Simchat Banot -- Liav and Tagel
י"ב אדר תשע"ג
The Torah teaches that the faces of the Keruvim were turned toward one another. To my astonishment, this is also how Liav and Tagel sleep. Ever since we returned from the hospital, we have been placing them side-by-side in our pack-and-play crib. Regardless of how we position them, within a few moments they always turn their heads towards one another. Sometimes one baby opens her eyes and peers intently at her sister; other times they look into each other’s eyes before sinking into sleep. But they are almost always facing one another, each somehow reassured and calmed by the presence of her sister. We can only hope that this is how they will go through the rest of their lives, turning to one another in friendship, support, reassurance, and love.
And the angel responds:
למה זה תשאל לשמי
The midrash in Breishit Rabba connects this verse to another encounter between a human and angel that appears in Sefer Shoftim: Shimshon’s father Manoach asks the angel his wife has encountered for the angel’s name, and the angel responds:
למה זה תשאל לשמי והוא פלאי
The midrash explains that angels change their names based on the particular mission they are sent to accomplish at any given moment. And so I imagine that in choosing a name for our daughters, we are also in some sense charging them with a unique mission in the world. I have felt this past week that so long as our daughters were still unnamed, every mission remained open to them. I imagined thousands of winged angels hovering over us, each representing a different name we might choose, and each angel beating its wings in hopeful anticipation that perhaps that angel might be the one whose mission matches the name we choose for our child. This amassing of angelic presences may explain why the first week of a newborn child’s life is such a time of intense connection to an otherworldly realm. The moment our daughters are named—like the moment when the box with Schroedinger’s cat is opened—all the angels fly off, leaving just two, one for each of our girls.
My father, Chuck Feldman, alav hashalom, would have rejoiced at this simcha, and his absence, which we feel so keenly today, is all that impinges on this wonderful occasion. A consummate family man, he knew that every simcha must be celebrated to the fullest. Our girls are the first grandchildren born to the family since our Saba left us, and so it is appropriate that the first of our daughters, Liav, bears a name that pays tribute to his memory. Li-av. To me my father was a model of commitment to family, community, and Am Yisrael. A devoted physician, he was also a leader of the Jewish community in northern New Jersey, especially in the realm of Torah education. He was a trusted advisor whose empathy and concern for others made him beloved to so many. He was a wonderful, charming man, and he relished every moment with his family. As my mother, may she live ad meah v'esrim, holds our beautiful Liav before us, we feel dad's bracha upon us. Along with Ilana's Savta Gilla and our other departed grandparents, Zaidy Mel Rubin, Grandma Betty and Grandpa Joe Feldman, Baba Sally and Zaidie Isak Levenstein, Dad is surely looking down upon us from the yeshiva shel ma'ala, smiling his radiant smile with his characteristic twinkle in his eye, as we welcome these two angelic girls into the family he was so proud to build. To quote the words of the Megilla which we will read next week, it is our tefilla that זִכְרו לֹא יָסוּף מִזַּרְעו.
It is also my happy lot in these days of Purim to offer words of shevach and hoda'a for all those responsible for this mishte v'simcha.
First to our parents, whose love and support accompanies us at every step as our family grows. My mom, Baba, arrived with her impeccable timing and inimitable grace just as our twins were born. Mom, you are always selfless in offering to do anything and everything on our behalf, including buying now a second crib for our home. You instill in us a sense of gratitude for all that we are blessed to experience. Ilana's parents, Savta and Saba Kurshan, have been our neighbors for the past few weeks, helping us prepare for the twins' arrival, caring for Matan, and offering all kinds of help, love, and support with characteristic good cheer and attention to detail. Thank you for all you have done for us during this special period, including reading the name dictionary that one last time. We are so pleased to celebrate with all of you, and we extend our love to the proud great grandparents in Princeton New Jersey, Grandma Phyllis and Grandpa Jerry Kurshan.
We also recognize the endless generosity of my sister, Estie Agus, who, along with Elizur, and their adorable children, are extraordinary role models of chessed. Estie sends us food, clothes, babysitters, and everything we could possibly need. Liav and Tagel, prepare to be spoiled. As Matan has already discovered, you will quickly learn that visiting your cousins in Raanana is our family’s equivalent of Disneyland – if not Gan Eden.
Thank you all for joining us today. Chag Purim Sameach, enjoy the seudat Hodaya, and Mazal tov.
It was an Et Ratzon, a propitious moment, when we had the privilege of being in the hospital with Ilana and Daniel as Ilana gave birth to these two beautiful babies whom we are naming today. These girls were welcomed into a room that was Tzahalah v’samecha—a room ringing with joyous cries.
These children are named today during the week we read Parashat Tetzaveh. The Parasha this week continues to address the details of the Mishkan—this week not so much the construction of the Mishkan but rather the roles of the Kohanim and specifically the details of the clothing they were to wear when serving in the Mishkan.
Ktzat muzar--it is a little strange that the Parasha spends so much time on the external garments of the Kohanim. Normally in Judaism we focus not so much on the exterior features of a person—we don’t concentrate on their appearance or the clothes they wear but rather on the integrity and purity that defines their souls and character. We are more concerned for the purity of the soul than the cleanliness of the clothes. But there is an expression “that clothes make the man”-- or perhaps it is more appropriate to say today that clothes make the woman. These tiny girls were born into the world without any outer garments or possessions—just two naked bodies squirming and crying b’simcha u-v’sa-son--as they made the passage from the world of the womb into the room of the world.
But it is not only their names which will define them during their lives. It is also their parents who will shape who they will become. These girls have been born to parents who share a love of Torah, a passion for literature and a respect for history. They have been born to parents who have chosen to build their lives in Israel and to raise their children in the homeland of the Jewish people. They have born as sisters to their brother, Matan, who so far has been very gentle and loving toward them. They have been born into two families, the Kurshans and the Feldmans who come from a lineage of study, learning and Ahavat Yisrael. I know I speak for Alisa and Rella when I say how privileged we are to be here as grandparents during these weeks and to share the beginning of these girls’ lives. And I know, Daniel, you will tell your children the stories about your father so they will know the full richness of their inheritance.
And lastly these children will be defined by their community. Aside from the time Alisa and I have been able to spend with you, Ilana and Daniel, and with your children, it has also been wonderful for us to meet so many of your friends and to come to know the personal and professional communities of which you are a part. You will never have to raise your children alone because there is indeed a village of your friends here who will support you. We have been touched, as I know both of you have been, by the overflowing good wishes of all your friends and colleagues as well as by their concrete offers of help. We know that your children will always be surrounded by an abundance of their peers. Theirs will never be the only stroller pushed through the streets of Jerusalem; rather they will be surrounded by the strollers of so many other children that fill the streets of this city.
So these two girls born naked into the world have already been adorned in the garments of our tradition. We know these girls will grow up enveloped by the teachings of our texts and the music of our Masoret. Today you begin to dress and address them by their names. You wrap them in your love as their parents. You clothe them in the care of their grandparents, your friends, and your community. You crown these girls with the adornment of their Jewish inheritance. May the garments that they wear be like the garments of the ancient Kohanim--clothing l’khavod ul-tif-ah-ret-- garments that adorn these girls in dignity and radiance.
המלאך הגואל אותי מכל רע יברך את הנערות