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miscarriage - what is about the soul

Dear Rabbi Michael

we lost our unborn baby in the 7th week. And now we are very sad about this.
Is there a possibility to say a special prayer to say goodbye to our baby?

In regard to such small unborn babies, do they already have a soul given from G-d? And what happens to them after they died?

Best regards

Daniel and Rahel
Dear Daniel and Rahel,

Please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss. All of the questions you asked are important and fundamental issues. (Note that my answers will be in a different order than the order you asked them in.)

(1) Do unborn babies already have a soul given from HaShem?

The investment of a soul from the spiritual realm into the body it is assigned to by G-d is a step by step process. It does not happen all at once. Even at birth, the process is not yet 100% complete.

The first step happens even before the process of the soul entering the physical realm begins. At conception, the soul in the spiritual realm is shown the parents it will be born to, and the embryo that it has been *assigned* to. The assignment of this particular soul to that particular embryo is the connection between them, and at first that connection is only spiritual.

Then, the soul goes through a process of preparation for the particular mission it is has been chosen to fulfill through being born (G-d willing) in this particular body, starting out with this particular situation in life (those parents, in that particular place, in a particular economic situation, with a particular set of talents and shortcomings, etc.)

As the fetus grows, the soul starts to invest within it, little by little. This means that before the baby is born, the higher levels of the soul are mostly still in the spiritual realm, and the lower levels of the soul are entering into the fetus, set by step as time goes on.
We know that the soul does become active and expressed in the fetus to some extent, even before birth. For example, mothers who have had a few children will tell you that they could tell differences in the children's personalities (which are traits of the soul) before the children were born, e.g. one was very physically active in the womb, and another was very docile, as so it was with those children after they were born.
Another example is clear from the Torah: when Rebecca was pregnant with Jacob and Esau, the twin fetuses where struggling inside her towards their own separate missions, and against each other, as related in Genesis ch. 25 {my notes are added in curly brackets}:

25:22 And the children struggled within her, and she said, "If [it be] so, why am I [like] this?" And she went to inquire of the L-rd.

Rashi explains:

"struggled": Perforce, this verse calls for a Midrashic interpretation, for it does not explain what this struggling was all about, and [Scripture] wrote, "If it be so, why am I [like] this?" Our Rabbis (Midrash Genesis Rabbah) interpreted it {in Hebrew} as an expression of running. When she passed by the entrances of [the] Torah [academies] of Shem and Eber, Jacob would run and struggle to come out {to study Torah from them}; when she passed the entrance of [a temple of] idolatry, Esau would run and struggle to come out. Another explanation: They were struggling with each other and quarreling about the inheritance of the two worlds {the physical world, and the World to Come}.

"If [it be] so": that the pain of pregnancy is so great.

"why am I [like] this?": [Why did I] desire and pray to conceive?

"And she went to inquire": to the academy of Shem {the son of Noah}.

"to inquire of the L-rd": that He should tell her {through Shem, who was a prophet} what would happen to her in the end.

-----Rashi ends here-----

We can ask a question about this. If Esau was already trying to run to temples of idolatry before he was born, was he destined from before birth to be sinful? And if so, would that not negate the concept that people have freedom of choice in their actions?
In fact, free will is granted, and each person is able to be righteous or sinful - meaning one can choose to listen to his good inclination, or listen to his evil inclination, and his mission and challenge in life will be to make the right decision within the context of his particular personality traits (which he can choose to refine) and his environment (in the place where he chooses to live), etc.
In the case of Esau, the trait of his soul was a forceful and passionate personality, which he could have used for good. It is explained that in the womb, he righteously wanted to run out toward the temples of idolatry, in order to fulfill G-d's commandment that they should be destroyed. But after he grew up and his evil inclination was very strong, he chose to use his force and passion to pursue his sinful desires, instead of using those strengths of his soul to overcome his evil desires. Thus, it says in "Ethics of the Fathers" 4:1, "[The sage] Ben Zoma would say, ...'Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations.' "

(2) And what happens to them [souls assigned to the miscarried fetuses] after they died?

All of the following will be more completely understood from reading our book "Seven Gates of Righteous Knowledge":

In short, the soul fully returns to the spiritual realm (and as explained above, it didn't fully come into the physical world).

