The birth of a Jewish baby girl is one of those occasions where the lack of prescribed ritual provides the opportunity for a lot of flexibility. Some parents name her at the Torah on a convenient Shabbat after the birth, some hold a naming ceremony on the 8th day of a girl’s life since that’s when a boy’s brit milah (circumcision) takes place, and some invent their own creative rituals. As for me, having done a lot of research in college on all the different possibilities and historical sources of welcoming rituals for baby girls, I obsessed for quite a while about the most authentic ritual for our new family and finally figured that when the time came, the right celebration would emerge.
The day Aliza was born, Marc and I, with all four of Aliza’s grandparents in the hospital room with us, read a blessing that we found on Ritual Well (shout out to a great website), and named her in a non-traditional, private, and perfect way. We named her and welcomed her into our family when she was born, and this Shabbat was Aliza’s Simchat Bat (translated as welcoming the daughter), which was an opportunity to welcome her officially into the broader community and specifically to our Jewish community.
Friday night, we had Shabbat dinner at our place with our parents and my aunt Janet (one of my blog’s most ardent supporters!), and it was one of my favorite Shabbat dinners on record. With so many people clamoring to hold the baby, I got to use both hands to cook, and though I made a simple meal, it was fulfilling to cook for other people and exercise a little of my entertaining itch. We had baked ziti (previously published here), garlic bread, and sauteed collards and kale. I typically hate those “about.com” websites, but this recipe fit the bill of being easy, using CSA veggies, and coming up first on a google search. As with most things during the early weeks of CSA season, it started with a saute of onions and garlic scapes.
We shared a lot of family stories at dinner, laughed a lot, and generally had a great time. The number one thing I learned is that all of our parents played with mercury as kids. Really. Mercury. My mom and I have talked a lot about how the safety standards for baby products has changed over the years, but actually playing with mercury is in a category all its own (well, along with a few other things that I’ll have to cover in another essay entitled “It’s amazing our parents survived their childhoods”).
For dessert, Marc made Pineapple Surprise: Take one fresh pineapple and a super duper fancy pineapple corer, and place the whole spiral of pineapple in a bowl. Surround with whipped cream out of an aerated canister and top with sprinkles and/or chocolate sauce. Enjoy eating and telling your guests “I told you so!” when they’re surprised that it’s delicious. A cute baby helps any food taste better.
The Simchat Bat was Saturday at Minyan Tikvah, and it was such an amazingly special experience to welcome Aliza into this community that means so much to us. I got called up to the Torah with Aliza, and Jo said a mi sheberach (blessing for people in special circumstances, including sickness, marriage, participating in services, and having a baby) to welcome Aliza into the community. Looking out at our friends and family while holding this perfect, sleeping baby brought tears to my eyes of the best kind: hope and excitement and such immense gratitude.
Marc gave the d’var Torah and said that he hopes Aliza will be more like Moshe, who questions God’s intention to destroy the Israelites, than like the Israelites, who don’t question God’s command to stone the man who gathers wood on Shabbat. The commandment for tzitzit (fringes on the corners of garments) follows the stoning incident, and Marc interprets the commandment as a way to temper the Israelites’ self-righteousness. He ended by encouraging Aliza to think for herself and argue with us. My dad insists he’ll come to regret that someday…
For lunch, we had bagels and spreads (hooray for shopping at BJ’s!), and I finally got to make and serve the spinach dip I’ve been craving. My mom made chocolate chip cookie bars and poppyseed cookies, and again, it was a simple but totally fulfilling meal. One of the highlights was definitely Beverly’s challah, made in the shape of Aliza’s Hebrew initials!
At lunch, I shared with everyone the importance for us of having an egalitarian community in which to raise Aliza. What I forgot to say was that my parents have each mentioned looking forward to her Bat Mitzvah, which, God willing, will be in 2024. We hope and expect that we will all celebrate a lot more simchas (happy occasions) together between now and then.