The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
When a woman conceives and gives birth... (Lev. 12:2)
The Yoledes in Halacha
Unless a doctor explicitly orders it for the safety of either
mother or child (1), it is prohibited for a woman to schedule the
birth of her baby. There are various halachic, kabbalistic and
hashkafic reasons offered by early and contemporary poskim for
this prohibition: The earlier time may be "in a bad mazal" (2);
Inducing an early birth may cause the child to die before his
allotted time (3); It is possible to miscalculate the time of
conception and erroneously assume that the pregnancy is complete
when it is, in fact, in its eighth month (4). Inducing birth
would thus cause the baby to be born prematurely. The halachah
considers a woman who gives birth to be in "danger". Until her
Divinely appointed time arrives, she is forbidden to put herself
in danger (5). As the Mishnah (6) states,
one enters this world
"against his will". To bring a baby into this world before his
Divinely appointed time of arrival is to contradict the rabbinic
Sometimes a woman requires the services of a specialist for
compelling medical reasons. If the specialist will be available
only at pre-arranged times, the delivery may be scheduled, but
should only be done under the guidance of a rav.
Unless it is an emergency, a planned delivery [when permitted]
should not be scheduled for Thursday or Friday (8), as no
elective surgery may be scheduled on those days (9).
PREPARATIONS FOR A SHABBOS (10) DELIVERY
We have established that a woman giving birth is halachically
considered to be a dangerously ill person, and it is permitted,
indeed it is a mitzvah, to desecrate the Shabbos on her behalf.
Once a woman is in labor, she, her husband, or anyone else who
is in a position to do so, must do everything they can to ensure
a successful delivery. Nevertheless, whatever can be done before
Shabbos to minimize the desecration of Shabbos, must be done in
advance (11). Indeed, an early authority (12)
mentions that a
person should daven that his wife not give birth on Shabbos.
Accordingly, a woman who enters the beginning stages of labor
before Shabbos, although she would normally delay going to the
hospital for as long as possible, should travel to the hospital
before Shabbos begins so that she will not have to travel on
From a halachic standpoint, there are two basic methods of
transporting a woman to the hospital on Shabbos:
driver, e.g. a neighbor, ambulance or taxi service may bring
a Jewish driver, e.g., her husband or a neighbor may
If a woman can be driven to the hospital by a non-Jew without
compromising her safety or peace of mind, the halachah requires
her to arrange - before Shabbos - for a non-Jew to drive her on
Shabbos regardless of the expenses entailed.
As stated earlier, once Shabbos begins, we must do everything
in our power to ensure the baby's safe delivery. Still, whatever
we can do in advance to avoid or lessen the desecration of
Shabbos must be done. The following can and must be done before
The phone number of the doctor and of a non-Jewish neighbor,
ambulance or taxi service should be noted in an easily
accessible, non-muktzeh location. When possible, payment should
Whatever house or garage lights that would be needed to
facilitate leaving for the hospital in the middle of the night,
should be turned on before Shabbos (14).
Personal items the woman will need at the hospital should be
packed in a bag before Shabbos.
Arrangements for a baby-sitter to stay with other children
should be made before Shabbos.
If the hospital is outside the techum Shabbos (approx. 4000
feet from the last house in the city), some poskim recommend
that one should be mafkir (renounce possession) all the items
that are being taken along to the hospital (15). Other poskim are
not particular about this (16).
TRAVELING TO THE HOSPITAL ON SHABBOS WITH A NON-JEW
As soon as a woman experiences steady contractions, even though
she is quite sure that she is far from giving birth, she (or any
other person) may call the doctor or the designated driver to
take her to the hospital. She should not wait for the latter
stages of labor before going to the hospital (17).
When making the phone call on Shabbos to the doctor or the
non-Jewish driver (18), the receiver should be lifted off the
cradle in an abnormal manner, e.g., with one's elbow or teeth
time permitting. The conversation should be limited to a bare
minimum, although it is permitted to say "hello" and "thank
you", etc. (19). After the conversation is over, the receiver may
not be returned to the cradle unless the phone line is needed
for the sake of the patient, or if not hanging up will tie up
the doctor's line. Then, too, the receiver should be hung up in
an abnormal manner, as described above (20).
