Passover is a time when we celebrate transitioning from a family of individuals to a Jewish nation as a whole. But let’s take a moment to remember that the whole is made up of its parts; that each individual, couple and family unit is an important part of what makes us a people.
The Torah begins with the creation of the world, and the creation of humankind. The book of Genesis tells the stories of some pretty interesting individuals. We hear of marriages, of fertility struggles, of jealousy and strategic planning, brothers selling brother and brothers standing up for brothers.
The figures in the Chumash are a family comprised of both wonderful and flawed individuals that we can relate to and learn from as we read and learn their stories.
As we come to the Exodus, we start hearing about “the people,” and “the nation”; this nation was formed in the crucible of slavery. Seventy members of a family went down to Egypt; a nation of over 600,000 left Egypt. “With an outstretched arm” God saves the Jewish people.
There is tremendous potential, power and strength in becoming a people, in having a common formative experience. Jews around the world celebrate this watershed moment by having Passover seders that are filled with symbols and narratives. We are commanded to see ourselves as though we too left Egypt and to tell that story to our children, passing it down from generation to generation.
But we also want to make sure that we do not forget the individuals who make up this people. Before we achieved “peoplehood” we were a family, and each part of that family has a human experience to share. We are both a whole people, and made up of individual parts.
Infertility Awareness Shabbat is a way for all of us to take a pause; while we celebrate our wholeness, our peoplehood, we want to remember that everyone has his or her own story and experience that contributes to the whole.
Yesh Tikva, an organization that supports Jewish people facing infertility has designated the Shabbat of Rosh Hodesh Nissan, the New Month before Passover, as Infertility Awareness Shabbat.
Infertility Awareness Shabbat is a way for all of us to take a pause; while we celebrate our wholeness, our peoplehood, we want to remember that everyone has his or her own story and experience that contributes to the whole. At this time of year when we speak of “telling our children” the story of becoming a people, of the Exodus from Egypt, we should remember there are those whose journey towards building the family they want, the children they desire, is not always an unencumbered path.
Those with fertility challenges often struggle with feelings that their communities do not understand their private and personal experiences. They can feel lost or invisible within the greater whole, especially around holidays.
As the new month of Nissan begins on Saturday April 6, and we begin to prepare for Passover, let’s recognize and be sensitive to each individual and family, and the unique stories that are combined to form the tapestry of our one strong people.
Dr. Karen Wasserstein is a psychologist licensed in Maryland and Virginia. She specializes in working with individuals and couples undergoing fertility challenges.
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