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standard March 5, 2007 3 responses

When I converted to Judaism and later took a job in a synagogue I expected to find myself in the company of well traveled, well educated people. What I didn’t expect was to find myself surrounded by some of the most superstitious people I had ever met.
Family is one of the founding Jewish values, and as such, you expect that most Jews would get very excited when someone they are close to announces a pregnancy. However, most just ignore the whole thing completely. I work with some of the smartest people I have ever met, but they would rather never mention a pregnancy or a coming baby until the baby is born. Their superstition is mind boggling.
It is a common Jewish practice to not purchase anything for a new baby until it is born. Buying things for an unborn child is akin to jinxing the pregnancy. Talking about the pregnancy makes people uncomfortable because it also may jinx it. Should you make fun of this rationale, they will tell you that it also protects the parents. Should something go wrong they won’t have painful memorabilia to remind them of what they have lost.

Pregnancy is not fun. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s 9 (10) months of unpleasantness punctuated by brief moments of joy. Spending that whole time not thinking about a happy outcome, not planning for a new baby is especially hard. I, personally, can’t do it.
When you go home with your band new, squalling, red faced infant you are constantly assailed with doubt and self recrimination. Each time they sneeze, each rash, each ache, you wonder if it was something you ate, something you did while pregnant. Adding superstition to that is a recipe for disaster.

Shit happens. Babies die. Sometimes babies die before they are born, and sometimes babies die two weeks after they come home. Some babies die when they are 16 months old because they have undiagnosed seizure disorders. It wasn’t because someone bought them a cute pink stuffed bunny, or because they have a closet full of clothes waiting for them at home.

Pregnancy and motherhood are plenty hard enough without throwing superstition into the mix, but try as I might I can’t convince my coworkers of that.

This post was inspired by the Sunday Scribblings prompt Supperstition. Click here to read more amazing posts inspired by this prompt.

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3 responses

  • I like your blog. And I agree in theory to what you are saying. I especially agree if these families have never known the heartache of losing a child, and are just doing it to do it. However, I must ask … have you even lost a baby? If you have, you will know how devastating it is to return that crib you lovingly picked out. How it breaks you as a person to go back to the stores and give back all the things that you wanted so dearly to give to your child. When you have done that, then the next time… you don’t buy things until the baby arrives. And sometimes other family members don’t too… because they have seen the devastation it can cause. Just a thought…. but maybe, sometimes, these people are not buying things for a reason. They have seen the pain, and don’t want to be crushed again. I can relate. I lost my baby girl. I still prepared for subsequent children… but it was hard. And I know people who didn’t … and that seems fine too.

  • Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m so very sorry for your loss.
    I, myself, have never lost a child, but I know far too many who have. The people I am refering too don’t have any children of their own and therefore are just acting out of pure superstition. I would understand much better had they gone through that kind of trajedy themselves.
    That said, thank you for your comment. I assure you I didn’t mean to offend anyone and I’m glad you opened my eyes to another way of seeing things.

  • Hi Rose, I wrote a bit about the mix between Catholicism and superstition in southern Italy, which I find equally as weird as you find superstitious Jews. I agree with you here, just from a basic living each moment to its fullest philosophy–why spend my time wondering/worrying about the litany of things that can go wrong when by doing so I’m missing every glorious moment in the present? I’ve never lost a baby either, though, and perhaps I’d feel differently about this if I had. But I truly hope not.

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