"The child will not be of our seed, and there will be some sadness in that because I love your face and your mind and your family--and I know you love mine. But, Abraham, we could still love this child with all our hearts, and teach him about our family, and about God, and share with him all the values we most cherish in the world. We could build him, Abraham, to be our son, to be the son who would share our dreams and goals. Don't you think we can fulfill God's covenant in this way?
And there was a woman named Hagar,
who lived in a far off land, and she bore a son whom she named Yishmael, which means "God will hear." And she prayed that God would indeed hear her cries, because she was a poor woman, and had no means of supporting her beautiful and healthy son. And God heard her cries, and sent her two messengers. And they said to her, "Hagar, there is a wonderful couple who have a beautiful home and are blessed by God in many ways, but they have no child and are deeply pained. They would love to bring up your son as their own, and shower him with love and many blessings. They will provide a wonderful home for your son, and they will teach him to be a good person, full of the love of God. Will you give him to them?"
And Hagar said yes, for though she loved her son, she knew she could never give him the home that he needed. And so, one month after he was born, Yishmael was brought to Sarah and Abraham, and became their son. But they gave him a new name, a name that reflected their joy at having a child. They named him Yitzhak, which means, "He will laugh." And he did laugh...and his parents laughed with him.
"Abraham, Abraham! Look at this beautiful child. How wonderful he is to kiss! How wonderful he is to hug! Hold him, Abraham. Isn't it the most wonderful feeling in the world? Isn't it the tenderest feeling when he puts his little arms around your neck? Abraham! What a miracle God has given us! Who would have thought that we would raise a child in our older age! God has brought us laughter! Everyone who hears will laugh with us!"
And then there was the day when Yitzhak became a Jew, and many blessings were bestowed upon him! And the presents were innumerable! It was clear that the merchants in the land of Abraham and Sarah were profiting greatly by the joy that had come to the new parents. And legend has it that they were not the only ones to profit by the great news of Yitzhak's arrival. Many barren women were remembered together with Sarah, many sick were healed on that day, many prayers were answered with hers, and there was great rejoicing in the world!
The arrival of Yitzhak was a momentous occasion for everyone who knew and loved Abraham and Sarah. They knew how these two had longed for a child, and they knew how much love and devotion Yitzhak had received from them. There was something poignant and moving, too, about the fact that they had adopted a child to love and nurture and shower with goodness--one who might never have had a chance in life.
Such is the redemptive force of children
--of the birth of innocent, beautiful children. For a child represents a chance to start anew, to begin again, to see the world through new eyes and perfect the imperfections that creep into our lives. A child represents potential--the potential to do so much good in the world--for he begins with a clean slate.
None of us can go back to being infants, but we can be inspired by the innocence of children to change the direction of our lives from bad to good, or from good to better. We'll never reach perfection, and we'll never go back to complete naivete, but it's the innocence of babies - of those who don't yet know how to do something wrong - that can inspire us to recapture some of our innocence, to reach down deep, and rejuvenate ourselves.
"Abraham, Abraham. I can't do it anymore. I just can't enter that doctor's office again. She tries to be kind and her staff is quite gentle. But I've had so much blood drawn from me. I know those butterfly needles too well. Every day when they take a sonogram and I see those follicles developing, my heart gets hopeful again. Then I come crashing down.
"I've tried so hard to be strong, Abraham, to put on a happy face, to greet all the pregnant woman with joy, to rejoice at the naming of their children. But I can't do it anymore. My heart is aching. For how long can we keep trying? For how many more months can you keep injecting me with those drugs? You are so good, my husband. I know that each pinprick that pinches me hurts you even more. But I can't keep doing this.
"We want so much to have the joy of a little one in our house. We want so much to continue God's covenant, but it's not happening, Abraham. I don't know why God is testing us so hard. I know we each have prayed so hard for a child. God keeps promising, but month after month, year after year, my womb is barren. I believe in God, Abraham, and I believe that God is good, but I don't understand why you and I have no children. Perhaps there is a woman, in a distant land, who might not be able to take care of the child born to her, and who would let us raise her child as our own.