Lazer Gurkow

Against All Odds

Against all odds, life came to be. For life to flourish on earth, such precise conditions had to be met that even a tiny variation would have thrown it off. What were the odds that such precise conditions would be met on earth? Considering that it is the only place in the universe that is conditioned just so, the odds are rather low. Yet, against all odds, our planet is conditioned for life.

Even with these conditions in place, life still had to come about. Today, there is a simple formula for life: one living being begets another. But what were the odds for life when there was absolutely no precedent? Considering that the formulation of a new life had never happened before and would never happen again, the odds are rather low. Yet against all odds, Adam and Eve were created.

In the year 1656 after creation, there was a terrible flood that wiped out all civilization and animal life. What were the odds that a single boat filled with the last human and animal survivors would survive the flood and touch down unharmed? Considering that they were the sole survivors of the flood, the odds were rather low. Yet, against all odds, they survived.

Several decades later, Sarah, a barren ninety-year-old woman, was desperate for a child. What were the odds that she would give birth? Considering that Sarah was the only ninety-year-old barren woman in history to give birth, the odds were rather low. Yet against all odds, she conceived and gave birth.

In addition, our matriarch Rachel and the mother of the prophet Samuel, Channah, were both desperate for children and both were unable to conceive. What were the odds that they too would conceive? Again, considering how rare it is for a barren woman to conceive naturally, one would think that the odds were rather low. Yet, against all odds, both gave birth.

A Day of Life
What do all these events have in common? They all occurred on Rosh Hashanah. Really? Yes!

The Talmud informs us that Sarah, Rachel, and Channah, all conceived on Rosh Hashanah. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of Creation, and Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of this day. The Torah tells us that the ark landed on the mountains of Ararat, in the seventh month.

Now the commentaries to the Torah agree that this referred to the seventh month after the flood. However, the Zohar, the seminal text of Jewish mysticism, interprets this as the month of Tishrei—the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, which begins on the day of Rosh Hashanah.

(The first day of the year falls in the seventh month because the Jewish calendar has two separate cycles. A cycle of months which begins in the month of Nissan and a cycle of years which begins in the seventh month of the year. Accordingly, Jewish mysticism teaches that the ark landed on the Ararat mountain in the seventh month, the month of Rosh Hashanah.)

This is consistent with our Rosh Hashanah liturgy: In the section that praises G-d for remembering us in our times of need, we recall several historical episodes when G-d remembered us in our times of need. The item that heads the list is G-d remembering Noah with mercy during the flood.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, detected a pattern here. Rosh Hashanah is a day when life flourishes against seemingly impossible odds. On the first Rosh Hashanah, G-d brought forth life despite the lack of any precedent. 1656 years later, G-d piloted a defenseless ship, cushioned it against collision with mountains, protected it against all harm, and guided it to a soft and safe landing against all odds.

On subsequent Rosh Hashanahs, G-d miraculously caused three barren women to conceive. All their children went on the make a profound impact on the Jewish people. Sarah gave birth to Isaac, one of our three Patriarchs. Rachel gave birth to Joseph, who paved the way for Jews to survive in Egypt. And Chanah gave birth to Samuel, the prophet who crowned Saul and David, the first two Jewish kings.

This tells us that Rosh Hashanah is conducive to the gift of life. Rosh Hashanah is so filled with life that it bursts forth despite all boundaries and restraints. On Rosh Hashanah, G-d has an overwhelming urge to grant life and all we need to do is ask. Thus, if you know someone who can use a blessing for childbirth, remember them on Rosh Hashanah.

Shanah Tova

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at
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