Question: Having read the touching story of Abraham and Sarah’s, faith in G-d’s promise of a child, I must ask you: Can a woman above fifty years old, with a complete hysterectomy, who never gave birth, resign to renounce to pray for a child, and give up hope that G-d may decide, one day, to grant her prayer, without necessarily being exactly a Sarah, Rebbeca, Leah, Rachel, or Hannah?
Answer: Generally, our prayers should be for that which is within the range of possible. Prayer is like rain. It can cause the tree to grow, but it does not create a tree where there was none. There is a famous question regarding the blessing that Jacob gave to his grandsons, Menashe and Ephraim. He gives the greater blessing to Ephraim, the younger brother, over Menashe, the firstborn. Jacob explains that he is doing so because there will be a greater descendant from Ephraim (Joshua) than from Menashe (Yiftach). The question is why didn’t he bless Menashe that Joshua should be his descendant, or that Yiftach should be greater than Joshua? The answer is that blessings, like prayers, are meant to bring to fruition that which exists in potential, but it is not designed to change potential. He blessed Ephraim so that Joshua could emerge and become reality, but he did not approach reality as though reality needed to be changed.
My blessing and prayer for you is that you leave this world after 120 filled with the good deeds that you will be creating during your life for. As our Rabbis teach us: the real legacy of a person are the deeds that he or she has done during their lifetime. May you see the fulfillment of the verse in Isaiah 56:5.
Rabbi Ephraim Becker