Basically, everything about caring for a baby is brand new to me. Diapers, “onesies,” late-night feedings, you name it. Chloe is Deborah and my first child. I am the youngest child in my family and did not spend much time around babies. I have had practically no experience around children this age. I am finding the whole experience both amazing and nerve-wracking at the same time.
I had an interesting realization at one point that I would like to share though. A part of our religious life has helped prepare me for this experience. I came to this thought during a rather mundane act, changing my daughter’s onesie for one of the first times ever. Something about very carefully pulling the garment over Chloe’s head and arms felt strangely familiar. It reminded me so much of pulling down the mantle over a Torah scroll after the Torah has been read. I had great love and respect for the object that I was covering. I did not want to get anything stuck or caught. I certainly did not want to let anything drop or fall.
Holding and moving around a Torah scroll and its decorative pieces such as its breastpiece, yad, or crown can generate a variety of emotions. We can feel honored to be working with such an amazing, holy object. It can bring us great joy. At the same time, it can be a little intimidating since we do not want to do anything that is going to harm the Torah or show disrespect. And we can also even feel a little scared about the responsibility to do these things since we grow up learning that a person who drops a Torah needs to fast for forty days. Also, the times when we are often moving around Torahs are during services, when we are standing in front of other people and do not want embarrass ourselves. So, we approach actions involving Torah scrolls with a combination of emotions: great joy and a certain amount of wariness, or even nervousness.
I am finding that this combination, great joy and nervousness, also underlies the experience of caring for a beautiful, baby girl. You want to do everything right: the right feeding, the right holding, even the right burping. But, there is something a little mysterious about her. You cannot accurately read all her signs. So, you spend your time feeling great joy while worrying about what you are doing at every turn. I am sure that other intense experiences in life create the same combination of emotions and feelings. It is not always easy to maintain this combination though, especially for a long time. In particular, the nervousness can feel uncomfortable. Even the “highs” can start to sap one’s energy.
But, what keeps a person going when taking care of a Torah is the same thing that keeps him or her going when caring for a child. Love brings both the emotions of fear and joy together. It encapsulates both of them. Love is the overarching emotion, one that makes it possible to face the other two and manage both the highs and the lows when they arise.
We approach the Torah with love. We approach our own children with love. May both of these loves continue to blossom. May they help us carry on our faith. May they also help us to raise happy, healthy children who grow to make this world a better place as our faith and our Torah bid us to do.