Any item which the woman will need on Shabbos may be taken
along, even it there is no eiruv or if the item is muktzeh. If
time allows, the non-Jew should be asked to carry the woman's
bag to the vehicle.
Unless an eiruv exists, a Tehilim should
not be taken to the hospital on Shabbos, for the merit of
keeping Shabbos is greater than saying Tehilim. This should be
explained to the woman (21).
If, during the drive, labor stopped and the woman feels that she
does not need to go to the hospital, it is permitted to tell the
non-Jew to take her and her companion back home if they cannot
return safely and comfortably on foot - which is almost always
If it is the expectant mother's wish and it would help to relax
her, her husband or another individual may accompany her to the
hospital, even if their assistance is not medically
warranted (22). The person going along may also bring with him
basic necessities that will be required on Shabbos. The non-Jew
should be asked to carry the items into the vehicle and from the
vehicle into the hospital.
When time allows it, the door to the vehicle should be opened
and closed by the non-Jew.
TRAVELING TO THE HOSPITAL ON SHABBOS WITH A JEW
In the absence of any other alternative or when arrangements
were not made in advance, it is permitted for a Jew [the husband
or any other Jew (23)] to drive the woman to the hospital
himself. If one is aware before Shabbos that the driver may be a
Jew, he should prepare before Shabbos for that eventuality.
The shortest possible route to the hospital must be checked
The car which will be driven must not be blocked by other
cars or other obstructions.
The dome light bulb in the car should be loosened or removed
before Shabbos; the air conditioner, radio and tape recorder
should be on the "off" position.
License, registration and other papers that are required for
driving or that will be needed at the hospital should be placed
in the car before Shabbos.
Where there is no eiruv, clothing, food and other items that
will be needed at the hospital should be placed in the car
If the hospital is out of the techum Shabbos, any belongings
which are in the car [especially those that do not belong to
him (24)] that are not necessary for the woman (car seat, tapes,
etc.) should be removed from the car (25). If this is difficult
to do, then those items [which are his] should be pronounced
One who failed to properly prepare himself or the car as
outlined above, must nevertheless proceed to the hospital in the
safest, quickest way he can (26). If he did not unscrew or remove
the dome light before Shabbos, then while the door is still open
and the light is on, the control knob should be turned [in an
abnormal manner] so that the light will remain on after the
door closes. If he forgot to do that, he should [in an abnormal
manner] loosen the light bulb, so that it does not turn on again
when the door is opened (27).
One may drive to any hospital that he prefers, as long as the
preference is not determined by the desire to save money.
Once he arrives at the hospital emergency room, the car may be
placed in the "park" position, but the ignition and the lights
may not be turned off. [If he failed to loosen the dome light or
to follow one of the other options outlined above, then the
door may not be closed upon leaving the car, since closing the
door will cause the light to be turned off.] He may ask a
non-Jew to take the car, park it and return the keys to him
A woman in active labor (28) is a niddah and her husband may no
longer touch her. If she cannot walk unaided, a woman should
assist her. If no woman is available, the ambulance attendant or
taxi driver should assist her. If only her husband is available
to assist her, he may do so (29).
A hospital does not require eiruvei chatzeiros (30).
A woman who gives birth, even to a stillborn child, is
considered a "dangerously ill" person for up to 72 hours after
giving birth. As long as either the patient herself, the doctor
or nurse requests anything on her behalf, the request should be
fulfilled on Shabbos. Whenever possible, a shinui (action
done in an abnormal manner) is required (31).
Upon the birth of a male child, the blessing Hatov V'hameitiv of
should be recited (32). Although an Hatov V'hameitiv is not
recited upon the birth of a female child, the blessing of
Shehechyanu is said the very first time a parent sees their
daughter (33). When twins (a boy and a girl) are born, only Hatov
V'hameitiv is said (34). The husband can be motzi his wife for
A woman who gave birth on Friday night and was unable to say or
hear Kiddush, should say the Friday night Kiddush on Shabbos
day, omitting Va'yechulu (35).
