With much joy we announce the birth of a baby boy! Sholom Zochor tonight at our home from 8:15pm. Bris (TBC) this Wednesday 7:30am at Nefesh.
Wishing everyone only simchas always!
Rabbi Aron and Nechama Dina Moss
Question of the Week:
Our baby is now almost six weeks old, but we haven't officially named her. We have a problem. I always wanted to name her after my grandmother. But my wife doesn't like that name because she says it sounds ugly. She wants some other name which is nice, but I think it lacks any real meaning for the family. Doesn't it say somewhere that the father has the right to choose the firstborn's name?
I'm not sure you want to know the answer to that.
There is indeed a custom in some communities of alternating the right to name a child between the parents. According to one Ashkenazi custom, the mother names the firstborn child, the father the second and so on. But some Sefardi communities have the father choosing the name for the first son, and then the mother the second son, while all daughters are named by the mother.
In your case, following either system, your wife gets to name this child.
But there is a different approach. These systems were only enacted to avoid intractable arguments between parents. That's not the ideal way to name a child. It is far better that both agree on a name together rather than one having to reluctantly concede to the other's wish.
The need for consensus is indicated in the writings of Kabbalah, which state, "When a father and mother give a name to their child, they are given a prophecy to choose the right name to fit the soul of the child." This implies that the prophecy comes when there is agreement between the parents, and both are happy with the name.
This is just the first of many disagreements you will have with your wife in parenting your child. Inevitably there will be times when you will want to do things one way, and your wife will have a different approach. You could alternate the decision making, so one day you get your way and the kids are allowed to drink Coke, and the next day your wife is in charge and they only get water. One day bed time is optional and the next it is strictly enforced.
But think what this will do to your child. She needs parents who are united and working as a team, with one voice and one standard. When there are cracks in the parents' unity, kids slip between those cracks.
Consider your child's needs before your own, and give her a name that is meaningful, comfortable, and acceptable to you both. May this be the first of many harmonious compromises you make for your children.
I am getting married in two months from now, and last night we had a meeting with the rabbi who will be conducting the ceremony. Something came up which I am quite uncomfortable with: the issue of only the groom giving the bride a ring, and not vice versa. This essentially represents to me that I am being purchased. The idea that there is a problem with the bride also giving the groom a ring seems absurd to me. Surely I have as much say in the agreement to be married as my husband-to-be?
I know I am allowed to give the ring after the ceremony. However, I want to exchange rings during the ceremony. Gender equality is a very important issue to me. I am a highly educated woman, and I also value my Jewish identity, but I am quite upset about this. I would like to hear your opinion...
I fully understand your concern. Many couples have asked me the same question. Coming from a modern perspective, it does seem a little lopsided for the man to give the ring exclusively. But I believe when you understand the meaning of the ring giving, you may feel differently.
The chuppah is an exact spiritual operation to join your souls together. It is not just a ceremony celebrating your already existing relationship, it is a life-changing event that creates a new relationship. Before the chuppah you are two souls. After the chuppah, you are one. Still two individuals, with two minds and two hearts, but a united soul.
We can understand how two souls can become one by observing how two bodies can become one. The act of reproduction is the physical union of man and woman. In this bodily union, the man gives and the woman receives. Only this way can new life be created, a child conceived. That child is an actual manifestation of the unity of the parents. Man and woman have literally become one flesh.
The physical world is a mirror image of the spiritual world, and the workings of the soul are reflected by the workings of the body. Just as physical intimacy is the union of bodies, the wedding ceremony is an act of spiritual intimacy, uniting souls. And so in this act of spiritual union the man, expressing the male power of bestowal, gives the ring to the woman, the feminine receiver, making them one.
An exchange of rings doesn't create unity, just as an exchange of seed for egg would not produce a child. Only when the groom gives the ring and the bride receives it, then this singular act of his giving and her receiving produces oneness. Any attempt to alter that process would be, quite literally, counterproductive.
We can't play around with the facts of life. The spiritual life has facts too. May you and your partner be blessed with true oneness, and from that oneness may many little ones come.
Book Now for Shabbaton with Rabbi Wolf from Melbourne
Question of the Week:
Why do the Jewish people seem to loom so large on the world stage? The numbers don't add up. Here's a nation less than 0.2% of the world's population, yet we command so much attention you'd think there were billions of us. That's like a room of two thousand people, with one puny guy sitting in the corner who everyone wants to talk to (or pick on).... Why do we always seem to be at the centre of history?
Jews do strange things sometimes. One example is the wide-spread practice of "credit combing."
Many Jews have a habit of combing through the credits at the end of a movie, searching for Jewish names. At each discovery they beam with pride:
This odd practice comes from a very deep place in the Jewish psyche. Jews share a spiritual bond with each other. If I meet a Jew anywhere in the world, there is an immediate connection, a kinship, a sense of oneness. We are like one big family, and even closer than that.
When Jews are in the news, we each take it personally. When Israel is under attack, we feel the pain wherever we are. When a Jew wins a bronze medal in croquet, we all share the victory. And when we see a Jewish name in the credits, we get excited.
Maybe other nations do this too. But I don't think so. This profound sense of connection makes the Jewish nation unique among the peoples of the world.
This is the reason why statistics cannot apply to the Jewish people. No Jew is merely an individual. We are a collective soul, a part of something bigger than ourselves. We may be a tiny blip on the census, but we don't work by the normal rules of demography. Our strength is not measured by our numbers, but by our unity.
The destiny of the Jewish people is to be a strong voice of goodness and morality among the family of nations. When we unite with our community and commit ourselves to the shared vision of our people, then we are a formidable presence. Not because we are one billion, but because we are one.