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When the Static Stops

When the Static Stops

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You are driving down the highway, and as you get farther and farther from the city you get more and more frustrated as your favorite radio station becomes impossible to make out over all the static.

Every day we travel down the highway of life. And every day we are being broadcasted to. Yet, there are times that we are tuned in and the reception is perfect, and other times that we are so far away that all we hear is static. There are even times we hear nothing, because we have forgotten to turn the radio on.

I understood that I am meant to be a solid link in the chain The Chassidic commentator, the Beit Yaakov, explains that the giving of the Torah thirty three hundred years ago was not a one-time event. Like a radio broadcast, G‑d is giving us the Torah over and over, day after day after day. Yet sometimes we cannot hear G‑d's voice over all the static of our everyday lives; we are too distracted and too busy to hear what G‑d is trying to tell us.

Five years ago, I had one of those rare static-free moments one Shabbat afternoon when I took my newborn daughter on a walk to a playground not far from our home. The park was nothing special - the green paint on the decaying benches was peeling, only one of the park's swings was still functioning, and the sandbox was overgrown with weeds. I sat down, closed my eyes, and found myself experiencing something unlike anything that has happened to me before or since.

In my mind's eye, I saw colors swirling around like a rainbow swept up by a sandstorm. I envisioned all of the generations of women that stretched between me and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai – a forgotten grandmother kneading challah three hundred years before, another forgotten grandmother lighting Shabbat candles twelve hundred years before, and yet another crying over the destruction of the Holy Temple not far from where I sat that afternoon, two thousand years before.

And then I envisioned the world two hundred years in the future from that day, when I would myself be one of those forgotten grandmothers. I envisioned how there would no longer be anyone left in the world who would remember my name, or the kind of person I was, or anything about me.

At that moment, the static was absolutely silent. I understood for the first time in my life, with absolute clarity, the purpose of my life. I understood that I am meant to be a solid link in the chain between the giving of the Torah and the descendants that I will never meet. I understood that the most important thing I could possibly do in my life is to pass on the love of Judaism to my children, so that they will pass it on to their children, and they, in turn, to their children, for all the generations to come.

I have experienced a similar kind of clarity at each of my five birthsI have experienced a similar kind of clarity at each of my five births. During each birth, I reach a point when the pain of the contractions is so intense that I know I cannot continue on my own. It is at that point that I inevitably turn to G‑d for help. At my most recent birth two weeks ago, during the painful transition stage before pushing out my baby, I whispered, "G‑d, You are my midwife," over and over. In accordance with the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I also focused on the four letters of G‑d's name - Yud, Hei, Vav, Hei.

On my regular static-filled days, I often sense G‑d's involvement in my life - when coincidences are just too freaky to be simply coincidences. Or when I can see the Divine kindness or wisdom behind an unexpected turn of events. But every time a midwife hands me my newborn baby, I don't only sense G‑d's involvement in what just took place in that delivery room. I know and feel in every bone of my body that I did not give birth to the baby I am holding on my own. I know with total clarity that G‑d was there with me, listening to my prayers, taking away the pain, and giving me the strength to continue when I feared that I had none left.

My births provide me with an injection of faith that inspires me through the years spent on the long, static-ridden rural highways that divide between them.

This past Shabbat, I experienced another one of those rare moments of perfect reception, at the circumcision of our first son after four daughters.

From the moment this baby was born, my husband and I were busy planning the details of the circumcision. Who would do the catering? Which synagogue would host it? Who would be the mohel, the person who ritually circumcises the baby?

The funny thing was that after the births of my daughters, I do not remember hearing anyone mentioning circumcisions. This time though, it seemed that none of my fellow mothers of newborns wanted to talk about anything else.

Suddenly all my conversations surrounded caring for the baby after the brit (the circumcision), and about fluctuating bilirubin levels that could delay the brit, and about a woman whose brother got married on the day of her oldest son's brit, and about the relative cost of having your mother prepare the food versus ordering catering for the brit.

In the end, though, all of these conversations did absolutely nothing to prepare me emotionally for the overwhelming experience of the actual circumcision this past Shabbat.

I had assumed at the time that she was crying because she was afraidYears ago, I saw a friend crying as she handed away her first son to be circumcised. I had assumed at the time that she was crying because she was afraid of what was about to happen to her son.

But this past Shabbat, as our synagogue was filled with friends and family and the magical sound of singing, when I passed over my newborn son to be circumcised, I understood my friend's tears in a totally different way.

As tears fell from my own eyes, I felt for the first time in my life what it is like to be simply overwhelmed by holiness. As everybody in the synagogue called out the words of "Shema Yisrael" - "Hear O Israel…the Lord is One!" The event taking place felt so pure, so simple, so primal even. My son, who had been given to my husband and me by the one and only G‑d, was about to perform the first commandment given by the one and only G‑d to Abraham, the first person on the planet who recognized that there is only one G‑d.

At that moment there were no doubts, no questions. No static whatsoever. I felt the one and only G‑d's presence among us, pure and simple.

