There are two main things that I absolutely love about the first Shabbat after my sons have been born.
First is the bracha that fathers (and sometimes mothers) give to their children on Friday night. This blessing allows us to follow in Yaakov Avinu’s footsteps. In the Torah, before he died, Yaakov (Jacob) blessed his two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe. He said that they should become role models for the Jewish people in the future. So, too, there is a lovely tradition for us to bless our children on Friday night. My kids line up after kiddush, waiting in order of age for their blessing.
The first Friday night after we’ve brought home a new baby is always very special. The baby gets to the back of the line, so to speak, and receives his first of thousands of blessings from his father. This tradition always makes both me and Josh cry, as Josh puts his hands over the baby’s head and recites the bracha that has been used for thousands of years for our children.
The other incredibly touching ritual happens during candle lighting. I light a candle for each of my children, and I love the moment when I add a new candle to the collection. That first Shabbat, standing in front of the candles and adding an extra spark, holds a great deal of power for me. I’m welcoming the baby into our family and both literally and figuratively adding his spark to the world.
And – even more special is the particular candlesticks that we use. When Josh and I got engaged, my Auntie Janie and Uncle Dennis bought us some very unique candlesticks. They are made of ceramic and have all sorts of symbols painting on them in a playful way. Mine has a picture of a woman with a daughter (hmmmm…missed on that one) and Josh’s has a drawing of a man with a son. They also have hearts, shooting stars, and many other decorative features – and the date of our wedding. When Matan was born, Janie had another candlestick made by the same artist, adding to our beautiful collection. It has Matan’s name in English and the date of his birth on it. The same was done when Yehuda was born.
And then…we made aliyah. Amichai’s birth approached, and I wondered if we would be able to get another candlestick. Would Janie ask the artist for another one and then have it shipped all the way here? Would I have to figure out what to do? As it turns out, the artist stopped making these – and we were stuck! What would we do? Find other candlesticks?
At the time, I was taking a ceramics class in the yishuv with a professional ceramics maker. One of my friends in America suggested that maybe I could make Amichai’s candle myself. When I finished laughing at the idea of me accomplishing such a task, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe the teacher could make it!
And so, the lovely tradition continued. She had never made a candlestick before, and she had certainly never seen one like ours. But, we gave her an example to work from, and she created a beautiful candlestick for Amichai with his name in Hebrew and the Hebrew date of his birth.
And so, it has continued for each kid. Now, it’s become a bit of a joke. I’ve called her after each birth saying, “Yehudit! It’s time again! I need another candlestick.” And with great joy, she makes the next candlestick for us.
The moment when I bring the candlestick home and place it with the others is a very powerful one for me. I love to see the collection of candles growing, and to light the new flame for our new little addition. I certainly never in my wildest dreams envisioned a case that would be quite so full of candles – so full of the spark of life!
Every time that I look at these unique, quirky, slightly imperfect candles, I feel in awe. I love that my candlesticks aren’t expensive silver pieces of art. They are as unique as is each child and they so perfectly reflect the creativity and ingenuity that I hope each of our children embodies and will continue to embody.
May I continue to help to light the spark that is each child’s energy for decades of health, joy and happiness ahead.