Dedicated for the Aliyah Neshama of Chaya Esther bas Ze’ev Yehoshua z”l, late mother of my husband, and yblch”ta our new daughter Bas-Sheva Sara
With immense gratitude to Hashem
This past week while the Shabbos Project was being observed the world over, I had my own personal “Shabbos project”. I was woken on Shabbos morning with long awaited contractions telling me that the arrival of my mystery cargo was imminent. I can’t believe this was all just a week ago …!
Our community had a festive communal lunch in honour of the Shabbos Project, and our family’s participation was a welcomed way to begin crossing the one-way bridge of labor. (“B’sha’ah tovah, when are you due?” people were asking me. “A few hours, I hope!” was my unarticulated answer.) Later that afternoon my husband and I found ourselves seated comfortably (well, as comfortably as was possible) in an Uber on our way to the Park Lane clinic, the hospital where we were both born as well as the hospital where my husband’s mother, Adele Taback עלי’ה השלום worked as a midwife. It was a marvel to me how Shabbos still was with us even in the cab.
Fast forward a few hours. It is 9:18 pm and the awe and power of birth is just behind us. We are more deeply aware of our mere participation as instruments in Hashem’s cosmic and mind-boggling design. (My husband’s prayers and presence were integral to the birth of our daughter bH hence I speak as “we”. Here are some of the words that he shared with me from Tehillim 22 that he was saying around the time of delivery … “one who casts his burden on Hashem – He will deliver him! He will save him, for He desires him! For You are the One who drew me forth from the womb, and made me secure on my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth, from my mother’s womb You have been my G-d. …. They will come and relate His righteousness, to the newborn nation that which He has done.” !)
Immediately after finding out we had had a daughter, almost in jest, I said, “Batsheva!” My husband replied, “Daughter of seven – that is Shabbos.” A surge of joy came through me and I knew the “Ruach Hakodesh” – Divine inspiration that every parent has when it comes time to name their children – had hit. (Joy is of course the only by-product that is possible when we rub a higher dimension of knowing that normally evades our consciousness.) At this point we did not yet know the astounding “coincidence” regarding the haftora of the coming Shabbos – the week we had just entered, but more about that in a moment.
Why was the Shabbos theme so significant for us? The answer is that Shabbos has been the area of avoda – personal spiritual growth – where our family had been working the hardest. Two generally ambitious parents plus special dietary requirements had seemed to make Fridays too pressured and last-minute. So, celebrating where we had come in this area by choosing a name that hinted to “Shabbos” as well as representing our prayers for future Friday peace and calm felt right. In fact, our seven-year-old daughter exclaimed last week, “I know why it is important to be prepared for Shabbos on time. Because Shabbos is like Olam Haba (the world to come)!” How right she is. Add the Gemara that during childbirth women are judged for their performance of the three mitzvos – challah, candles and family purity – and our efforts in the area of Shabbos felt appropriate as we prepared to greet our baby. And then we had our own little Shabbos project on October 27th, 2018, birthing Bas-Sheva.
Seeing that our baby was born between the parshios of Vayera and Chayei Sara, the matriarch Sara of course was the other female name that came to our attention. Again, my husband’s interpretation gave me so much joy – wave two – that I will share it here. He said, “wasn’t Sara the first pre-messianic woman?” (Just some background: Sara Imeinu lived a reality reminiscent of Chava before the sin as well as a life that was a fore-shadowing of the Messianic Era. Through the three women’s mitzvos, she negated the need for any klalos – curses – left over from Chava’s sin and lived a life on the wave-length of the perfected future. What was particularly outstanding about her was her level of prophecy. As such, Hashem instructed Avraham to listen to her voice with regard to the matter of expelling Yishmael from their home, as the pasuk says, שמע בקולה – “listen to her voice”. “Voice” is an allusion to prophecy and her crystal-clear spiritual vision.) I get chills when I think of how by connecting back to the past by aspiring to live in the ways of our Imahos – fore-mothers – we are actually fast-tracking to the times of the future, when women will have completed their rectification and complete growth process, and when the light of the moon will shine like the light of the sun, as we say in Kiddush Levana.
Aside from the number seven representing Shabbos, the 7th attribute of Hashem (when counting the seven revealed/ emotional attributes) is Malchus, royalty. Bas-Sheva was the mother of royalty as she was the mother of Shlomo and it was she about whom Shlomo sang when he composed the Aishes Chayil, the ode to the ideal woman. On Friday, my husband was contacted by the Gabai of the shul to ask if he would read the Haftora as his Aliya for naming the baby. He agreed, and sure enough, we discovered that the haftora of Parshas Chayei Sara is essentially about Bas-Sheva, where Nasan (Nathan) the prophet approached Bas-Sheva to confront her husband, the elderly King Dovid, to instate Shlomo’s reign so that Dovid’s rebellious son Adoniyahu would stop threatening to steal the throne. Once again, the message needed to reach the king’s ears through his virtuous wife. The haftora (Melachim perek א) ends with Bas-Sheva’s words, “יחי אדוני המלך דוד לעולם” – “May my master the king Dovid live forever” – which is another way of saying, may Hashem’s Malchus be revealed always and forever through his servant Dovid. Similarly, the name Sara literally means “a princess”, one who rules over not only provinces and peoples (as was manifest through her great-great-grand-daughter Esther) but most profoundly, herself. In fact, only through self-leadership is she able to make the impact that she does when she and Avraham are attributed to the creation of “souls in charan” due to their impassioned outreach work on behalf of the Hashem that they had found and loved.
The 7th “sefira”, attribute, the revelation of Hashem in the world (i.e. Malchus) always represents the feminine dimension. Maybe for this reason the verse says that Hashem blessed Avraham with everything, בכל, and the commentaries say that this refers to a daughter that Hashem gave them whose name literally was “בכל”. This too, is an allusion to a time when women and girls have so much thirst and opportunity to come close to Hashem through learning His Torah and therefore through their own growth allow His Malchus to rise and His Shechina to be felt, (as the Rambam says that only through Torah can one develop love of Hashem.) Hashem has blessed Avraham with “everything” – what more could we possibly want?
My husband and I would like to thank everyone in our lives near and far for surrounding us with their love and sharing in our joy. We pray that the global Shabbos Project should bring hearts closer to Hashem and His Torah for its own sake and that we soon do taste the delicacies of the Shabbos of the future, after “singing” the opening composition Aishes Chayil that king Shlomo wrote about his mother, Bas-Sheva.