This week my wife and I celebrated not only the addition of another incredible family member, but a personal moment of triumph and expansion of what we ever thought capable of:
At about 2:30 am the waters broke after what seemed like a very slow labor process. We were fairly calm and collected and prepared ourselves for what was coming, our third birth. We felt fairly ready – we had chosen to have a homebirth and to have professional midwife assistance, the same as previously with Asher’s birth in Jerusalem:
However, things began to progress much faster than we had initially expected. When I phoned the local midwifery team at 3:45 am the contractions had already moved from 10 mins apart to only a few minutes. They informed us that no team was available as they were out at another birth. An ambulance could be dispatched to bring us to the hospital, but would probably only arrive in an hour.
With the assistance of Heidi, our online Doula on Skype, we undertook the birth and aftercare ourselves until they arrived on the scene about 45 mins after the baby had been safely delivered with no tearing, issues, or complications. When the paramedics arrived on the scene, there was little else to do but confirm everyone was healthy and safe and help me cut the cord.
When months ago I discussed the Halachic implications of home birth with the father directly assisting with Rabbi Yaakov Perets, we had originally assumed that we could be in South India, not Rural Somerset! However, the Chacham’s advice and wisdom were helpful for any setting and we felt that he understood our desire to have an intimate family moment in a safe and Halachically proper way. In the end, we were immensely grateful for his time and gained greatly from his advice.
For me this moment, a culmination of being in my mother’s house in rural England, my medical training as a nurse and health visitor, and my unique life of living in areas without access to normative services, was a wonderfully surreal experience and almost a concretization of being. I was happy that life had prepared me for a moment I had never considered facing:
In a sense we cannot be prepared for any profound experience, applying equally to positive and negative life moments. It iis precisely that moment of unknowing – where the inner strength, or weakness, until now untested in this specific area, is tested – that the experience of the profound takes place. Hashem is the unknown, in our deepest unknowns we come closer to some tangible finite human experience of the Divine.
Some 8 years ago I stood at the top of Gan Sacher with my friend Yaakov Lehman and he gave me a wonderful Mashal (metaphorical comparative) of the finger wearing a ring: regardless of how refined, beautiful, and expensive the gemstone encrusted ring might be, the true question is really about the finger – the ring to a certain extent can be replaced, not so the finger.
The skills and abilities we possess, may by extraordinary – we see incredible talent in so many fields of achievement – but achievements in what we do are secondary to achievements in who we are, who we have become, and the direction we propel ourselves toward.
Such as in our Parsha of Tzaveh: whilst we are interested in the garments of the priest, we must first undertake to find the one worthy of the garments before we can appreciate what it is their beauty will reveal in an individual. Torah is not only about fulfilling commands of an invisible king or acquiring knowledge through the study of ancient texts.
It is truly about becoming: developing the self-control and training needed to pursue the regular prayer cycle and discipline needed for daily study, the expansion of consciousness and returning of the mind to connect to Hashem in every moment.
The study of Torah and keeping of its Laws serves us not unless it generates a profound humility and respect for all life, unless it allows us to recreate ourselves in a Divine image – the image of our choosing and ability.
We find then that the beautiful rings that Hashem has given us, our wonderful abilities, can be a perfect match for a refined finger, that is the soul that is contained in our intellectual being.
To a certain extent, every birth is miraculous, every human story on this earth unique and powerful, meaningful and absolute. Each of us faces this human drama ultimately only as ourselves, no matter how we choose to define “the ineffable lightness of being”. For us as a couple it was a moment of absolute trust, of belief and shared excitement of bringing new life into being.
I wonder to a certain extent how many fathers are absent from the hands-on process due to society or custom, in this process that binds not just husband and wife but family together – a well-known criticism of the hospital birthing experience is that is not geared to assist fathers to be part of what is often a phenomenal moment of transition in the lives of both parents.
In the deeper sources of our people, the Mashal of husband and wife in terms of worlds of formation of worlds is found throughout all systems of the Kabbalah. I feel like we truly experienced the “Malchut D’Asiah” – I can only describe it as a “truly human experience” – beyond culture, religion, or even language; the primordial experience of birth experienced by all, belonging to all mankind equally.
As I caught my beautiful boy in my arms and held him as he took his first breaths and became an entire world, unique consciousness and person himself.
In our tradition, we consider every life a world:
“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a).
May we all be blessed to help to create a better world for those within it,
Mazal Tov from us and Happy Purim!
Rabbi Jonathan Goldschmidt 2021 ©