After Adam and Chava went against the Will of HaShem, HaShem seems to give them some repercussions for their deeds. But why was it that HaShem said to Chava: 'I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children.' What has giving birth to do with this all?

That her desire shall be to her husband, so he shall rule over her desire seems logical after she went after her own desire. Even what HaShem told Adam seems to fit the whole context.

The only point I can't figure out is the reason for adding pain and travail to the birth giving process.

4 Answers 4


Rav Hirsch translates Bereishis 3:16

אֶל־הָֽאִשָּׁ֣ה אָמַ֗ר הַרְבָּ֤ה אַרְבֶּה֙ עִצְּבוֹנֵ֣ךְ וְהֵֽרֹנֵ֔ךְ בְּעֶ֖צֶב תֵּֽלְדִ֣י בָנִ֑ים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָתֵ֔ךְ וְה֖וּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּֽךְ:

But to the woman He had said: Thy renunciation and thy conception will I make greater still, with renunciation shalt thou bear children; and unto thy husband shall thy longing be, and he shall rule over thee.

Rav Hirsh point out that

עצבון: only a mental pain and hurt feeling or worry. If it does once occur with physical bodily pain it refers to the result of pain on one's mind and feeling.


So that עצב is the feeling that we have to give up something that we would have liked to keep, or to have obtained: renouncing, foregoing.

Rav Hirsch also points out that this is a follow-on to what had already been said to Adam. Note that Rav Hirsch starts the pasuk with But to the woman He had said which means that this is what had been said to the woman, just as the curse of labor had been said to Adam.

"But to the woman He had said: thy renunciation and thy conception will I let be still greater". The fact that the speech to the woman did not start with כי עשית זאת already shows that it is only a continuation of what had already been said to Adam. Of the עצבון of the man, the wife is, to the greatest part, free. Not by the sweat of her brow has she to gain her bread. But her renunciation is still a greater one. The whole life of a woman, from her earliest girlhood, is a life full of sacrifice, giving herself up for others, and then הרונך comes, when the woman gives up her whole existence to make her own flesh and blood a contribution for a new human growth. בעצב תלדי בנים, there is no higher happiness than to have children, and this highest happiness can only be bought with the greatest sacrifice.

Rav Hirsch explains that by disobeying Hashem's command, Adam and Chava changed nature and could only get what they need and desire by work and renunciation.

Until then Man knew no wrong, and no renunciation. But now for Man nature is no longer at on with his wishes as it was previously, he must wrest everything from her, and only by renunciation, by giving up one thing, one enjoyment, can he obtain another


Mankind, who really had only themselves to thank for the hard struggle for existence which now prevails, forgot that the cause for it lay in themselves, and imagined themselves surrounded by inimical powers and forces who maliciously made life hard and took pleasure in the toil and worry of men.

  • Thanks for the insight but it still doesn't show how this is connected to the sin of taking from the tree of good and evil (wrong) while HaShem told them not to do so. I would like to know how this pain that Chava has to endure is connected with this, how was this a proper or logical result or consequence?
    – Levi
    Aug 12, 2017 at 8:47
  • @Levi According to Rav Hirsch, it is the same as the punishment of Adam and is a matter of the renunciation of Hashem's command leading to the pain of having to feel the pain caused by nature. Aug 13, 2017 at 2:10
  • @Levi I will add a citation from Rav Hirsch that goes into this. The entire section in Rav Hirsch that explains this was too long to copy into a posting. Aug 13, 2017 at 2:19
  • Do you have an online source with Rav Hirsch, or do you just type it out? I notice that you quote him a ton. Aug 8, 2018 at 11:30
  • 1
    I copy Rav Hirsch from the translation by his grandson. If there is an online version, I do not know where it is. @רבותמחשבות Aug 12, 2018 at 13:43

An interesting explanation is that according to R. Yosef Bechor Shor, it seems like the punishment was not that the birthing process was made painful, but instead that the birthing process was added, and it happens to be painful. According to him, before eating from the tree there was no need for any giving birth at all. Since there was no death, there was no need to replenish the world with more people. So if they hadn't eaten from the tree there would be no giving birth at all. The curse was that now that there is death in the world, it will be necessary to give birth. That giving birth is a painful process is simply the natural state of affairs, rather than a specific aspect of the curse. The curse is to have to give birth which is a direct consequence of eating from the tree.

Commentary to Genesis 3:16

כמה גרמת לך רעות עד השתא לא היית צריכה לילד שהרי לא הייתם ראויים למות אבל מעתה צריכה את לילד שהרי מתים אתם אם לא תולידו הרי העולם כלה [עד] שתמותו ולפיכך [הרבה] ארבה הרונך והוא עצבונך כי בעצב תלדי בנים כי כמה צערים בבנים צער ההריון וצער הלידה וצער הגידול ואל תדמי בעצמך לומר אבטל מצוות הפריה כמו שבטלתי מצות עץ הדעת שלא אזקק לבעלי לכך נאמר ואל אישך תשוקתך שתהא מתאוה לו ואם תאמר אכבוש את יצרי מפני הצער לכך נאמר והוא ימשול בך ויקחך בעל כרחך


There are two different consequences spoken to the woman in Genesis 3:16:

And to the woman He said, "I will make most severe your pangs in childbearing; in pain shall yo bear children... (JPS)

אל-האשה אמר הרבה ארבה עצבונך והרנך בעצב תלדי בנים

The first is the obvious עצבונך והרנך, which is the physical pain of childbirth.

The second is בעצב תלדי בנים, which speaks more to the issues of raising a child. For example, after childbirth there will be the "terrible twos." Both are painful and yet the second type is different from the first.

בעצב is the less common word. A good example of the context in Genesis is found in Psalm 127:

1 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. 3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (BRG)

Rising up early or staying up late to eat the bread of "sorrows" describes a condition a parent will experience while a child grows. This is intermittent and reoccurring pain and different from the pain of childbirth; it can be physical and/or mental. It could be considered "mental anguish."

For the first woman and man, their rebellion led to their expulsion from the garden. In essence HaShem gave them what they wanted, mastery over their life. Instead of eating fruit HaShem provided, the man now had to provide his own food; instead of bringing forth children in the Garden, the woman brought forth children outside. There she would experience both types of pain: the pain of childbirth and the pain of child rearing.

There is also a prophetic element to HaShem's words. When Cain killed Abel, the woman was not physically hurt by Cain's blow(s) on Abel. She experienced none of the physical pain as she did during childbirth. Yet we know she experienced an even greater pain as on one day she lost both of her sons, one to physical death, the other to banishment. Undoubtedly, this pain did not subside or ever become a "thing of the past" as the pains from childbirth had.


There is a concept that our world mirrors the spiritual worlds. Shiurei Daas speaks of this at length.

Based on that we can can give the following explanation. Before man sinned, the man's relationship with G-d was based on a paradigm of Hashem giving and man obeying his will. After the sin, the paradigm shifted to Hashem giving to a rebellious being.

In order to parallel that, our world also needed to have an element of selfless and even self-harming giving. That is parenthood.

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