It’s the middle of the night. All the children are sound asleep (at last!). There’s peaceful quiet in my home. The phones are turned off. I have no errands to make, no dishes to wash, no clothes to clean or meals to prepare. No clients. No distractions. I’m sitting on the couch with my baby in my arms. It’s her and me, alone. Alone. It’s so precious, these moments, when it’s just the two of us. She nurses and cuddles, and I kiss her pudgy cheeks. Such sweetness, these moments in the middle of the night, when we are alone.

ThroughoutMy attention disperses in a thousand directions the day, I sit with her to nurse, but there are always distractions and so much to do. My attention disperses in a thousand directions. Come the middle of the night, and once again my entire being is focused on her. We’re alone, and I’m in love.

It’s not just the baby. I have these moments when I take walks alone with my older children or tell a story to a younger one. One on one, when I make sure to turn everything off so that I can just focus and be present with the child in front of me. It’s hard work nowadays, isn’t it? To turn everything off and just be present with one. To have a conversation with your spouse or a friend over a cup of coffee, sitting down, without any distractions. To go for a walk and be disconnected. Yes, it’s hard nowadays to be alone with anyone and genuinely feel, “I’m totally focused on you.” Still, you make the effort and find that special time. It can be done.

I look down again at her, my baby. She looks up at me, coos and smiles. I take delight in these precious middle-of-the-night moments when it’s just her and me. We’re alone, and I’m in love.

When the Holy Temple stood during the holiday of Sukkot, a special sacrifice was brought as an offering. The Torah instructs: “And you shall offer ... thirteen oxen ... and on the second day, twelve oxen ... and on the third day, eleven oxen ... ” (Numbers 29: 12, 17, 20) for a total of 70 oxen corresponding to the 70 nations of the world. As Sukkot concludes, Shemini Atzeret, a festival in and of itself, begins. The sages explain (Rashi on Numbers 29:35) that atzeret is a term of affection, as would be used by a father who, when his sons were leaving his home, tells them, “Your departure is difficult for me. Put it off for another day.” One more day, just for them to be together, to be alone together.

On Passover and Shavuot, the additional sacrifices offered for the holiday included two oxen, and on Sukkot, as described, many oxen were brought. On Shemini Atzeret, however, the additional sacrifice included only a single ox.

Why is this?One more day, just to be alone and together

Our sages explain that the sole ox with a parable:

There was a king who made a feast lasting for seven days to which he invited all of the country’s inhabitants. When the seven days of feasting were concluded, he turned to his close associate and said, “We have given the citizens that which is due them. Let us now celebrate together, you and I, with whatever can be found—a portion of meat, or of fish or a vegetable.” This is what G‑d told Israel: “On the eighth day, it shall be an assembly for you.” Celebrate with whatever can be found, with a single ox. (Bamidbar Rabbah)

For me, Shemini Atzeret is like the middle of the night when I’m alone with my baby. We’ve already spent so much time together on the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot in prayer and connecting to G‑d. But even with all the time and “doing,” G‑d says, “Don’t leave yet. Let’s be together a bit more.”

It’s the holiday of one more day. We’re alone with G‑d, and G‑d tells us: “Israel, with you, I’m in love.”