Labor Pains

After a woman gives birth and completes her ritual purification process, she is instructed (Vayikra 12:6) to bring two korbanot, a burnt offering (olah) and a sin offering (chatat).

Why would a woman who just gave birth be required to bring a sin offering?

Ramban quoting the Gemara in Masechet Niddah 31b explains that as the woman bends down to give birth she rashly swears (because of the pains of childbirth): “I will no longer have relationships with my husband” (so as not to conceive again).  Since she only swears on account of her pain and the oath will not be fulfilled, the Torah wants her to atone for that which came into her mind (and therefore commanded her to bring these offerings).

According to Shem MiShmuel, the korbanot are also brought to atone for the sin of Chava who listened to the snake, ate of the tree of knowledge and was cursed with the punishment “b’etzev teldi banim”, women will have a painful childbirth. Chava’s sin was twofold, she listened to the snake instead of listening to God and she actually ate the fruit. The woman therefore brings two korbanot, olah- atonement for her thoughts and chatat- atonement for her actions.

Despite the pain that childbirth entails, the majority of women in Jerusalem continue to have many children and the labor and delivery wards are always full. We are also living in a post Chava society where women have opportunities to deal with and ease the labor pains in different ways including having a doula, massage, different types of medications etc.

It also helps some women to have their husband by their side instead of handing out cigars in the waiting room!