Our matriarchs make fleeting appearances in the Rosh Hashanah Torah and Haftarah reading through laughter, tears and prayer. Sarah laughs in reaction to God’s promise of a son late in life, Chanah prays fervently demanding of God the blessing of a child, and in Jeremiah’s prophetic vision, God offers words of comfort, responding to Rachel’s tears for her exiled children.

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The Weepimg Woman (Picasso 1937)

Yet their stories are not reported to us in full. We are left wondering about Sarah’s unmentioned tears over her many years of infertility and Chana’s laughter when rejoicing at her son’s birth. The untold part of the story presents an opportunity for us to try to step into our matriarchs’ shoes, to imagine their experiences and to empathise with their feelings. Perhaps this exercise can sensitise us to the unheard laughters, unshed tears and silent prayers within our own community.

May this New Year be blessed with an abundance of jubilant laughter, tears of joy and prayers of thanksgiving for all.

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