Yirmiya Perek 13
In perek 13 passuk 21, we refer to our suffering (and punishments) as birth pains. This is not the only time such a metaphor is used; it appears in the ‘Alei Tziyon’ kinnah of Tisha B’Av too. What does such a metaphor teach us?
The idea is that our suffering and tragedies have a hand in bringing the ultimate redemption. Each bit of suffering cleanses us and is a test whereby we can strengthen our faith in Hashem. Ultimately, the suffering moves us closer to the redemption.
Using an insight from his mashgiach Rav Dessler, Rav Avigdor Neventzal echoes our idea through an insight into the pre-birkas hamazon Shir Hamaalos. There it says 'When Hashem returns to Zion, we were like dreamers, then our mouths will be full of laughter.' Why does it say 'We were dreaming' in the past tense, if the entire paragraph is referring to the future event of redemption? Rav Neventzal answers that once the redemption comes, we will be able to look back at our history and see that all the past pains were not really pains at all – they were steps necessary to bring about the redemption. And just like someone in a deep dream does not feel, but only imagines, physical pain, we will see that the pains we endured were in reality a step to redemption.
This is the idea of birth pains. When a woman is in labor, her pains are genuinely painful, but it is those pains which allow the baby to come out into the world. In short, the pains cause the redemption.