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God as Matchmaker: A Reflection on Adoption

“After these things, the word of the Eternal came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Have no fear, Abram; I am giving you an abundant reward as a gift.’ Abram then replied, ‘Eternal God, what can You give me, when I am going [to die] childless, and the heir to my household is Damascene Eliezer?’ Abram added, ‘Look, to me You have given no offspring, and one of my slaves [Eliezer] is my heir!’ But the Eternal One’s word to him was, ‘That one shall not be your heir; rather, one who comes from your own body – he shall be your heir!’” (Genesis 15:1-4)

Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu (Our God and God of our ancestors):

I have a major bone to pick with You.

Back when both You and the world were young, 10 generations after the Flood, I know You still bore regrets. After 20 generations of searching and finally finding, Abram, the most suitable party of the second part, You had just gotten started with the business of covenant. As senior partner to Abram, your junior partner, you largely proceeded unilaterally.

I get that.

Abram, in the unique position as pioneer, dialogued with You as no one else has ever done – and You listened to him. However, You put the kibosh on Eliezer, Abram’s majordomo and adopted son, as Abram’s heir. As a mother by adoption – twice – this rankles me. True, Abram and Sarai had yet to reproduce their DNA, but, but…!

I get that too. Sort of.

We know that everyone in Abram’s household belonged to Abram; wife, servants, and servants’ children. They served their master at his need; he in turn ensured their food, clothing, shelter, health and welfare.

Did not such an arrangement make these people Abram’s logical and legitimate children? Did not such a settling therefore make Eliezer Abram’s legitimate heir?

We might assume that 4,000 years ago – with no chemicals in the food; no plagues or known medical conditions; no first-world problem stresses – baby-making occurred more easily than it does today.

Therefore, the need for adoption in Abram’s time – establishing an heir to pass assets forward within the same family – was different than it is now: children in need of parents; parents in need of children. Documents in the Cairo Geniza indicate that, in Abram’s time, men adopted their own wives as sisters to strengthen their legal bonds to each other.

So, I’m trying to keep the words “rookie mistake” at bay but … oops!

But you know what? You redeemed Yourself big-time when You brought millions of parents together with children who swam in other mothers’ waters before drawing breath. Before I looked upon my babies in real-life, or even in photos, I knew You were the matchmaker.

Parents and children disagree and reconcile, and so it is that I have disagreed with You. In my comfort in Your love and understanding, I thank You for listening. Most of all, I thank You for my two hearts that beat outside my body even as they originally beat within the wombs of two other sheltering bodies.

Abram is Your child. Eliezer is Your child. I am Your child; blessed by my ancestors as You decreed to Abram. May I always be a blessing to my children – my heirs, my hearts, and someday, my Kaddish – as they are and always will be to me.

As Fleur Conkling Heyliger so eloquently wrote in her "Adoption Poem":

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart
But in it.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and November 19th is National Adoption Day.

Cantor Jacqueline L. Marx was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Sacred Music in 1997. She tutors b’nai mitzvah students and teaches Hebrew enrichment at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, NC, where she lives with her family in an enchanted forest. During the High Holidays, she serves as the cantor at B’nai Sholom Congregation in Bristol, TN.