JFF-BHM Shabbat Chanukah D’var Torah
While my husband, Brandon, and I have been blessed with a beautiful family, the road for us to get here has been far from what most of us in this room would term typical. Our story involves countless months of fertility drugs. Countless failed cycles. 2 egg retrievals, multiple surgeries, 5 frozen embryo transfers, 7 losses. 3 beautiful, healthy boys. 1 precious baby girl who didn’t make it due to a fatal diagnosis. Endless support from family, friends, and even people we’ve never met who also struggled with infertility. This is our family story, but it’s not that different from so many others struggling with infertility.
One in eight couples in the general population struggle with infertility, but this number is actually one in six in the Jewish population. The cost of fertility treatments can be astronomical and is often not covered by insurance. Chances are, if you look around this room, either you or someone close to you has likely been impacted by infertility. Looking all the way back to the Torah, we know multiple prominent females including Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Hannah all struggled with it. Infertility isn’t a new issue and families like my own who struggle with infertility do their best to hold onto hope, even during the darkest times. Infertility is draining, both financially and emotionally. It can be isolating, especially for those who are more private with their journey. But thankfully it’s now more acceptable to talk about it, and there are resources, like Jewish Fertility Foundation, to support people during their difficult journeys.
Tomorrow night, we will begin lighting our menorahs as we celebrate the beginning of Chanukah. Many of us will gather with family and friends, and as the smell of latkes and sufganiyot fills our homes, we celebrate the strength and triumph of our Jewish ancestors. The Maccabees achieved what seemed to be impossible in rising up against oppression and liberating their people and holy place of worship. And against all odds, as legend has it, the Maccabees witnessed a great miracle when oil for a menorah meant to last one night lit the Temple for eight. In my work at the Jewish Fertility Foundation, I am fortunate to witness such miracles for hopeful parents in our community every day. Against all odds, individuals and couples are growing their families through fertility treatments, surrogacy, adoption, and more. The journey to parenthood may be long and excruciating, but the stories I hear from clients remind me to never give up hope. As the Maccabees faced what seemed like insurmountable odds in fighting the Greek army, so in my work do I see couples who face what seem like insurmountable odds to become parents; as the Maccabees had to fight against those who oppressed them, so do I see couples fighting financial burdens, doubt, isolation, and even their own bodies; and as the Maccabees were able to witness a great miracle, so do I get to witness miracles when families who never thought they’d be able to have children get to hold their sons or daughters.
One interpretation of the Hanukkah story, according to Rabbi David Hartman, is that the true miracle of Hanukkah is that when they were rededicating the Temple, the Hasmoneans attempted to light the menorah at all. They could have just as easily said, “There’s not enough oil to light the menorah; let’s wait until we have enough to do so.” If they had, the
miracle would have never happened. Instead, they said, “We know there’s only enough for one night, but let’s light it for that one night and then go from there.” Just like the Maccabees, individuals and families struggling with infertility could give up– Instead, they try, sometimes again and again, for a miracle to occur. They somehow find the strength to keep “fighting” month after month, holding on to hope, even if just a little.
At Jewish Fertility Foundation, we provide financial grants, emotional support, and educational programming to individuals and couples diagnosed with infertility. All of these resources provide support to help build families. The babies born are true miracles. It is such a privilege to help give people hope and be an active participant in a miracle occurring- as both the Maccabees and those who struggle with infertility do. Like the Maccabees and the oil, even during the darkest times, even when it seems like hope is lost, we find enough light and keep maintaining hope.
During Chanukah, as we light our menorahs, adding light each night, I am hopeful that Jewish Fertility Foundation can be a glimmer of light in the darkness of those experiencing infertility. I am hopeful that our organization and community will be able to grow and thrive and become more inclusive in the coming year. If you or someone you know might benefit from what JFF offers, there is information available outside the sanctuary, or you are welcome to talk with me after services. Personally and professionally, I am going to keep reminding myself that what seems impossible may not be so impossible after all, especially with the support of our community and a little faith. Just like the Maccabees, I hope everyone is able to find a glimmer of light in the darkness. I hope that the light burning in each of our windows will remind us of the strength we find when we stand together as Jewish people and never give up on hoping for a miracle. Chag urim sameach!