Sometime there are events that come together, and you cannot shake the sense that all things are indeed connected. This past weekend, I had the honor of witnessing in one family both the honoring of a father and the welcoming of his son's baby girl into the Sinai covenant.
My friend Kevin's father died eleven months ago. For those of you who do not know, it is incumbent upon a person's children to attend daily prayer services (minyan) and recite what is known as the Mourner's Kaddish, a doxology which praises God even in the face of death. Did I mention that the requirement is to do so for eleven months? Most people nowadays do not make it all the way. Kevin did. Yesterday afternoon, Kevin came to minyan for the final time to say Kaddish for his dad Morty.
In the past year, Kevin and his wife Robin also had a baby girl, their seventh child. They are good friends of ours. In the past few weeks, we have been a sounding board for their search for both the baby's Hebrew and English names. Another wonderful point of convergence is that Kevin and Robin are also members of the synagogue that just hired me to be its Assistant Rabbi.
So this past Friday morning, Kevin, Robin and I are sitting in my office talking about the Hebrew name. We look up the birthdate and determine what the Torah portion was the week she was born. It was Korach, which is about a series of rebellions that take place against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. I scan through the chapters, looking for names that are not applied to villains. Then I come across the scene where the chiefs of eleven other tribes challenge Aaron and the Levites's leadership. God commands each chief to place his staff, including Aaron, inside the Holy of Holies overnight. In the morning, Aaron's staff alone has blossomed with almond blossoms.
Did I mention that Kevin's father's Hebrew name was Mendel, which means 'almond'? And in this same section the verb for blossoming appears twice, which also has the same root as the name Nitza, meaning blossom, in this case an almond blossom. Coincidentally, this name has been one of their top choices for a while. Can you get any better than that!?
So today, I had the privilege of helping bring Nitza into the Sinai covenant through the ritual of Brit Mikvah, which means bringing a baby girl into the Sinai covenant through ritual immersion. The day after Kevin completed saying goodbye for Morty his father, also named Mendel, we welcomed Nitzah, meaning almond blossom, into our community.
It took me back to a day in February in 2004 when we brought our daughter Aviyah into the covenant the day after Alan, Paula's father was buried. We welcomed Aviyah into our family in the midst of saying goodbye to Alan.
Nitza and Morty are joined like two roads end to end. Alan and Aviyah are more like two roads that intertwine and intersect. Time gave Kevin's family more time to honor his father without distraction. The joy of Aviyah was tempered for eleven months with the sounds of Paula saying Kaddish for Alan. But that too passed. The roads did eventually separate.
But man, raising kids is still damn tough.