Gesher Grade 7 Update – 10/20
Posted on October 22, 2015
As part of our life cycle study, Rav Shira Shazeer, founder of the Jewish Birth Network, was our guest speaker on Tuesday. She worked with students to develop a working definition of a milestone event: it’s important, it happens to a lot of people, it marks a change and, by the end of our session, we added that a Jewish milestone event is a moment of connection between human beings and God.
We talked at length about those elements that signify a change. Sometimes we are called by a new name or have a new role; mother, father, sister, brother. The event may bring about changes in relationships. Often we have new responsibilities. And we noted that intentional breathing may be part of the change: breathing exercises during birthing and the baby’s first breath.
Since birth is a universal experience, what does Judaism do with this milestone? We have special rituals for welcoming the Jewish baby: Brit Milah for boys (to be discussed at length with Dr./Mohelet Jennifer Novick on November 10) and recently a selection of new tradition based rituals to welcome the female baby into the Jewish community.
Some people say the Gomel blessing following child birth. Rav Shira taught us that traditionally Gomel is said after crossing a desert, crossing an ocean, recovery from a serious illness, getting out of prison and giving birth. Danger, moments where life may be in the balance, seems to unite these events. In concert with this connection between birthing and danger, we learned that anything that a birthing mother may need may be done on Shabbat.
We are so very grateful to Rav Shira for her beautiful, informative and engaging presentation. Our rich understanding of birth as a Jewish milestone event was her precious gift to us.