Infertility and pregnancy loss (miscarriage, termination, stillbirth and neonatal death) affect a significant proportion of our community, both women and men. While biblical narrative shows a range of reactions to infertility, the idea that a child is a blessing, or even a reward from God, can be unhelpful for people struggling with childlessness. Meanwhile, standard Jewish liturgy is completely silent, as though these issues are too painful to be confronted, even in prayer. Our prayer books must offer support and spiritual guidance to individuals at times of crisis. The article concludes with some new liturgy, and with relevant readings and prayers, adapted for the purpose, from existing prayer books.
Gwendolen Burton is a musician, ba’alat tefillah (service leader), and a part-time academic student at Leo Baeck College, who won the John Rayner Prize for this article.