We are both Barren

This week we read about the prayers of a childless Yitzchak and Rivkah. The image of this brokenhearted couple praying tearfully, alongside one another – is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. I imagine them crying in unison, both for the child they both long for and also in reaction to the unbearable anguish of witnessing a soulmate in deep pain.

Rashi cites a Talmudic reading from Yevamot 64a that seems to read this narrative similarly.

The Gemara suggests that the wording of the text, that Yitzchak prayed “Lenochach ishto” – opposite his wife, implies that HE too was barren and he was praying WITH her, not for her.

Praying for her would have been merely a prayer to end her barrenness so that they could both realize their dream of a family. Praying with her on the other hand is suggestive of a profound expression of pure love devoid of other motives. If you are barren I am barren as well. WE are barren.

This parallel romantic narrative is not simply a secondary alternative reading, to the contrary – it might very well have been the missing ingredient that would be the catalyst for the answering of their prayers. Their personal “chemistry” then – seen in this light, was actually the tipping point. The plea for a child that would fulfill their destinies, namely the deploying of the twelve tribes into this world – later to become the Jewish nation – needed to be supplemented by the simple and pure prayer of one heartbroken soul mate unable to bear the anguish of his beloved wife.

That tenderness would be the perfection of the spiritual alchemy in which the DNA of Jacobs soul was grounded.

Ironically- it was precisely Jacobs soul – wired by his parents love with an added dosage of HUMAN connectedness, that enabled the launching of the Jewish nation – a people eternally synonymous with DIVINE connectedness.

In sharing this idea with my dear friend Rabbi Alter Bukiet he reminded me of the following story of Reb Arye Levine, known affectionately as the Tzaddik of Jerusalem. Once at a Doctors appointment with his wife he began the meeting by stating “doctor we need your help, our foot is hurting.

With much Love

Rabbi Yossi

About the Author
Rabbi Yossi Lipsker is the co-founder and executive Director of Chabad of the North Shore and spiritual leader of the Chabad Community Shul. He can be reached at
Related Topics
Related Posts