Pesach: a crazy time of running around cleaning every room. Did I get all the chametz? What should I do with everything that is open? Any recipes? Where should I put the Pesach food, so it won’t be next to the chametz? These are the thoughts that we all have, as Pesach is approaching.

But for the woman going through infertility, the thoughts sound more like: Should we start another IVF cycle, or should we wait until after Pesach? I wonder how many people will see my bloated, matzah-filled belly and ask if I am expecting? Will I get the “B’ezrat Hashem, soon by you?” Maybe the, “Did you try_____?” “This segulah worked for my neighbor’s sister!” “Will you guys adopt?” “I bet if you relax, everything will be fine!” Let’s not forget those who come with children to the seder, helping them with their handmade haggadot, or helping them sing Ma-Nishtanah. And then there’s the stranger asking you “How many kids do you have?’” even though you are sitting with just your husband.

Well, Baruch Hashem, at least the cleaning is done, and now you can sit back, and enjoy the seder! However, the women sitting near you going through infertility, is giving a silent prayer to Hashem, hoping that next year she will be in Jerusalem…with her baby!


In this month of Nissan, we are reminded once again about the integral role children play in Judaism and its observance. The words we hear over and over again, והגדת לבנך , “and you shall tell your children,” can pierce like a dagger through the hearts of couples who struggle with infertility. They are a direct reminder of what these individuals want so desperately – a family. Those who experience infertility often feel like social outsiders, at least in some ways, especially in the family- and child-centered Jewish community. At best, they slip through the cracks; at worst, they endure many insensitive questions and comments from those who do not understand.

Approximately 1 in 6 couples suffer from infertility, which can manifest in a multitude of ways, from repeat miscarriages, stillbirth, primary or secondary infertility. These can be brought about by male factor or female factor infertility, and unknown causes. We bring this important issue to light because we know that mikveh can be a trigger point and an especially difficult time for those experiencing infertility or loss. By discussing this topic openly, we hope to enhance communal understanding and facilitate empathy for those who have not yet been blessed with children or who are struggling to expand their families.

As we approach Pesach, the commandment to recount the story of the exodus and teach it to our children can be particularly painful. But the requirement to share the story, and to celebrate our freedom as a nation, does not require having children. The Sages intended that everyone be an active participant at the Seder. The Rambam in Hilchot Chametz U’Matzah 7:1 points out “[The mitzvah to recount the exodus applies] even if one does not have a child.” The Rambam goes out of his way to mention the childless in order to reassure those who are not parents, or who may still be single, that they are not left out of this holiday.

One of the biggest challenges that couples face when they struggle to conceive is loneliness. That feeling that you’re the only one going through it can be hard to bear. For couples struggling with infertility, being in shul can be very painful.  For every baby that is born, at each brit or simchat bat, there is at least one person in the room desperately wishing it was happening to them. And those going through miscarriages or infertility may find mikveh to be especially challenging.

So how can we, each of us in our own communities, be more supportive? How can we create a more sensitive space that helps make those couples feel less alone?  When we know that someone is suffering from something that we cannot fix, many of us react by disengaging, because we don’t know what to say.

We shouldn’t make assumptions about why someone may or may not have children, and we should invite people in all different life stages, not just families, to our homes for Chag or Shabbat meals.

As we all start to clean our homes for every speck of chametz that our children may have hidden in the couch or behind the bookcases, be careful not to complain in public. Realize that there are some who pray to have such problems. Though everyone is faced in life with his or her own struggles, being sensitive to one’s neighbor’s situation and being mindful of one’s speech and actions goes a long way in reducing embarrassment, stress and causing unnecessary pain.

This year, let us work extra hard on being sensitive to everyone in our community.