recitation by women in childbirth.
“Yishlach-Ezracha miKodesh, umitzion yisadecha” (He shall send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you from
This is the best possible verse in the whole Bible to think of during birth. The words of the verse relate directly to the Divine Aspects which appear in the Name Havaya, as well as in the stages of breathing.
Once again, the woman in childbirth can use this exercise by spelling out the Hebrew words in the verse.
Step One: She inhales and says to herself “yud shin lamed chet ayn zayin resh chaf” (“Yishlach Ezracha,” eight letters=chet of chedva)
Step Two: She holds and says to herself “mem kuf dalet shin” (“Mikodesh”, four letters=dalet of chedva)
Step Three: She exhales and says to herself “vuv mem tzadi yud vuv nun” (“Umitzion”, six letters= vuv of chedva )
Step Four: She rests and says to herself “yud samech ayn dalet chaf” (“Yisadcha”, five letters=kay of chedva).
3. The following verse relates to chedva because it contains 23 words which is the same as the total numerical value of chedva.
This is the verse in which G-d relates to Moses His thirteen aspects of mercy, and is a way for a woman to channel upon herself G-d’s aspects of mercy during the birth.
Step One: (chet) The woman inhales and says to herself “V’yaavor Havaya al-panav vayikra Havaya Havaya E-l”
Step Two: (dalet) She holds and say to herself “Rachum v’Chanun Erech Apayim”
Step Three: (vav) She exhales and say to herself “v’Rav Chesed v’Emet, Notzer Chesed La’alafim”
Step Four: (kay) She rests and says to herself “Nose
Avon vaPesha v’Chata’ah v’Nakay”
4. There are four Biblical verses, which relate in their content to thoughts one should have during the different stages of breathing. These verses also have the same amount of words as the numerical value of chedva.
Step One: The woman inhales and says to herself:
“Ki karov alecha hadavar meod baficha ub’levavcha laasoto” [“The thing is very close to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, so that you may do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:14)]
Step Two: The woman holds and says to herself :
“Shiviti Hashem Lanegdi Tamid” [G-d will be in my thoughts always (Psalms 16:8) Step Three: The woman exhales and says to herself:
“Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad” [Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One (Deuteronomy 6:4)].
Step Four: The woman rests and says to herself:
“Kol haNeshama Tehalel Kah, Haleluka” [Every soul will praise you, Halleluya].
5. Rabbi Ginsburgh prefaced the following exercise with the words “I saved the best one for last.” This verse appears in the Maase Merkava [the Account of the Chariot] at the beginning of the book of Isaiah, which is the basis for much of Jewish mysticism. It contains twenty-three letters, the numerical equivalent of the word “chedva.” This verse is an especially useful one for birthing women because it mentions“chayot hakodesh” [living creatures], which should be the focus of women who want to attain a joyful mindset in birth through becoming a “fixed Chava”, or a “Chaya”. In other words, women can become “Chayot” in the merit of the chedva which these meditations will help them to experience during the birth.
“Udmut hachayot marehem k’gachle esh boarot kamareh halapidim hi mithalechet bein hachayot vanoga la’esh umin haesh yotse barak, v’hachayot ratzo v’shov kamare habazak” (Ezekiel 1:13-14)
“As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like coals of fire, burning like the appearance of torches: it moved among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned like the appearance of a flash of lightning”. (Ezekiel 1: 13-14).
Step One: The woman inhales and says to herself “Udmut hachayot marehem k’gachle esh boarot k’mare halapidim” [As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like coals of fire, burning like the appearance of torches].
Step Two: The woman pauses and says to herself “hi mithalechet bein hachayot” [it moved among the living creatures].
Step Three: The woman breathes out and says to herself “vanoga la-esh umin haesh yotze barak” [and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning].
Step Four: The woman rests and says to herself “V’hachayot ratzo v’shov kamare habazak” [And the living creatures ran and returned like the appearance of a flash of lightning].
This is an especially appropriate verse to concentrate upon because the Kabbalah explains that the torches represent the Shechina [Holy Presence] moving among the Chayot, which is the word for living creatures as well as women empowered in their own births, enabled through the power of their own joy to give birth with confidence and independence.