Resources for Clergy and Spiritual Care Providers
Preparing for the High Holidays with (in)fertility in mind
High Holiday Prayers and Readings
The High Holidays (HHD) are filled with themes and traditions connected to birth and fertility – celebrating the birth of the world, the story of the birth of Isaac, and traditions of celebrating babies born in the past year. This focus provides opportunities to build awareness, but can also be challenging for someone facing family building challenges. Here are some sermon ideas you can utilize to build awareness and sensitivity about infertility issues.
- Hannah’s prayer for a child as the basis for all prayer
- God’s power shown through control of fertility.
- God’s connection to each individual being involved in the creation of each new life
Rosh Hashanah and Birth Acknowledgements
Rosh Hashanah is the day on the Jewish calendar that we begin marking the days of the year. The day is considered to be the anniversary of the birthday of the world. In light of this, many congregations include some kind of recognition of the new babies who came into their congregation over the past year. If your congregation follows this tradition, add acknowledgements that while we are celebrating these births and adoptions that have occurred, we also keep in mind those who are struggling with infertility. The world is constantly changing and being renewed, and so too we hope that their lives continue in ways that brings them joy and meaning, however their journeys unfold.
High Holidays and Pregnancy Loss
Pregnancy loss is hard anytime of the year. During the High holidays, with focus on birth, pregnancy and infertility in the text, along with family gatherings and traditions can bring back the pain. Then their are memorials for lost loved ones, but not for the lost pregnancy. Check out this guide for ways your community can provide support to those remembering pregnancy losses. If not this year, you will have a plan for the future.
Spiritual Care Training Seminar for Infertility and Family Building Challenges
ON-LINE SEMINARS COMING AFTER THE HIGH HOLIDAYS. STAY TUNED FOR DATES AND REGISTRATION INFORMATION!
This seminar demystifies the experience of infertility, explores the emotional and spiritual issues surrounding it, and provides tools for clergy to help people who are experiencing infertility and other fertility challenges.
“I am so grateful for the Hasidah Rabbinic Training! I’ve known many people who have struggled with infertility, and this training was an important opportunity to frame the issues of infertility in a Jewish context, raise awareness about infertility in the Jewish community, and learn best ways to support individuals through their difficult journeys.” Rabbi Nicki Greninger
“Sensitivity, awareness, knowledge, support, care, compassion, education, connection, community, and spirituality were hallmarks of this interactive educational program.” Rabbi Jeffrey Kaye
Please email us if you would like to bring a Spiritual Care Clergy workshop to your community.
Resources for Spiritual Care Providers
Have you written a ritual or a prayer, lead a program or given a dvar Torah on this topic? Please consider sharing with us so others can have access to easy to use resources to bring sensitivity and support to their community. Send all items and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources for Members of Your Community
Hasidah has a growing bank of spiritual care resources you can share with community members. One to make part of your regular marital counseling is Preparing to Grow Your Family: Premarital Counseling Handout. Some of the other most appreciated resources for people facing infertility are available here.
Torah on Infertility and Family Building Challenges
A Drash Once the New Year Begins
Sensitivity to Others
Parshat Toldot: Genesis 25:19-28:9; Malachi 1:1-2:7.
By Rabbi Megan Brudney
Originally published in Detroit Jewish News
It is so exciting to finally arrive at the beginning of a new year. Everything seems so fresh and full of promise, like we have a new shot to approach life just right and make it whatever we want this time around.
As we begin the Torah anew, the vivid stories of Genesis (so relatable, so poignant) throw us valuable lessons about how to act, how to treat other people and, of course, how to avoid common relationship pitfalls. The timing is perfect.
This week, as we read Toldot, the portion opens with Isaac and Rebecca unsuccessfully attempting to conceive. We read that “Isaac pleaded to Adonai on behalf of his wife because she was barren; and Adonai responded to his plea, and his wife Rebecca conceived” (Genesis 25:21).
Although the Torah text singles out Isaac’s prayer, Rashi imagines both in one room, across from each other. It’s a lovely vignette, individual and yet shared hopes prayed mightily, simultaneously.
Several commentators further remark on the depth and sincerity of Isaac’s prayer, leaving an impression of a couple truly united in their desire for a child.
As the Torah tells it, that is enough to make their wish come true. It’s tidy, simple and, in this telling, even seems easy. In this lone verse we learn of the problem, the solution and the happy result. It’s a brisk, linear progression that ultimately serves as the setup to a larger story.
Unfortunately, this pat portrayal of the challenge of infertility does not reflect the reality lived by most people experiencing it. Rather, it is a sensitive, painful journey that quickly becomes all-consuming — and, moreover, is typically suffered in silence. (Particularly if the person already has one or more children.) Well-meaning but thoughtless comments (“We’re all waiting for big news!” “Isn’t it time you had another?”) become stinging barbs, forcing someone to conceal or confront their own struggle while in their office at work, in line at Target or at a party.
Please, if these are comments you have found yourself making, consider the feelings they might evoke in the listener. Consider finding other topics to discuss that are less likely to ignite the sense of powerlessness and shame to which infertility often leads. Your choice of conversation starters can make a big difference to someone walking a difficult path.
Most of all, if you yourself are contending with infertility, please know that there is support in the Jewish community. If you have a rabbi you trust, reach out and let her be there for you.
Hebrew Free Loan offers financial support for fertility treatments as well as for adoption. Hasidah, a national organization, offers financial support, too, as well as a wide variety of resources.
Isaac did the right thing by standing with Rebecca and lifting his voice in prayer. Let’s emulate him in 5780 by growing in our own sensitivity and support for those struggling with infertility today.
Rabbi Megan Brudney is a rabbi at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township.