Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Unnamed

There's a new baby boy on the block and my greatness has increased by the measure of one infant. Strangely, I don't get to append another "great" onto my title of "great uncle" even though my niece and her hubban have been blessed with another child. Nor does my title expand even though they now have a boy and a girl. But what is strangest is that, for the next week, the child will be he who has not been named.

In the Jewish tradition, a girl is named at the first Torah reading that the dad (or proxy...I've seen proxy) can make it to after the birth, so a girl need not go without a name for more than 3 days (assume a birth right after prayers on Monday morning). But a boy, barring medical delay, waits until the 8th day, at the circumcision to get a name. Girls, it seems, mature faster than boys even in this department. Why do we wait to confer a name (read: identity) on a boy? According to one site I found, the original bris was made in conjunction with a name so we commemorate that by delaying the naming until the bris. I guess that since Sarah was not "named" in connection to a mitzvah ritual, her name needs only to be announced in a public setting, like a Torah reading. But I've been mulling this over like a good cup of cider and have come to a strange conclusion -- the Jewish boy doesn't achieve a position of communal relevance until he has been ushered into the group by means of the circumcision and therefore his name, while the girl belongs to the community as soon as we can all get together and celebrate her arrival! This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be caring about the child until then, only that the boy lacks a certain innate spiritual position and needs to have his place physically marked, whereas a girl is automatically connected to our heritage and can have her name within the Jewish people practically immediately!

When God changed Avram's name to Avraham, at the time of circumcision, he changed Avraham's status from a local father (Av Aram) to a father of a multitude (Av hamon). Sarai ("my princess") became a princess to all. But nothing happened to her. She could have become that princess to all at any time -- she had to wait for Abraham to get his act together and achieve HIS new status. She was already there -- a princess and a princess in waiting, while he needed God to step in to make him into something proper via the circumcision. Her status as barren changed with a new name so her name was not allowed to be changed any earlier; she could not be the mother of Abraham's child until HE was Abraham, even though she, on her own merits, was spiritually where she needed to be.

So back to this baby, whatever his name will end up being. In one week he will be on his path to greatness, with a name which influences and reflects a strong family, a heritage worth commemorating and a destiny which will, God willing, have him become another pillar in the Jewish community.

Though I'm sure I should wait until the bris and for his official welcome into the community, I figure that with the time zone difference, it is already next week in Israel so I say Mazal Tov to the parents, grand and great grandparents, family, friends and other relatives.

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