We are created to witness and embrace heartache.
A close friend of mine relayed an experience she encountered at the mikveh. The mikveh is a pool of water used for ritual purposes. Women and men immerse in the mikveh before their wedding, women immerse after their monthly cycle, and often the mikveh is used to help a person reemerge into life after a struggle or setback.
At the mikveh, my friend noticed a pregnant woman sitting next to another woman. The woman was marveling over her pregnant friend’s belly, feeling the kicks and pokes from the ever-crowded baby, and both had tears streaming down their face. It was clear that the pregnant woman was in her last weeks and would soon deliver.
While it is a custom for pregnant women to go to the mikveh in their ninth month, it seemed odd that these two friends were going to the mikveh together. My friend later found out that the there is a segulah, a mystical tradition for a pregnant woman to first immerse in the mikveh and subsequently, a woman that is struggling with infertility to immerse after. The idea and hope it is that the currents of fertility are somehow transferred to the woman praying for a child. And whether or not we believe this has any effect on fertility, there is much power in another person recognizing and holding the pain of another.
When someone is struggling to get pregnant or has miscarried, what do we do? Often our inadequacies in conversation hold us back and we are afraid to reach out. When someone is ill or financially distraught, how do we reach past our inhibitions and offer support and care? Perhaps we are afraid that our own blessings will further weigh down someone else. Or perhaps we are scared that someone else’s struggles will contribute to our own. But my mind wanders back to the story above: two women embracing and lifting each other. One marveling over the baby that will soon enter her friend’s life and the other whispering to her friend that she is not forgotten through her strife.
In the story of creation, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We are not meant to travel the journey of life in solitude, facing our hardships in isolation. Be it through blessing or sorrow, may we reach out and thank God that we have each other.