Many of us are familiar with this verse from Tehilim 113:9 (part of the Hallel service which we say on most holidays including Rosh Chodesh as well as in Religious-Zionist circles on Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim) “Moshivi akeret habayit, em habin smeacha, Halleluya”, “He transforms the barren wife into a glad mother of children. Halleluya.”
The midrash, Psikta deRav Kahana 20 teaches:
There are seven women who are called akara (barren): Sarah. Rivka, Leah, Rachel, Manoach’s wife (Shimshon’s mother), Chana and Zion (Jerusalem).
The midrash then goes through the different verses which show us how each of these women made the transition from being childless to having children:
Sarah (Breisheet 11:30) is described as akara, “Sarai was barren, she had no child” and later (Breisheet 21:7) after the birth of Yitzchak “She said ‘Who would have said to Avraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have given birth in my old age.’”
Concerning Rivka we read, (Breisheet 19:21) “Yitzchak prayed to God opposite his wife for she was barren. God granted his prayer and Rivka, his wife, conceived.”
Breisheet 29:31 states that “God saw that Leah was the hated wife and opened up her womb…” In Breisheet 30:20, Leah declares “…Now my husband will make his main home with me, for I have borne him six sons.”
In Breisheet 29:31, Rachel is called an akara, “…and Rachel remained barren.” Later, (Breisheet 35:24) we read in the listing of the tribes: “The sons of Rachel were Yosef and Binyamin.”
Manoach’s wife, Shimshon’s mother’s story is found in Shoftim 13:3, “An angel of God appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold now- you are barren and have not given birth, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.’”
We read about Chana in Shmuel Alef 1:2 “…Pnina had children but Chana had no children.” In Shmuel Alef, 2:21, we see that not only did Chana give birth to Shmuel, but she had other children as well: “For God had remembered Chana and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters (in addition to) the boy Shmuel who grew up with God.”
Concerning Zion (Jerusalem), Yishayahu 54:1 states “Sing out of barren one who has not given birth, break into glad song and be jubilant, you who have not been in birth’s travail.” And in Yishayahu 49:21 we read “And you will say in your heart, ‘Who has begotten me these? For I have been bereaved and alone, an exile and a wanderer- so who has reared these? Behold, I had been left by myself; where are these from?”
Why is Jerusalem on the list of the barren women?
Just as our foremothers who were unable to conceive were blessed to give birth to the leaders of Israel, so too should Jerusalem no longer be desolate, but rather filled with her children.
On Yom Yerushalayim, this Saturday night and Sunday, we will see how true this prophecy has become. Jerusalem will be crowded with her children, the Jewish people who will fill the streets singing and dancing, thanking God for the opportunity to live in and rebuild Jerusalem.
In the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) at a marriage ceremony we recite, “Sos tasis v’tagel ha’akara, b’kibutz baneha l’tocha b’simcha”, “Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are you God, who gladdens Zion through her children.”
May all those who are waiting to have a child be blessed like our foremothers and the City of Jerusalem.
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