Torah Tidbits

21 August 2014 / 25 Av 5774
Issue 1029
Shabbat Parshat Bo
January 17, 2013

"From Machon Puah"

Why Is the Blessing Made at Childbirth?

This week we continue discussing the lectures at the recent 13th Annual Puah Rabbinic Conference held in Jerusalem.
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger disagreed with the halachic decision that we discussed last week, that if a couple have a child with a serious congenital disease they should make the blessing of “Shehechiyanu” and also “Dayan HaEmet.” He also disagreed with the opinion that in these circumstances no blessing should be made at all. Rabbi Metzger explained that the question is why do new parents make a blessing “Shehechiyanu”.
We make this blessing on a number of occasions; when a person hears good news he is to make this blessing and when he has a joyous occasion. So we make a Shehechiyanu when we see a friend that we have not seen or heard of for over a month. We make this blessing when we eat a new fruit or buy and wear a new item of clothing. Therefore this blessing expresses our joy at certain key events in our lives.
If this is the case, then if a couple have mixed feelings about the birth of such a child then they may find it hard to make such a blessing of unbounded joy and should not make the blessing Shehechiyanu.
However we make this blessing the first time that we perform a mitzva each year. So on the first night of Chanukah in addition to the blessings on lighting the candles that we continued to make on each of the other nights, we also made a Shehechiyanu blessing since we have joy from the fulfillment of the mitzva.
Rabbi Metzger pointed out that we could say that these two reasons represent two different types of joy; on the one hand we have physical joy such as eating a new fruit, but we also have spiritual joy such as the joy of performing a “rare” mitzva, one that we do not have the opportunity to perform often.
If the blessing relates to the physical joy then we could argue that it should not be made if the physical entity is not complete and therefore not completely joyous. However, the blessing also expresses joy at fulfilling the commandment, in this case the commandment to procreate. If so then the parents should make a blessing since this joy is not affected by the medical state of the child born. More on this next week.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

The Puah Institute is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Offices in Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Contact: (02) 651-5050 (Isr).

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

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