“I went into his room for the 11pm feeding and looking down on our sleeping 2 month old son was taught yet another lesson.”
Charlie Abraham Tavel Burstein was born on January 21st, 2005 in Toronto. My wife Lesley was magnificent. Her courage and toughness through the labor and delivery was a process I will forever honour.
After Charlie was delivered, like all fathers, I counted his digits. They were long and perfectly formed. I could tell by the reactions of the doctors and nursing staff that everything was all right. But he was a little purple. Within a few seconds the neo natal respiratory technician unplugged his nose. He immediately turned from purplish to a flushed pink.
What I had anticipated would be the single most intense religious moment of my life, became my happiest. His first cries touched my soul in a way that a life time of hearing a shofar blow never had. Lesley had given birth to a healthy 6 pound 14 ounce miracle.
Of all the bits of advice I have received in becoming a father, the most repeated one is to enjoy each stage. I have been. But as much as I have been aware of the “presence” of Charlie, his being here has given me a greater clarity on basic ideas of Judaism and life.
New lessons are being taught every day. Ill start with four.
Looking down on him for that late night feeding, I finally understood what it meant to be chosen. I am no better than anyone else; but for whatever reason or process I have been chosen to be the father of this little boy. Lesley and I do not own him, but we have been given the responsibility to provide for him so that hell enjoy life and learn the lessons so that he grows up to be a mensch. We are not raising a child. We are raising an adult. We want his life to be full of joy, and the world to be a better place for his being here.
It is not an easy task, and it is not for everyone, and there will be a lot of heartaches.
But ultimately, we would not have it any other way. Being chosen for this task will give our lives extra pleasure , meaning and purpose.
In many ways my understanding of the chosenness of the Jewish people, does parallel this experience. Whether we realize it or not, we are here to help bring the world to ethical monotheism.
Charlie is the first grandchild for both sides of our family. He has received so much love and attention, and yet on a conscious level, he will have no recollection of this time in his life. We hope the “wiring” will have a positive effect on who he becomes, but he can never understand what is being done for him.
Although our own parents did this for us, most of us cannot really believe that someone cared for us the way we are for our own children.
The first thing this does is teach us the need for perspective, humility and gratitude for our own lives. We need to have an appreciation for the work that was done for us in the past.
In Jewish life, the Passover Seder, is in part, a history lesson that tells the story of the birth of the Jewish people coming out of the affliction of slavery. As the story goes, God delivered the Jewish people from the narrowness of Egypt. The parallels to infancy of the new born nation as they wander through the early stages trying to figure out what they need to do to survive is something every parent can understand. The challenge is to get the child and Jew to appreciate what was done for them and what freedom is all about.
I have always been grateful to my own parents. Becoming a parent has cemented my thanks and honour of them. In learning about the 10 commandments it has been pointed that there is a juxtaposition of the 4th and 5th commandments. In the 4th , with remembering and observing the Sabbath, we honour God our creator and liberator on the macro level. With the 5th commandment we honour our personal creators and most important teachers on the micro level.
It is not a fluke that the statement that bridges the two sides of the tablets deals with the emotionally complex relationship with our parents. No matter how we feel, we are to honour them for what they did for us.
I admit that up until now my love of God and Judaism, has as an adult, developed from an intellectual approach. I have not accepted these 4000 year old truths from a leap of faith. It is a trust and respect in our ethics and quest for holiness that has arisen from years of study and appreciation how these ideas apply in our world.
Early on I was arrogant towards other traditions. However as I have become more secure in Judaism, I am more comfortable with other peoples religious convictions.
The collective joy over Charlies birth and reflecting on his potential made me appreciate the religious importance of love and adoration that is expressed at Christmas. It comes from our core and is a positive energy that must be unleashed.
Judaism, from my understanding, is partly about an ongoing revelatory experience of the presence of God. Charlies existence brings me closer to God. His smiling face in the morning, seeing him splash away in the bath, and having him fall asleep on my chest are all tastes of heaven that I have every day.
May God bless Lesley and Charlie. May God bless all our families. God has already blessed me.
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