Infertility – A Woman’s Silent Prayer

On the first day of Rosh Hashana we read the story of Hannah, a woman who faces the pain and suffering of being infertile, like many of our matriarchs. The first chapter of Samuel 1 begins with “vayehi ish,” “there was a man” describing Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, yet very little of this story is about him. The first time Hannah’s name is mentioned it is in relation to her husband, and the second time is to say she is barren, as compared to Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah. The chapter sets the scene for how society was structured and what societal pressures might be placed on her, even in these two passages.

In addition to the constant reminders of her infertility that she faced at home, she and her whole family travel to Shiloh to give sacrifices at the Mishkan, where inevitably she will see many children and pregnant bellies. Her husband asks, “Am I not better to you than ten children?” Elkanah is expressing his unconditional love for her, which, while romantic, is not very empathetic…