Beyle Shoyver's 'childbirth mitsve'
From Rabbi Tuvye Gutman- Rappaport, ‘The biography of a generation’, Yizker-bukh Koriv, (1955) p. 674. Beyle Shoyver, who did charitable work and sometimes competed with Koriv's Gabete, Gitele, was Rabbi Gutman-Rappaport's grandmother.
Besides being a great organizer and giver of charity, she also preformed another strange mitsve. The mitsve was renowned in Koriv: Beyle Shoyvers ‘childbirth mitsve.’ The mitsve was as follows : when a woman in Koriv went into labour, before the midwife was sent for, Beyle Shoyver was called (the words for professional midwives were not yet used in Koriv. As my mother told it, the only ‘midwife [‘heyvn’] in Koriv at that time was Chaim Shmuel Lustman’s mother, and she was already in her late 90s. When someone was about to give birth, she had to be brought carried on someone’s shoulders, because she could no longer walk.) And my grandmother did not leave until the child had been born. Then it was also her mitsve to make the first clothes for the newly born soul, and anyone who refused to accept my grandmother’s gift of clothing was a מתחייב בנפשו – guilty of a capital crime. This was her mitsve, for poor and rich alike (so as not to embarrass the poor.)
She also didn’t forget to take care of the mother in the first few days with a good chicken soup, a bit of good wine and a few dishes of esrog jam (this she only did for the poor, because esrog jam was at that time seen as ‘sguledik’ – healing - because a brokhe had been made over it at sukes, and this was a sign of good luck and blessing for the newly born child.) If the child was a boy, my grandmother was obviously the first female to be honoured like a relative at the Bris (and she didn’t attend empty handed.) If, however, a girl had arrived in the world, grandmother would dress up in her finest clothes, with the traditional ‘Turkish shawl’ for the shabes naming ceremony. Going into the beys-midrash and to the women’s section, she, acting like an in-law, handed out raisins in honour of the newborn child.