Reprinted by permission of the author from A Ceremonies Sampler (Woman’s Institute for Continuing Jewish Education), edited by Elizabeth Resnick Levine.
We created this ceremony to help us mourn and accept our inability to conceive a biological child, to share our disappointment with friends and family, and to enable us to move ahead with our lives after infertility. We have drawn from Jewish sources that deal with themes related to barrenness, death, bondage, freedom, and transitions.
We hope to counter the insensitivity found in traditional Jewish interpretations of childlessness as a test of faith, divine punishment, or grounds for a husband to divorce his wife. Individuals and couples who share our fate should try to personalize this service by telling about their own experiences and selecting materials that are meaningful to them. Creating the service together proved to be as healing to us as conducting it before a group of our friends and relatives.
Naming of the Ceremony
Seder means “the order (of the service).” Though kabbalat usually refers to the “welcoming” of Shabbat [Sabbath], it also connotes accepting, crying out against, and consoling. Ahkaroot means infertility or barrenness. Thus, Seder Kabbalat Ahkaroot signifies the order of rituals for crying out against, consoling ourselves about, and ultimately accepting the loss of our dream to have a biological child.
Opening of Ceremony and Tashlikh
With meditative music in the background, the guests read an explanation of why we chose to create the service. Then they listened to a part of Bonnie Raitt’s song, “Nick of Time,” which deals with delayed parenthood and the aging process. The first reading was the passage about Hannah’s infertility from I Samuel: 1-10, which ends with: “And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.” We jointly responded:
“We, too, have wept and felt the anguish of Elkanah and Hannah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Rachel, the moment they feared they might never have children. We are haunted by the cry of Rachel to Jacob: ‘Give me children or I shall die’ (Genesis 30:1).”