Ordinarily, one who misses a tefillah due to an emergency, makes
up that missed tefillah during the next tefillah (tefillas
tashlumin). However, a husband who was preoccupied with his
wife's labor and childbirth throughout the time period allotted
for any given tefillah (36), is not required to make up the
tefillah which he missed (37).
1 Chazon Ish is quoted (in a written responsum by Harav Y. Y.
Kanievsky, published in Kryana Deigrata) as ruling that once two
weeks into the tenth month have passed, labor may be induced.
Rokeach (Koheles 3:11).
3 Arizal quoted in Sefer Hakaneh. See also Ravad's preface to
4 Harav Y. Kamenetsky (written ruling published in Am Hatorah
vol. 2 # 12); Harav M. Hershler (Halachah Vrefuah vol. 2 pg. 64).
5 Igros Moshe YD 2:74; Harav Y. Kamenetsky (ibid).
6 Avos 4:24.
7 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Toras Hayoledes pg. 11).
8 Some poskim forbid Wedensday as well - See Mishnah Berurah
9 Harav Y. Kamenetsky (ibid); Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky (Kryana
Deigerta); Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 32:33. If, however, the
doctor's surgery day is only on one of those days, it is
permitted - Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Shmiras Shabbos
Khilchasah 32: fn 97.)
10 Almost all of the following halachos pertain to Yom Tov as
11 Mishnah Berurah 330:1.
12 Sefer Chasidim 793, based on the Talmud Niddah 38a.
13 Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 36:7 quoting Ktzos Hashulchan.
See similar ruling in Igros Moshe OC 1:131 concerning a doctor
who may be needed for Shabbos duty.
14 Kaf Hachayim 330:1.
15 Advice offered by Harav Chaim Kanievsky (quoted in Toras
Hayoledes pg. 25) based on OC 401:1.
16 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 15; Shmiras Shabbos
Khilchasah 40:65). See also Minchas Yitzchok 9:37.
17 Mishnah Berurah 330:9.
18 When possible, the phone call should be made by a non-Jew or
a minor. When using a minor, it is better not to use one's own
children - See Shaar Hatzion 334:54.
19 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Shmiras Shabbos Khilchasah
20 It is important to stress, though, that all of the halachos
that pertain to making the phone call, hanging up, driving on
Shabbos, etc., are only to be followed when time allows it. Once
the labor is fully underway everything should be done in the
speediest, safest manner, as if the labor is taking place on a
21 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Toras Hayoledes pg. 94). If
the woman insists to take a Tehilim or any other sefer along, it
is permitted to do so.
22 Igros Chazon Ish 1:141; Igros Moshe OC 1:132.
23 Some poskim say that it is preferable to use an observant Jew
than a non-observant Jew - Toras Hayoldes pg. 81.
24 See Minchas Shlomo 15.
25 Toras Hayoledes pg. 20, 25, 101.
26 If time allows, any carrying that needs to be done should be
done with a shinui, such as carrying the required papers under
his clothing or hat, etc.
27 Some cars are equiped with a switch which does not allow the
dome light to go on when the door opens. This is a better option
than loosening the bulb, since loosening the bulb involves the
prohibition of soser.
28 The are various definitons in the poskim for "active labor",
see Badei Hashulchan 194:30.
29 See Aruch Hashulchan YD 195:25-27 and Igros Moshe YD 1:90.
30 Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in
Nishmas Avrohom 4 pg. 63) based on Biur Halachah 370:3 and
31 OC 330:4.
32 OC 223:1.
33 Mishnah Berurah 223:2.
34 Toras Hayoledes pg. 176.
35 OC 278:8.
36 If, however, he was occupied with her labor for only part of
the zman tefillah, but forgot to daven when he had the chance,
he must then make up that lost tefillah.