The fuller explanation is that a soul is assigned a mission that it must fulfill in the physical world:

- One part of that mission (in most cases) has to do with accomplishing a correction that is needed in the soul, and that is one of the purposes of reincarnation. If a soul sinned or failed to complete its mission in one lifetime, it may be sent back for another incarnation to be given the opportunity to atone or make up for its past mistakes.
Sometimes, the atonement needed is so minor that it only needs to have a very minimal association again with the physical world, which can be accomplished just by connecting with an unborn fetus for up to a few weeks weeks or months, and that completes its correction, which was the purpose for that fetus being conceived. Then, the physical fetus also has completed its mission, and it does not need to be born.

About this, King Solomon in his great wisdom pondered about who is more fortunate - a fetus who was never born, or a person who was born and lived life in this world, with all the difficulties, struggles and decisions that a person has to go through? He answered in Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, "But I returned and saw all the oppressed who are made [so] under the sun, and behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they have no consoler, and from the hand of their oppressors there is power, but they have no consoler. And I praise the dead who have already died, more than the living who are still alive. And better than both of them is he who has not yet been [born], who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun."

- The other part of that mission is that this soul (assigned to the fetus that would miscarry) is assigned to those particular parents, who were destined by G-d's infinite wisdom and mercy to go through the difficulty and the spiritual test of conceiving a fetus that would be miscarried. Quoting from the book "Seven Gates Righteous Knowledge," in the chapter "Why G-d Tests People":

"The sages said, 'There is no wise person like one who withstands a test,' meaning that one who was tested, and withstood the test, is certainly a truly wise person.
It is known in all areas of authentic analysis that a theory alone is not considered absolute and reliable truth, and only a practical test can determine the authenticity of the theory. The same applies to a test of a person's true character – of one's good traits, faith and trust in G-d. A person's idea or views cannot guarantee the truth of his traits. Rather, that which is put to a practical test will have a degree of certainty. The greater the degree of the test that the person is put through and withstands, the greater the degree of the proof of the truthfulness of the person's traits.
Likewise, the verse states, 'For the L-rd your G-d is putting you to proof, to know whether you love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.' A challenge refines a person and his faith, and humbles the heart, and thereby brings a person closer to G-d. Therefore, in truth, a test is a great benefit for a person."

In other words, that soul assigned the miscarried fetus had a mission from G-d to bring the opportunity for a great spiritual benefit to those two parents, by giving them the opportunity to prove - in actual fact - their dedication to G-d in the face of an adversity.

Besides that, everyone should know and understand that in the time when you are facing a spiritual test to stand faithful in adversity, at that time, G-d's Presence is standing right together with you, and you have G-d's full attention. He is at your right hand, offering to you His fully capable ability to help you overcome your test, and He is focused on watching to see what you will decide to do. Therefore, when you feel you are being tested in this way, that is also a very opportune time to pray for yourself and for others, because G-d is focusing His kind attention on you at that time.

I will also refer you to this page on our web site, for a further perspective:

( 3 ) Is there a possibility to say a special prayer to say googbye to our baby?

First of all, rest assured that your baby's soul does not need any prayers for a merciful judgment or forgiveness from G-d, because - in its mission as your baby - it never committed any sins or mistakes, because it was never born. Rather, it completed its own mission perfectly, and it will definitely receive a spiritual benefit from that. As Torah teaches, in G-d's creation, every experience of a "going down" is only for the sake of a "going up." Even if the "going down" of a particular soul is only to the small extent of being associated with a physical fetus for a short time, the purpose of that is for sake of the "going up" which that soul will receive as a result.

The good thing you can do for the soul of your baby is to grow spiritually better, and closer to G-d, from this experience. Then the soul will look down and see that it was able to accomplish a great good, not only for itself, but also for you, the parents whom it was assigned for its mission.

And the very best thing you can do for the soul of your baby is to now do more deeds of goodness and kindness for others in this world, that you would not have done, or even thought to do, if you didn't go through this experience. Then one good deed leads to another, from yourselves and from the others you help, with a ripple effect of increasing goodness in the world that will continue forever. Since the main purpose of the whole creation is making this physical world a dwelling place for G-d's Essence through our observance of our commandments - serving G-d with happiness - and wholeheartedly doing goodness and kindness for others, that is an accomplishment that will surely make the soul of your baby very happy and proud of you.

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