I read an article today that made me cry. The topic itself was reasonably lighthearted – a secular woman who takes pictures of ultra-Orthodox/Haredi women and is putting together both a show and a book about her experience. And then there’s this little gem.
At the Western Wall, she photographed a cane-toting woman who told her she came to pray every day for 25 straight years to beg God for children.
Thanks for that, Jewish Week!
It brought to the forefront something that I’ve been struggling with for a while in terms of what it means to be a person of faith and struggling with infertility. There is such a temptation to fall on your knees and cry to the heavens, “WHY ME?” Especially when it comes to the zillions of people all around me who get pregnant at the drop of a hat, whether they want to or not. What do they have that I don’t?
The reality is that I don’t really know how God operates. I do believe that much of the hurt and tragedy in the world comes from God’s love of freewill – that he loves freewill so much that he allows terrible things to happen. It doesn’t explain everything, but it helps.
The other thing I believe is that despite everything, God is there for comfort. No matter how much I didn’t appreciate being blindsided by that article, being able to cry about it was actually a good experience in the end – clarifying. I’ve had a couple of comport experiences in the last few weeks. Times where I haven’t really been thinking about things, and something has just struck me as so perfect that my breath is taken away.
The first two happened at Friday night Shabbat services, on different weeks.
Every week, our congregation (which happens to be Sephardi – tracing it’s ancestry to Spain or North Africa), sings Psalm 23. I was drifting through it (as I do – it’s really beautiful), and a passage spoke to me. [Presented in translation here]
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me,
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me
Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine adversaries,
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for length of days
Despite the reference to death that comes right before that – it spoke to me in a way that eased some of the ache in my heart.
The second one happened the next week, at the end of the main section of the prayer service (although before the reading of the psalm) – in a section that I love anyway, but that just felt more meaningful that week. I edit it for my own use – it’s a silent meditation.
Open my heart through Thy Torah,
That my soul may follow Thy commandments
Do so for the glory of Thy name.
Do so for Thy power.
Do so for Thy Torah.
Do so for Thy holiness.
Answer my prayer, and save me through Thy strength.
The last one is from the blessing we say after eating a meal. I say it all the time, which is what I mean about ordinary words taking on more meaning.
Our God, Our Father, tend and nourish us, sustain us and maintain us, and grant us relief soon, HaShem, our God, from all of our troubles.
Do not allow us to become dependent, HaShem our God, on gifts from flesh and blood, but rather on Your full, open, ample and generous hand,
Something about those passages became something more than just well-familiar words to me. As long as a I can keep those in mind, it drives away some of the ache, keeps me from feeling so desperate for help. God is with us. I just have to keep remembering that.