Teachings: Miscarriage & Infertility

The Lament: Hidden Key to Effective Listening

by Barry Bub, MD

This free example article is from the recently released 2nd edition of Seeking and Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Guidance and Development, published in honor of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Eds. Rabbis Goldie Milgram and Shohama Wiener, Reclaiming Judaism Press.
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Jewish Miscarriage Ritual

Traditional and Contemporary Considerations and Approaches

This is one of several types of miscarriage ritual that I have conducted. Pastorally, rabbis of all denominations have quietly created rituals to help deal with the grief and trauma of miscarriage. "Officiating" at the burial of a fetus is not a Jewish practice. The tradition's perspective is that this was not a "viable life from" and so was aborted by the Source, ultimately to the benefit of all, despite how hard it is to endure the loss of a wanted pregnancy. Ritual and pastoral support is important for those who are mourning the misfortune of a miscarriage.

Halachically, a child [one who achieves the departure of it's head from the birth canal] who dies in less than thirty full days of life is given taharah (ritual of gentle washing), named, buried but has no official mourning period. Mourning rituals for miscarriage are not recorded our ancient texts, many have been created by Jewish women. I always customize rituals based on the need of those involved.

Losing a Pregnancy

Jewish Understandings and Rituals

This Jewish miscarriage and infertility ritual proved powerful for those involved. I vividly remember miscarrying during the first week of my rabbinical training. Fearful of being put out of the program if I started out by missing classes, I clenched my teeth, gobbled pain pills, and slipped out to the bathroom as needed. According to our local gynecologist, 10 to 15% of established pregnancies result in miscarriage, usually in the first trimester. “It’s not your fault,” he told us. “You don’t smoke or drink.

What Do Rites of Passage Accomplish?

What do Rites of Passage Accomplish? by Rabbi Goldie Milgram with Barry Bub

Rituals and their symbolic, action, and liturgical components facilitate lifecycle events or significant transitions by:

·     providing the framework of support for desired or necessary change

·     acting as speed bumps that invite reflection and integration