At the Passover seder, we tell the story of our ancestors and the great freedom of the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt. The telling of the story is at the heart of our seder, and in the middle of Maggid, we read, “In each and every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as if he left Egypt. … Not only did the Holy One, blessed be He, redeem our ancestors, but also us [together] with them.”
According to Rabban Gamliel, we must each view ourselves as if we personally were redeemed from Egypt and freed from slavery. While it can be easy to remember the collective redemption of our people, achieving a sense of personal redemption can be deeply challenging, especially for those in our community struggling with infertility.
Infertility is a disease that causes individuals and couples to feel enslaved to their bodies, doctors, and all that they cannot control. The inability to conceive is an incredibly painful experience that creates emotional distress, financial burden, and feelings of shame and isolation.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks told us, “There may be rare saints for whom suffering is spiritual, but for most of us, affliction turns us in upon ourselves. Slavery, which begins by imprisoning the body, can end by narrowing the soul. We need freedom, a sense of inner spaciousness, to be able to reach out beyond our own immediate needs and breathe the air of a larger reality.” For those wrestling with infertility, emotional and spiritual affliction is real and alive, and the road to freedom can become a long and embittered path.
This Passover, when we eat matzah, the bread of affliction, along with maror, the bitter herbs, and dip karpas in salt water, let us remember not only the tears and affliction of our ancestors but the deep embitterment of our community members going through infertility. Their journey has not yet ended in the great freedom for which they so desperately hope, and just as the people of Israel embarked on their journey toward redemption together, we must unite around those suffering in our community and walk together with them on their journey until they are truly freed. Chag Sameach!
Anna Meyers Burke is Jewish Fertility Foundation-CINCY manager.