The Warmongering Laboring Amazons

December 14, 2009

R’ Yaaqov Emden (“Yaavetz”) remarks that it is appropriate for a woman in the throes of labor to recite Psalm 20, which is also part of the daily morning liturgy.

Does it thematically fit?

Thematically, Psalm 20 seems far removed from birth stools and midwives. Its theme is a military one, for soldiers going to battle against a powerful, well equipped enemy.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of LORD-ETERNAL our God. They are bowed down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright. (verses 8-9)

Is this custom preserving some vague memory of women becoming particularly aggressive during labor, of all times? Did ancient women pray to turn into fiery warmongering Amazons, thinking that those heroines don’t fear birthing pangs? Or is this psalm about the various implements used to make women most comfortable during the painful birthing pangs? Some modern women prefer giving birth in a bath or on a Roma Wheel, rather than in a bed or birthing stool. Did our ancient Israelite ancestresses prefer reclining on a horse or a wagon?

By the same token, we may ask why this psalm was incorporated into the daily liturgy of sedentary farmers and merchants. Is this not a prayer for officers and soldiers? Read the rest of this entry »