Dear Abe, welcome to the world! It’s been two weeks. Your entry into our lives actually began about a day-and-a-half before your birth when your dad called us in the early morning to say that your mom’s water had broken and they were in the hospital. That’s when my anxious Jewish mother syndrome really began to kick in. Waiting for your arrival over the next 36 hours wasn’t easy for me, nor for your Zaide-to-be. Although your dad gave us periodic updates, the wait was agonizing. After all, your mom is still my baby and I had no control over what she was going through. I knew it was really hard, but all I could do was pray for a speedy delivery and a healthy baby, namely you!
The news that you had emerged at 6:51 p.m. on Sunday night and that you were beautiful and perfect filled us with joy and elation. We couldn’t wait to meet you, which happened the following day.
Before you were born, your mom decided that she did not wish to have a brit milah, or bris, a ritual circumcision ceremony eight days after your arrival. Instead, you would be circumcised in the hospital a few days following your birth. Of course, as your newly minted Bubbe, I would have preferred a traditional bris at our home. But, to tell you the truth, COVID-19 would have put a damper on the whole affair, and I respected your mom’s wishes. In any event, the important part was that you were to be entered into the holy covenant of father Abraham and the Jewish people by being circumcised.
Imagine my surprise when a few minutes before you were taken for your incision at the hospital, I got a phone call from your mom and dad asking me to offer a traditional blessing for you upon the occasion of your circumcision. You don’t really know me yet, but I like to prepare for such special moments and think carefully about the message I wish to convey. But I had no such luxury. Instead, I quickly decided to chant over the phone the beautiful Debbie Friedman version of the Shehechiyanu prayer, where we give thanks to the Creator for renewing our lives, bestowing us with blessings and allowing us to celebrate sacred moments together.
After chanting this blessing, I blurted out some additional remarks in which I referenced my late father, who I said would have been so thrilled to welcome his new great-grandson but whose values and shining legacy nonetheless would be bequeathed to you. Speaking about my father always makes me weepy, and this was no exception, but in any event, I was soon cut off when your mom and dad needed to whisk you off for your procedure.
I’m sure it was not fun, but also feel certain you have already forgotten that
momentary pain. Imagine my surprise when a day later your parents shared with us your beautiful and distinguished name of Abraham Zalman. Abraham was your Zaide’s dad’s name, and Zalman was my father’s rather unusual middle name that became a part of his public persona: Sumner Zalman Kaplan. In revealing your name to us, your mom noted that our forefather Abraham was the first Hebrew male to be circumcised as a sign of the everlasting covenant between the Jewish people and God.
Don’t worry, Abie, you’ll have plenty of time to learn about your rich Jewish heritage, be it in religious school or otherwise. Your Zaide and I look forward to a more formal recognition of your beautiful name and legacy sometime this spring at a baby-naming ceremony, but for me, I’ll always remember the unexpected honor bestowed upon me of blessing you over the phone in your second day of life. It was an unconventional bris, with a spiritually fulfilling ritual of its own nonetheless.
May your life be filled with many more meaningful moments marked by both tradition and spontaneity. You’re off to a great start!
All my love,
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