A Meditation from
A Meditation from Fertility Journeys: A Jewish Healing Guide
Who is Mighty:
One way to address any feelings of stigma is to contemplate your understanding of masculinity. You may want to meditate on the following teaching from Ethics of Our Fathers 4:1
אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי טז) טוֹב אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם מִגִּבּוֹר וּמשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ מִלֹּכֵד עִיר.
Eyzehu gibor? Hakovesh et yitzro.
Who is mighty? He who overcomes his inclination, as it says, “Slowness to anger is better than a mighty person and the ruler of his spirit than the conqueror of a city.” (Proverbs 16:32).
Albeit anathema to western culture, the Rabbis are committed to an ideal of true heroism that is achieved through moral, conscientious living. In other words, masculinity is not tied to your sperm count, motility, morphology, rather, it is more closely associated with the positive decisions you make, the courage to face real challenges, how you live your life and treat others.
While this may sound cliche, even patronizing, many believe it to have merit, and can be extremely challenging to internalize. Perhaps you have heard such a message in the past. Perhaps you have heard it repeatedly but do you really believe it? It takes perseverance and determination to erode years of negative messaging, which has been societally reinforced in ways both overt and subtle. This is a long process, and you may wish to check in with yourself periodically to note how you are faring.
One question to ask yourself: How comfortable are you with others knowing about your fertility struggles? Are you affected by the boasts of other men (in person or on TV)? Do you still feel the sense of stigma attached to your physical condition? What helps diminish such feelings?
Throughout this process, you may want to meditate on this teaching by using the following guided imagery.
Breathe in and exhale three times. As you exhale, allow yourself to fall into a more comfortable position and a peaceful mental space. Ask yourself: אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר eyzhe hu gibor/ who is mighty?
Invite in your mind images of men that you admire. They may be people that you know personally, historical or religious figures, or people who have achieved fame or recognition for their accomplishments. As you think about these men, you may want to choose a few, to focus on. Envision these men in your mind’s eye and ask yourself why you chose them. What character traits do they exhibit that place them in a heroic category for you? As you contemplate these traits in your mind, ask yourself how many of these traits do you possess?
Now consider that these men had a biological issue making it hard for them to conceive. How does that impact your vision of them if at all? Is their masculinity compromised in any way? When you feel like you have explored these questions, breathe in and exhale fully.
You may want to remind yourself of these men in low moments during your fertility struggle. You may also want to recite the phrase about who is mighty as a mantra and work to further internalize it.