Shabbos in the hospital

Thursday, 24 January, 2019 - 12:52 pm

This past Friday night Malkie gave birth to a baby boy. His Bris will take place this Shabbos, G-d willing (see below for schedule details). This was our third child to be born on Shabbos (the other two were born during the day on Saturday). Being in a hospital to have a baby on Shabbos is both unique and strange.

We arrived an hour before Shabbos started; and as the sun was setting, Malkie lit her candles and then got into the bed to “have the baby.” That baby was born in a calm and serene environment, perfectly conducive to the Sabbath that had been ushered in just before he arrived. The medical team actually commented on how calm and serene the experience was. One nurse even chose to stay past her shift just to be a part of it.

Nothing in a hospital is Shabbos friendly. You can barely walk through a door without relying some kind of electronic gadgetry. They want you to sign a hundred forms. To get anything done by a nurse “just press the button to call us.” The bed goes up and down with a button. There are lights everywhere. To turn them off and on “just press the button.” You get the picture.

Now when it comes to health emergencies one is allowed to violate Shabbos. But for convenience or comfort one may not. That is very confusing to the hospital staff. We tried our best to explain to them that our Sabbath precludes us from turning on the lights or using the call button unless it is an emergency. But this is not part of their mindset so it is hard for them to remember. Plus for someone not in the know, it is difficult to wrap your head around the inconsistency between necessity and convenience. So “consent to treat” forms may be signed but acknowledgement of information forms must wait until tomorrow night… Plus the rules of the game changed an hour into our stay, when Shabbos actually started. So it was strange for the staff and for us to have to keep explaining it.

On the other hand, having a baby on Shabbos means no phone calls, texts, social media posts or visits the entire day. While parents of a new baby certainly welcome and appreciate the support and love of friends and family, that time of tranquility to be quiet and alone with the baby and recover is a lagniappe benefit of Shabbos.

Finally, Shabbos in the hospital puts you on an island surrounded by technology. Everything beeps, chirps, squawks and lights up around you while you are in quiet commune with your Creator, bonding with the new addition to your family.

A Shabbos male birth means a Shabbos Bris. This is another unique Jewish experience where the Bris supersedes some aspects of Shabbos. We look forward to joining with family and friends this Shabbos for the Bris of our son.

Wishing you a tranquil Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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