Even the reliable threats of snow didn’t dampen our spirits. We were to stay overnight Thursday in Cambridge, but we all wisely, albeit unnecessarily, packed for extra days. The idea of spending the Sabbath in a large urban hotel with no Shabbat amenities, or food, was not appealing, but the event was simply not to be missed.
Fortunately, the weather forecast proved to be exaggerated, and we were happily home in New Jersey by midafternoon on Friday. The event itself was perfect.
You may have guessed that we were celebrating the arrival of a new cousin to Noam, Itai, Lior, and the only girl, Sophie, and a brand-new great-grandson for us. The very fact that we are old enough to be Sabba Rabba and Savta Rafta to all of those delightful people is another story. The truth is that we are that old, and we often wonder how this happened to us, so soon after our marriage in 1960. I’m sure that I have stashed away some souvenirs from that blessed event somewhere but cannot reconcile it to the number of years that have passed since.
Neither the man I married, nor I, ever had great-grandparents to welcome us to life. But if you want to know indulgent relatives, trust me that grandparents are not the be-all-end-all. Grandparents can get annoyed. Can interfere. Can be overbearing. If you search for perfection, go to that next generation. Great-grandparents just can do no wrong! Nor can their great-grandchildren!
Our newest baby boy was born on the previous Friday, causing us all great excitement and relief that he wasn’t delayed another day, which would have come with the mandate to negotiate a brit milah by walking on those bitter-cold, snow-covered slippery Massachusetts streets. How would those of us old enough to show battle scars from previous falls in the snow have managed? It would have been impossible indeed, but luckily, on that Friday in January it became a non-issue. At 8 a.m., following the Shacharit minyan, this handsome new fellow was circumcised and named.
Until that very moment, of course, only the baby’s parents, our Liat and her chosen, Chaim, had any inkling of what the little one would be called. Speculation was rampant. Everyone thought about it. No one was correct. But did you know why Judaism keeps the new boy’s name so secret? I didn’t, but I learned that it’s because the boy is not considered complete until he has been circumcised. Therefore, mere seconds after the baby has had his procedure, he is given a name.
That causes quite a stir. Our new young parents chose an impressive name for this little man, who was masterfully and quickly circumcised by his own uncle, Mohel Rabbi Mark Cooper. Baby cried for a few seconds and then heroically went back to sleep as the congregants welcomed him with emotional songs of gratitude.
The venue for this major family happening was a place recently quite newsworthy, the Harvard Hillel House. This little one will soon be a regular attendee at Harvard Hillel, as his father still has several remaining years to complete his Ph.D. in something so esoteric that I dare not try to explain it to you. Suffice it to say that I am incapable and clueless, knowing only that Chaim is smart! And so is Liat, who is a professional midwife but did not deliver this baby (or as she says, catch it) by herself. I told you she’s smart!
The Hillel is their regular synagogue, and you could not have asked for a livelier minyan, or more enthusiastic brit participants. All talk of antisemitism, plagiarism, or personnel at Harvard was suspended. It was all baby talk.
That is not to say that those issues are now resolved. We know they are not, but on Friday they were pushed aside for the great mitzvah of welcoming a new Jew to the world. And what a world he inherits. It’s a mess! You know that. He and his cohort have their work set out for them. It’s called tikkun olam, and it means to repair the world. There’s no doubt that this crop of babies has plenty to do. I have confidence that they can and will fix things up. They will stop the Jew-hatred and create a more loving universe where there will finally be an end to the horrors of war and divisiveness. They will remain staunchly committed, proud Jews, who will honor the mitzvot and make Israel a fundamental part of their lives. They will be educated, principled, honorable, and devoted to Judaism. Ken yehi ratzon.
And our new great-grandson shall be called by a name that will always identify him as a son of our people. We welcome with deep and abiding love Elchanan Mordechai. May he be blessed!
Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of four. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was! She welcomes email at firstname.lastname@example.org