Of course, my wife and I love to celebrate our children's birthdays, too. For us, as for them, it is an occasion to celebrate and to make a fuss. We give them presents and we delight in seeing them bounce around the house with joy. For us parents, though, there is another reason for warm feelings on this day. If you have ever given birth, or witnessed the birth of your child, you know what I'm talking about.
For my wife and me, this is the anniversary of one of the greatest miracles of our lives. Today I cannot help but think about that moment when this dear child was placed in my arms for the first time. I cannot watch her blow out the candles without remembering the first time I saw the top of her head crowning from the birth canal. (Too much information? Sorry. The image is seared into my memory.)
It may have occurred to you that September is not the ideal month for a rabbi's family to celebrate birthdays. Despite the fact that both our girls were born in the month of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I try to give them the attention they deserve on their birthdays even while I am sweating out my busiest, craziest season. Every year, I put aside half-written sermons so I can cook a favorite meal or organize a birthday party. I did not plan it this way, but I've never regretted it. In fact, I'm grateful for the reminder of what Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be about.
Two days after the birthday cake, I will be standing in front of the members of our congregation as we listen to the sound of the shofar. In two days, I will sing with them the words, "Hayom harat olam," "Today is the day of the world's birth." I want that moment to be one in which I feel some measure of the emotions I experienced nine years ago today. I want to be blasted with awe as I consider the miracle of a world that was given to me without my deserving it — just as I was given miraculous children whom I struggle to deserve each day.
Birth awes us. Birth opens our hearts to appreciate the wonder of creation. Birth makes us want to be better people. Birth betrays our feelings of being unworthy. Birth reminds us that we are temporary creatures. Birth reveals that the poetry of our lives is to be found within the physical realities of our existence, not beyond them. Birth makes us real.
I wish you a shanah tovah umtukah, a good and sweet new year, on the coming birthday of the world.
Other Posts on This Topic:
Rosh Hashanah: Celebrate Creation
Shanah Tovah Umtukah!