Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pregnancy - Finding out the Gender

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Contrary to misconceptions and related superstitions, it is completely permissible for parents to inquire and find out the gender of their baby during pregnancy.[1] Indeed, Rivkah herself went to inquire of God as to what was in her womb.[2] In fact, there are a number of instances throughout Scripture where parents are notified in advance as to the gender of the fetus and such information is discussed freely.[3] Furthermore, halacha acknowledges and addresses issues relating to pregnant women who are aware of the gender of their baby. For example, regarding kapparot, a woman who knows the gender of her baby need only use a chicken which corresponds to this information. Similarly, a woman who knows she is carrying twins she should take two chickens, accordingly.[4] There is also much discussion whether a woman pregnant with a male kohen is permitted to enter a cemetery, and the like.[5] Indeed, there is even a view that women pregnant with kohanim are obligated to find out if they are carrying a male, in order to be able to conduct themselves accordingly throughout their pregnancy.[6]

Click here to read moreMake no mistake - those who oppose the practice of finding out the gender of one's baby do not forbid it outright. Rather, the opposition to finding out the gender of one's baby during pregnancy is generally said to be based on the dictum that "blessing is only found upon something which is hidden from the eye."[7] While this teaching is certainly an important one, it's application may be slightly out of context in this instance. This concept is generally only found within Talmudic literature as applying to profits, business dealings, and matters in which multiple quantities of an item are involved.[8] It is difficult to apply it in response to the parents' desire to better prepare for the arrival of their baby by knowing in advance which gender it will be.

There is also a view that God initially intended that the gender of a child remain a secret until birth. As such, it is argued that finding out this information by means of modern day science is akin to rebelling against Him.[9] This, too, is difficult to substantiate based on the scriptural and halachic precedents cited above.

Further support that there is nothing wrong with finding out the gender of one's child is the teaching found in ancient mystical texts that one can determine the gender of the child by asking a pregnant woman to show you her hand. It is said that if she instinctively shows you her hand with the palm facing downwards it is a sign she is carrying a boy. However, if she decides to show you her palm then she is carrying a girl. There are a number of additional such tests and segulas which can be found in ancient texts which one can administer on pregnant women to determine the gender of a baby. If finding out the gender of one's baby was so forbidden then the great sages who authored and compiled such teachings would not have done so.

There is also nothing wrong with parents revealing to their friends or family which gender their baby is. Nevertheless, there is much hesitation to do so. Here too, there doesn’t seem to be any halachic precedent for keeping such information the tightly guarded secret that it is. Perhaps the excitement of being able to inform one's friends of the gender upon the birth of the baby, including information about the upcoming brit or kiddush is a social delight which we are hesitant to do away with.


[1] Bereishit Rabba 65:12
[2] Bereishit 25:22
[3] Shoftim 13:3
[4] Piskei Teshuvot 605:2, Kaneh Bosem 2:20
[5] Nishmat Avraham Y.D. 371:1, O.C. 343:2
[6] Mishna Berura 343:3, Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 373:1
[7] Taanit 8b
[8] Bava Metzia 42a
[9] Shevet Hakehati 1:317:8

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