I closed my eyes and wept as I prayed that my son would grow up to be like the rabbis who held him throughout the ceremony - to be a person who is good, kind, and whose eyes will also shine with love of Torah.

The most emotional moment of the brit for me was when my husband yelled out, "Blessed are You, G‑d…Who commanded us to enter [our son] into the covenant of Abraham our Father." At that moment, I felt like I was witnessing the spiritual version of what takes place inside a nuclear reactor. Eight days before, my son had been born on a physical level, and at that moment I was seeing him being born on a spiritual level.

I felt as moved as if I was once again standing at Mount SinaiI felt as moved as if I was once again standing at Mount Sinai, hearing the blasting shofar and the booming thunder as G‑d Himself descended onto the mountain to speak with Moses face to face during the giving of the Torah.

After the brit, I found out that my husband had experienced exactly what I had. We could speak about little else for days.

At the brit, we felt the same thing that I had felt on that peeling park bench, and in the delivery room after the births of our four daughters and our first son eight days before. We felt the clarity that comes when you are driving down the highway of life, and out of nowhere the static becomes silent, and you hear G‑d's voice speaking to you, loud and clear.

Chana (Jenny) Weisberg is the author of the new book One Baby Step at a Time: Seven Secrets of Jewish Motherhood (Urim), and Expecting Miracles: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Pregnancy through Judaism (Urim). She is the creator of the popular website www.JewishMom.org, and lives with her husband and children in Jerusalem.
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Andy Marin atlanta, ga May 31, 2007

I shed tears for your son Your writing invokes great emotions and demonstrates the depths of feelings that you and your husband have for your background. But, you've abused your parental power by ritually circumcising your son. Such a decision should be your son's when he is an adult. There are many redundant 'traditions' in the Old Testament, unfortunately this barbaric practice is not one of them. Why would you hurt your son in this way for the contents in some old book? Reply

Anonymous May 24, 2007

WARNING I'm not accusing the first commentor of this, but it is known that bris milah (circumcision) is one of the first commandments missionaries and anti-semites try to attack. They claim it is painful and cruel, they claim to have a relationship w/ G-d based on love, which does not/ cannot include such an act.

In reality, it is, as Chana W. writes, a spiritual birth and something uniquely beautiful. Physical birth is also painful, epidural or not, should we give that up too?

Note: to 'anonymous'- you may not perceive your love of G-d as selfish but if you have ruled out doing commandments which seem distasteful to you (in the event that G-d would ask them of you), then it is selfish and the reward you are looking for is a less tangible one but still a reward.
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Nozomu Suzuki Willowdale, Canada May 24, 2007

'brit'... Hmm....I understand one thing....Judaism has this calmness, that sense of experienced, old, and yet, that matter of factness to religion as if it is holy, a natural part of jewish existence....that is the sense I felt from inside synagogues...

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Jampa Williams West Hartford, CT May 23, 2007

Mazel Tov! Congratulations on the birth of your son! Thank you for giving readers the gift of your lovely insight, even as you celebrate the gift of your child's presence. May your family go from strength to strength. Reply

anonymous (see first comment) May 22, 2007

Thanks for your replies, but I must say that my love of G-d is not at all as you describe it. Not based on personal feeling or preference, not a striving for perfection, not with a 'reward' in mind.... none of these. It's totally beyond anything I can conceive of. Reply

Raizy NY May 22, 2007

how beautiful Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful awareness in your life. Reply

Mama Kim Phila, PA May 21, 2007

thank you This message is beautiful. I am a Catholic convert who has a deep respect and appreciation for Judaism. I seem to relate on a much deeper level to writings of Jewish women than I do on writings of Catholic women. Don't know what that means, but I'm glad I found this site ... seemingly "stumbled" upon it :-) It is good to read and learn with an open mind and heart. Reply

Eliezer Montevideo, Uruguay May 21, 2007

To Anoymous Dear Anonymous,
Perhaps therein lies the uniqueness of the Jewish connection to G-d. A non Jew serves G-d because it makes sense or feels good. A Jew serves G-d as a result of a connection that goes deeper and beyond personal understanding or feeling.
A non Jew strives for perfection. A Jew strives for a connection to Infinity.
The Seven Noahide Laws were given by G-d to help the non Jew reach his or her intended goal. The 613 precepts were given to the Jew in order to enable him or her to reach their intended goal.
Both paths lead to the same G-d.

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suri brooklyn, ny May 21, 2007

CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM As children of Abraham, our forefather, we inherited a pure faith in G-d. When we fulfill his commandments, we connect essence to essence. Since having a bris is not one of the commandments for a non-jew, you could not possibly understand the spiritual joy a Jew feels upon doing a Mitzvah (commandment). We don't do G-d's will for the spiritual high, but it is a nice side effect. Reply

Anonymous May 20, 2007

I, as a non-jew, can relate to your story very much as my life is filled with this sense of awe for G-d, for the Oneness of it all, for the holiness of being....
But, I can't understand this brit-thing. I mean, I would give up every moment of uplift and joy and every feeling of epiphany, I would happily live on for the rest of my life without all these spiritual highs if I had to cut off part of my child and hurt him for it.
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Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.