It doesn’t require a great deal of imagination to figure out that We’ve been trying to get pregnant for years.
There was a great deal of medicine and time deployed to make it possible. And a great deal of prayer. We poured out hearts out in the run-up to each disappointment – and then we gathered ourselves and got ready to do it all over again.
The way these things work is that the odds get worse and worse the more you try something. It is just a mathematical fact. If a procedure will work for 50% of the population, then each time you have a go at it, the ones it will work for are weeded out leaving the odds more and more stacked against you. In the US, the most aggressive procedure we tried is repeated three times before the next step – a step that adds little for people like us – is tried. We did it three times there, and had given up on it. Here, the procedure is tried six times. By the sixth time, there is less than a 4% chance it will work. We prayed our hearts out 5 times – and for the numerous things we had tried prior to these procedures. But by the time #6 rolled around, we had resigned ourselves to the next stage. We had almost resigned herself to never having our own children. We were going to keep going, but the odds just weren’t in our favour.
And then, just before Rosh Hashanna, we got the news that Rebecca was pregnant.
The Chagim were incredible. On the very first day, we read about Sarah and Chanah. Two righteous women who were miraculously granted children – one even in the face of her doubt. I know I’m biased, but Rebecca is my ashet chayil and a tremendous woman who, through the hand of Hashem, has been granted a child after heartfelt prayer.
In light of that parsha, I can tell you that I was biased towards the name Yitchak for little Nava – but she’d probably have a hard time with that later in life.
When I was a kid, one of my fondest memories is of standing under my father’s expansive tallis for Bircat Kohanim. Being wrapped in his goodness and strength before the almighty. Feeling the blessing and power and love of Hakadosh Baruch Hu through the wool. That Rosh Hashanna, as we did Birkat Kohanim I looked over and saw Yossi Frenkel holding Yaakov under his tallis. It was a beautiful sight. And I thanked Hashem that, with his will, I would be holding my child under my expansive tallis for Birkat Kohanim this coming Rosh Hashana.
Hopefully, she won’t decide to pull a fit just then.
On Simchat Torah, the community gave us Chatan Ne’arim. I know some of you noticed it, but if you didn’t, I can tell you that standing at that bimah was one of the most powerful times in my life. I was filled with such a spirit, saying those blessings with your children, feeling their spirits, and connecting us all to Hashem with a tremendous feeling of thanksgiving. It was such a nes – such a tremendous miracle – and I appreciate that Kibud like no other I have ever received.
I’m sorry if I scared the Rabbi or anybody else – big or small – who got a ride.
Getting here has been a hard road, but we have been so tremendously blessed. Of course, the point is not just having the child. I’m not overjoyed because I am a father. I haven’t changed much – I just have a child who will probably always get first dibs on rides. I *am* overjoyed because little Nava Margalit has joined our world. I am overjoyed because my wife and I can bring her up and do everything we can, night and day, to bring her to Torah, Chuppah and Maisim Tovim.
One of the first things we can do is give her a name that reflects our aspirations through the memory of those who have come before her.
Rebecca’s aunt Joan passed away three years – her yartzeit just passed – after a protracted fight with cancer. I didn’t know her well, but I knew her work. She had incredible talent with her hands. We were married under a gorgeous Chupah that she created – a tree of life that, when our girl gets married, will add two new leaves on our branch. Her Yiddish name was Shaina Pesha. Shaina means ‘pleasant.’ So we went with the meaning and chose Nava in her memory. Nava also means pleasant.
Trust me, we looked it up.
Bec’s mother will talk more about Joan later.
My grandmother, Grannie Annie, passed away a number of years ago. She was a tough woman of Swedish-Apache stock who was raised in a dugout – starting as PWT – and becoming a true lady – charitable and strong and warm and able and a guide to us all. She was, without question, an aishet chayil.
She could do everything – I was amazed when one of my friend’s grandmother’s didn’t know how to make clothes and cut hair and bake a world-class angel food cake without a mixer. I couldn’t imagine that such a woman could be a real grandma 🙂
You couldn’t mess with my grannie annie. I remember how shocked she was that a women in her neighbourhood had been attacked in her kitchen. To my grandmother and the women of her family, a kitchen was a woman’s fortress with knives and pots and all sorts of weapons within easy and knowing reach. And she came from a fundamentally tough line of Indian women. One of her sisters had divorced a number of men. And my grandfather Orville asked if she was afriad one of them might hurt her. And she told him “every man’s gotta sleep sometime.”
He didn’t for three weeks.
She was a fundamentally tough lady from a line of tough Indian women.
But more importantly, she was the kind of lady who you became a mensch around. You might swear or act bad in front of others, but not in front of her. Ever. It wasn’t for fear of pain, it was simply because you would disappoint yourself if you did. She was a model and one you couldn’t help but emulate and admire when you were with her. Throughout my life, I’ve tried to reach that same kind of level even when she wasn’t around.
Right now, I don’t need to worry about that. She’s here – and I think she approves.
We miss her something fierce.
Grannie Annie, I’ll make sure little Margolit gets some world-class angel food cake.
My mother shares Grannie Annie’s first name – so in Grannie’s memory we’ve used the Hebrew of her second name, Pearl – or Margalit. Trust me, I’ve looked it up.
With these names as inspiration, I pray that our daughter will grow into the sort of women these women were. I pray that she’ll grow into a force of goodness and love and creation – a woman who will add tremendously to our world and extend the branches of our family tree.
And I pray that she’ll be an example for all those around her, especially her parents.
May all the barren women among the nation of Israel be blessed by Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
And may all your lives be as blessed as ours have been this past year.
After I gave the speech, I was approached by a student from the community. He gave me a beautiful Vort (Word of Torah). He said, why do so many great people in the Torah have such difficulty having children? The standard answer is that G-d desires the prayers of righteous women, something I’ve always found troubling. But that was not his answer. His answer was that the Neshamas (Souls) of these children are so holy that they take a lot of convincing before they are willing to come down to our world. It was Yaakov who made things difficult for Sara to have children, and the same with Yosef and Shimshon and etc… etc… etc… It is a beautiful thought that takes a lot of the emphasis and stress off of those trying to have children.