Wombs

Wombs

This week, Rabbanit Yemima was talking about wombs.

In Hebrew, she pointed out, the word for compassion, Rachamim, is always plural. The plural of womb, or wombs.

And that is what she thinks of when she thinks of compassion, she told us. She thinks of dozens, hundreds, thousands of wombs, one next to the other. Women, women, women, caring for one another, praying for one another, loving one another. Each with her own hardships. Each with her own struggles.

And then Rabbanit Yemima asked each woman attending her class to turn to the woman sitting beside her, place her hands on that woman’s head, and bless her and pray for her. Unfortunately, I was listening to a recording, so I was all alone (unless my washer and dryer count), but I stopped right there on my porch, and turned my heart to the womb next door.

My dear neighbor Miriam, a young grandmother, became a widow the day before this past Yom Kippur. I saw when the ambulance arrived, and when the chevra kadisha came several hours later to remove her beloved husband’s body. I was at the funeral that night, and at the shiva the next day. But for some reason, I never cried for Miriam, for her grief, for her loneliness, for her marriage cut short so abruptly and irrevocably, until this week, listening to Rabbanit Yemima’s class, standing by my washer and dryer, thinking about wombs.

As the tears poured down, I prayed that Miriam should be healthy, that she should have nachat from all her children and grandchildren, that Hashem should bring her comfort, that she should…(should I dare?) find love again. Find a zivug shanee to build a second floor to the solid, joyous home which she built with her first husband, Yisrael.

Womb, to womb, to womb.

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This morning, when I walked into the supermarket, there was a boy, around 10 years old, waiting at the entrance.

“Geveret, are you planning to spend 300 shekels at the supermarket?”

Questions like this are common at Israeli supermarkets. Needy families receive cards to buy food at the supermarket, but they trade them in for cash instead.

I was in a rush to get started on my Shabbat shopping and brushed him off with a quick, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

I walked towards the tomatoes, but then I looked back at the child. Peyos down to his shoulders, black velvet kippah, cappuccino complexion. He was pleading his case to someone else. “We don’t live near here” he explained, with a confidence beyond his years, and a slight tremble of embarrassment or maybe fear of a young boy.

And I thought of this boy’s mother, who had sent him on a bus. From distant Neve Yaakov? Or even Beitar or Elad?

I thought of the 300 NIS she needed urgently to buy a winter coat for a child, to pay the rent for their crowded, 4th floor apartment, to pay the electricity bill so there would be heating in the baby’s room this winter.

And I told the boy, “Come here, I will help you out.”

Womb, to womb, to womb.

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Yesterday was the first day I didn’t nurse Yonatan. He is turning 2 next week. He is done with nursing.

And for me, this is the end of an era. I got pregnant with my oldest child when I was 25, and next month I will turn 45. 20 years, TWENTY YEARS, of a nearly unbroken chain of pregnancy and nursing following by pregnancy and nursing. I look at these children I’ve grown within me and nourished with my own body, and am in awe.

My womb has retired. In a certain sense.

But not entirely. The compassion, for my children, for my loved ones, for those around me, remains.

Rachamim.

Womb, to womb, to womb.

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6 comments

  1. Beautiful and inspiring!

    Thank you!

  2. Warmly-written stories! I can find myself in these stories. My twins are turning 10 at the end of December, and a day after their birthday is my 48th. And, having also younger daughter, I can feel Womb, to womb, to womb, compassion for my children, for my loved ones, for those around me. Thank you Chana Jenny.

  3. This post is so beautiful and it moved me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your life with us. I’m grateful to be in the sisterhood of wombs with you, Chana Jenny.

  4. I stopped to think about my neighbor to bless her too. And Chana Jenny, being done with nursing and pregnancies, WOW. That part of your life is where you have reached so many of us. It’s like a new era is starting and may Hashem rain bracha on you and all those children that you carried in your womb. Thanks for davening for my womb to open up again too.

  5. You hit the nail on the head-so beautifully expressed-moved me to tears-sooooo much blessings that we should all feel as safe in Hashems hands as a baby in his mommies womb!

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