Tucked in a large 18th-century large prayer book I recently acquired, I found an 18th-century page containing a handwritten prayer composed by a woman in labor. Written in the first person, the prayer comes off as an impromptu, unscripted, and desperate plea of a woman who may have been unlearned but was deeply pious.
The text of the prayer is riddled with grammatical irregularities and comprises odd mix of verses and pleas. The impression one gets is that the woman combined all the traditional prayers, verses, phrases familiar to her in one long heartfelt plea.
The prayer translates loosely as: “Our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers: Have mercy on the daughters of Israel who are in labor, and among them, so and so, and I hereby beg and plea before you, thou compassionate and merciful, as your compassion is great. It is in your hand, G-d, who controls life, and do not reply via a messenger.
“May you recall your compassion and kindness, G-d, who desires life, to attend to me with compassion, and I shall give birth easily to 10 healthy children who shall come forth from above via the side of holiness. May it be fulfilled in me the verse that was said by King David of blessed memory: Out of my straits I called upon the Lord; He answered me with great enlargement.
“God is with me and I shall not fear. The one who heard the prayer of David, king of Israel, shall heed my prayer, and in the merit of my fathers and mothers, the one who responded to the prayers of our holy ancestors.”