“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the LORD. Isaiah 54:1
The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 -11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1-55:5.
Weddings are always special. However, whenever I am blessed to attend a wedding in Jerusalem, I am particularly overwhelmed with emotions and joy. This is because a wedding in Jerusalem is not just a demonstration of the love between a couple and their commitments to each other; it is also a demonstration of God’s love for His people and His commitment to fulfilling the promises that He made long ago.
Let me explain. Recently, I attended a wedding that had a magnificent view of Jerusalem in the background. Underneath the wedding canopy stood the groom and his family. The groom was a Yemenite Jew. His grandparents and parents had been forced to leave Yemen after the state of Israel was declared a nation and all the Muslim countries around her declared war on the Jews. Then the bride walked down the aisle flanked by her parents. Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors who had moved to England after the war; her parents had moved to Israel when she was young.
As these two souls came together in matrimony, the significance went way beyond their individual lives. I could hear the words of the blessing we say on holidays and special occasions echoing in my mind: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment . . . .” So many miracles, over so many centuries, had brought us to that very moment!
At the end of this week’s Torah reading we read: “Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive” (Genesis 11:30). This week’s Haftorah reading begins, “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child . . . because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband . . .” Though Sarai was barren, God would keep His promise and she would become the mother of a great nation. Similarly, in the Haftorah, God was speaking to Jerusalem, who appeared barren and alone. God promised Jerusalem that once again, she would be the home of a great nation. In both cases, and always, God keeps His promises.
The Jewish sages teach that Sarah, as she was later named by God, was not physically capable of having children and that the birth of Isaac was a complete miracle. Yet, however unlikely it seemed, it happened because God said it would. For roughly two millennia it seemed utterly impossible for the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem, but they did because God said so.
Let us be strengthened and inspired as we watch the fulfillment of God’s promises before our very eyes. If a barren woman can become the mother of many, and the Jewish people can return to their homeland, imagine what is possible for us all!