A prayer for my daughter
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A prayer for my daughter

This is the newborn Amalya Shachar, daughter of Rabbi Simeon Cohen and Dr. Ariel Fein.
This is the newborn Amalya Shachar, daughter of Rabbi Simeon Cohen and Dr. Ariel Fein.

My first child, Amalya Shachar, was born on April 24th. Arriving just over a year after the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, Amalya’s birth was a desperately needed beacon of hope in the midst of interminable darkness.

As my wife’s pregnancy progressed, the world got brighter and brighter — restrictions were lifted, more and more people received vaccinations, and it seemed as if our baby’s arrival would coincide perfectly with the beginning of the end of the pandemic. In fact, her middle name, Shachar, means “dawn” or “sunrise” in Hebrew. With Amalya’s birth, we hoped to see the conclusion of a very long night and the dawning of a new morning.

What we did not anticipate fully was that in the days following Amalya’s birth, the worst bout of violence that we have seen in years would erupt in Israel. Just two weeks ago, I sat in the hospital room next to my sleeping wife and newborn daughter and excitedly read about the fact that Israel was merely days away from forming a new unity government. After four long and painful elections, stability was finally in sight. For the first time in a very long time, I felt a true sense of hope for Israel’s future.

All of that now has been thrown into disarray.

Each morning, we awaken to new reports of Hamas raining down rockets over half the country. We check in with friends and family members in Tel Aviv to ensure that they have survived yet another night in their shelters. And we read horrific stories of both Jewish and Arab extremists engaging in vicious riots and attacking one another. Israel is being attacked by Hamas from without and is tearing itself apart from within.

This is not the world that I wanted my daughter to be born into.

When Amalya was formally named, we prayed that she would grow up to live a life of Torah, chuppah, and ma’asim tovim–a life devoted to Torah, companionship, and good deeds or acts of loving kindness. Today, I add to those words: May Amalya Shachar grow up to live in a world defined not by sinat chinam, baseless hatred, but only by ahavat chinam, boundless love.

May she grow up to see the day when Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians see each other not as mortal enemies, but rather as the brothers and sisters that they are. And may she live to see a time when, in the words of our tradition, love and justice flow like a mighty stream, and peace fills the earth as the waters fill the sea. Amen.

Rabbi Simeon Cohen is the associate rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, where he lives with his wife, Dr. Ariel Fein, their daughter, Amalya, and their samoyed, Ophelia.

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