My first-born son’s recent marriage was a huge simcha for the family, but the wedding was actually the culmination of a simcha that began years ago – at his bris. At the time, I remember the guests at the shul asking me how I felt. I knew that they were asking me ? a first time kimpeturin (a woman who had just gone through and was in the process of recovering from the strength-sapping ordeal of childbirth) how I felt physically. But I couldn’t help internalize the question from an emotional viewpoint. I myself wondered how I actually felt about what was happening around me.
For months, I had gone about feeling “out of sorts” – unable to tolerate everyday, normally pleasant smells like roasting chicken or perfume without feeling nauseous. For weeks, I waddled like a penguin instead of walking. I was unable to find a comfortable position in which to sleep, though I desperately needed the rest, and was even unable to tie my shoes.
I eventually went through an excruciating 25 hour labor being “uncomfortable,” as the nurse so diplomatically informed the doctor. And finally, after swearing this would be an only child – a vow that was not binding because women in childbirth are not held accountable for any of the babble that comes out of their mouths – I was presented with a brick-red, wrinkled creature that resembled a water-soaked chicken more than a human being – and it was love at first sight! At that moment, I made an unsolicited promise that as long as I drew breath, nobody would hurt him … And then eight days later, here I was surrendering this dependent, totally helpless being who was beginning to trust me – to a man with a knife!
So when I was asked, “How do you feel?” I had to do some serious self-examination. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted, rather sore, nervous, petrified (what if the mohel makes a mistake) and basically ready to pass out. But when I heard a cry from across the room, and then the name “Menachem Mendel ben Shmuel” being called out, an incredible joy and pride flooded me, totally washing away my terror and anxiety. Every fiber of my being was filled with an intense happiness and an overriding sense of accomplishment.
Mendel was named after his paternal grandfather’s father who had perished in the Holocaust, and as his name was proclaimed for the first time, I had a vision of a celestial hand cutting through Gehennom – and slapping Hitler’s face.
Mendel is the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors from across Europe – Poland, Romania, and Hungary. For thousands of years, the Jew haters of Europe, Asia and the Middle East have tried – in vain – to eradicate the Jewish people. Hitler, a descendant of Amalek, had tragically been extremely successful. Millions were brutally butchered on his orders. But despite his best efforts, he, like his evil peers throughout the millennia, had been unsuccessful. Their determined efforts were for naught. This eight day old baby boy, who had just been entered into the holy covenant between G-d and the children of Israel – was indicative of this failure. This child, who bore his ancestor’s name and was his continuation, was spiritual and physical evidence of the Jewish nation’s existence.
A new link in the timeless chain that stretched out from Har Sinai, this infant would embrace the holy heritage that his grandparents and millions of his kin had been murdered for. His very existence was triumphant proof that Jewicide was an unmitigated failure.
Thirteen years later, the simcha entered its second stage, as Mendel, upon reaching maturity as defined by Jewish law, became a full-fledged member of the congregation of Israel.
And now, the simcha has reached a new height as he and his wife Shira, whose multi-generational American family survived another insidious enemy of Israel – assimilation – proceed to build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael. With Hashem’s blessing, the young couples of today are producing offspring who, in turn, will carry the spiritual torch that has been handed down through thousands of years of Jewish continuity.
No doubt, every birth, every bar/bas mitzvah attained by a Jewish child, every chuppah and the subsequent birth of a new generation make Hitler and his ilk feel the flames of Hell more intensely. Every neshama, every soul, that was prematurely separated from its earthly body by the enemies of Israel rejoices and celebrates in its heavenly abode.
How fitting then, that during the Sheva Brachot celebration of this grandchild of the Shoah, the descendant of four sons and daughters of Yaacov who survived extermination by a vile son of Esau – that another blood-soaked enemy of Israel was summoned to the Heavenly Court for his Day of Reckoning. No doubt as this hate-filled son of Ishmael was escorted to the One Judge, his ears rang with the deafening shout of the souls of his victims – who, looking down at the simcha – roared in unison, “Am Yisrael Chai!!”
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