Mazornet, Inc. is proud to
present its newest guide to Judaism.
"Infertility - A Jewish Perspective"
Rivka C. Berman
Yael Rosenberg, Editor
An attempt is made to present the perspective of the major streams of Judaism in an
effort to deem this guide practical and its resources helpful to all Jews.
Jewish lore and practice describe symbolic acts that are supposed to
enhance fertility. Most of them revolve around one of two
principles, according to Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin. First, the word for
blessing, bracha, is closely related to the word for pool,
b’raycha. To some the words’ similarity describes the nature of
blessings. If blessings are pool-like, then spreading goodness can
help build a bigger vessel for capturing them. Second, altering
metaphysical forces such as the evil eye or a less than fortuitous
constellation can alter one’s destiny.
Those who seek kindness from God should seek ways to extend
kindness to others. In earlier generations this was expressed
through acts of tzedakah, such as providing water and candles
for those who spent their nights studying in the synagogue or
placing a few coins into a charity box before lighting Shabbat
The soulful equivalent of a Social Security or identification
number is the Jewish name. All sorts of destined events are said to
be linked to a person through his or her name. Sickness or health,
poverty or wealth is believed to reach a person through their name.
Changing a name alters a predestined fortune. Classic sources warn
against taking a new name without first considering the
consequences: “To tamper with name changing may upset the person’s
good fortune and damage their future.” (Sefer Roni Akarah quoted in
Cardin, p. 51)
Most who opt to add a new name pick one that speaks of healing (Refael,
Raphaela), blessing (Baruch, Bracha), life (Chaim, Chaya), comfort (Nachum,
Nechama), fortune (Asher, Mazal), or happiness (Simcha). It is then
customary that the new name become the first name, and the one that
the person is called by.
A rabbi isn’t needed for the ceremony, although many of those who
consider a name change a very serious matter will want to have the
new name entered into synagogue records. Whoever bestows the new
name on the person will stand before two witnesses and proclaim:
“Our rabbis taught that name changing alters one’s destiny… We
therefore gather for the purpose of adding a name to the one
formerly known as _________… may it soon bring the news that a child
will be born to ___________ [use new name]” (Cardin, 52)
Undoing the palm-frond band that joins the myrtle and willow to
the lulav is supposed to help a woman unravel the knots in her
fallopian tubes or other vessels that have prevented her from
conceiving. Women often recite a prayer while doing the unbinding.
(It’s best to do this on the last day of Sukkot, because an unbound lulav
is hard to use for the traditional lulav shaking.)
One of the few references to miscarriages in the Gemarah
occurs when the rabbis discuss whether a woman could wear an EVEN
TEKUMAH, a red stone amulet, on Shabbat or if it would be
considered carrying in the public domain, a Shabbat prohibition.
Red like the womb, the EVEN TEKUMAH was supposed to promote
fertility, prevent miscarriage, and provide for an easy childbirth.
It is not exactly clear what sort of stone the EVEN TEKUMAH was.
However, it is speculated that it could be any one of the known red
stones such as Rubies, carnelian, eagle stone, or chalcedony.
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, in her book Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope,
deepens what could have been the stones’ meaning. Red, she notes, is
adom in Hebrew, a word with the same spelling as Adam,
meaning human. Rubies were used on the high priest’s breastplate to
represent the tribe of Reuben. In Genesis, Reuben brought his mother
mandrakes, a plant that grows in the shape of a small person, and is
supposed to promote love and fertility.
Making love with the explicit intent of making a baby,
goal-oriented intimacy, can become a passion drain. It is important
for the couple trying to conceive to add affectionate and doting
rituals to their love making.
The Bible’s Song of Songs, King Solomon’s work of erotic poetry,
offers a meaningful and beautiful way for lovers to express their
devotion to each other.
“Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, for your love is sweeter
than wine. The scent of your oils is lovely, your name is like the
finest fragrance spread over me.” (Song of Songs, 1:2-3)
“You, my beloved, are handsome, beautiful indeed. Your cheeks are
like boughs of spices, mounds of sweet herbs; your lips are like
lilies, shimmering with flowing myrrh. This is my beloved and this
is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem.” (Song of Songs 5:13,16)
Rabbi Nina Cardin, author of Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope,
encourages infertile couples to add prayers prior to love making.
She composed a new prayer for couples attempting to conceive, which
she includes in her book. The prayer incorporates ideas and phrases
from Psalms and Song of Songs:
A Mikvah is a gathering of waters used for ritual immersion. For
three thousand years Jewish women have marked their biological
rhythms and cycles with immersing in the Mikvah. This ritual
signifies the culmination of a period of separation and the
beginning of intimacy and creation of life. Etymologically, Mikvah
is related to tikva, meaning the hope. For a woman who is trying to
conceive, an immersion in the Mikvah offers an opportunity for
renewal of hope.
Water utilized in the Mikvah is from a natural source. These rain
drops emanating from the heavens symbolize the connection to God and
his blessings. Submerging in this great heavenly resource engulfs
the woman trying to conceive with hopefulness to being a partner in
Not only metaphysically but practically the Mikvah has long been
entwined with the hope of fruitful fertility. Halachic practice
dictated the schedule of permissible time for husband and wife to
engage in physical love making. After a prescribed period of
separation which included the days the woman menstruated and seven
“clean days” there was the ritual of immersing in the Mikvah. Since
it was highly desirable and recommended, couples engaged in sexual
relations right after the immersion in the Mikvah. This schedule was
a boost to fertility since on average ovulation occurs at the time
the woman purifies herself in the Mikvah
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, author of Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope,
has written a prayer to recite before entering the Mikvah. In part
it asks, “God, as my cycle begins anew, let these coming weeks be a
time of rejoicing; let this month be the season our dreams come
Standing shoulder deep in the Mikvah water has traditionally been a
time for women to meditate on their hearts’ desires. There are
different customs on the number of dips, and each can signify a
different intent and prayer.
Shabbat draws back the curtain of the physical world for a peek at
the spiritual reality lying beneath the surface of the work week.
God feels closer on Shabbat, and prayers flow more freely. Part of
the Shabbat candle lighting ritual is to cover one’s eyes when
saying the blessing after the candles are lit. While this practice
was born as a solution to a halachic technicality, covered eyes
create a private prayer space. It forms a refuge from which women
have prayed from their hearts for centuries.
Just a God’s presence reunites more fully with the world on the
Sabbath; Friday night has been an auspicious night for reuniting
husband and wife through the intimacy of lovemaking.
It is recommended to eat fish because they are known for their
fertility. However, since certain fish are high in mercury, only a
moderate amount of a select type of fish should be eaten by a woman
trying to get pregnant. The most common ones that are known to be
low in mercury are salmon, herring, Tilapia and Sardines.
Commentators on the Torah base their recommendation to eat fish on
Jacob’s blessing of his grandsons. Jacob uses the term “vayidgu,”
with the root “dag” Hebrew for fish, which means “and they
should grow [into a multitude. Fish, they note, lay many eggs at
once as they received an extra blessing for fertility during the
Creation. Fertility was also on the minds of those who encouraged
brides to wed on Wednesdays, the day that fish were created
The citron fruit that is used on Sukkot, the holiday of
Tabernacles, is associated with several aspects of fertility. The
Tree of Knowledge according to some was hung this bumpy yellow
fruit. Since pain in childbirth is biblically linked to Eve’s nibble
in Eden, biting an etrog’s stem may be an attempt to make
“restitution for Eve’s disobedience, as if to say: If I had been
there in the Garden, I would not have eaten of the fruit, so please
reward me with my desire, a child.” (Cardin, 59.
Ezra the Scribe, a leader of the Jews during the Second
Commonwealth, encouraged the consumption of garlic on Fridays. In
their discussion of this enactment, Talmudic Sages note that Friday
was the traditional night onah, lovemaking that was
necessarily for procreative reasons, and garlic was thought to
activate sexual drive and increase sperm count. (Bava Kamma 82a)