Psalm 113

He sets the childless woman among her household as a happy mother of children. (113:9)

On Rosh Hodesh (the new month), Festivals, and Hanukkah, the prayer service is supplemented by a set of six Psalms known as Hallel, beginning with Psalm 113 and continuing through Psalm 118. The Psalmist speaks of celebration and thankfulness, particularly the joy that comes from emerging from a period of suffering or stress. By no means will every childless couple seeking to conceive find their prayers answers, nor will every needy person be lifted out of crisis. Those who find themselves in a financial hole, through hard work and a good attitude and a willingness to make sacrifices, will very likely find themselves in a more secure place. However, no amount of good spirits and sacrifice will necessarily help the couple suffering infertility who cannot afford the expense of medical intervention or adoption. Nonetheless, the Psalmist believes that it is still possible for such a couple to find happiness. Of those whose hearts ache with the lost opportunity to raise a child in their home, some will find that happiness with nieces and nephews. Some will be teachers. Some will serve the community by leading youth services or coordinating youth group activities.

Jewish tradition says that one who teaches and guides a child towards responsible maturity is a parent to that child. This is not meant to be a facile response to those mourning infertility, nor should our verse be read as a promise that if you have enough faith, God will miraculously wave away your inability to conceive. For some, childlessness is a medical condition that no amount of prayer can cure. However, I hope that our Jewish community treats such people with sensitivity and compassion and our Psalmist has faith that such couples can eventually find their way to happiness.

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