I had the remarkable experience of recently entering the ‘Gates of Righteousness’, better known as Shaarei Tzedek Hospital. With overflowing parking lots, I was forced to walk from far away and consequently traverse—by foot!—four lanes of highway traffic before darting between idling ambulances and queued taxis. Entering the newest pavillion in the ever-expanding medical center, security was tight. Once I passed the metal gates, I stood at the elevators alongside fellow Israelis who stoically waited to ascend upwards to floors which might determine outcomes, uncomfortable or reassuring decisions, encounter sadness or relief.
I pressed Floor 10 and a Hasidic woman standing in the corner whispered to me, “Mazel Tov. Me too.” What were these tears in my eyes that accompanied an unfamiliar sense of camaraderie!?! Two grandmas from different worlds, we shared the humble gift of continuity. Of belief in His bounty. Of legacy and love. We were so different. We were the same.
My eldest daughter lay in her bed dozing, looking a tad peaked. I suppose this is what an eighth delivery that included an emergency C-section must look like and, consequently, I refrained from suggesting a little lip gloss and the more attractive hostess robe. Instead I washed and sanitized my hands and scooped up the delicious infant boy in the bassinet.
Anyone who has ever inhaled the scent of freshly born baby has experienced the fragrance of Eden. Sweet and subtle, Eau de Womb transports one to a place far beyond our ken. A baby’s breath is shallow and fast, his skin translucent, silken and every lash, nail and bodily crease whispers one word: Miracle. The wee, web-thin veins that patterned his closed eye-lids lured me into a near-hypnotic state.
Observing my state of awe, one might think I’d never held a newborn before. In fact, this was my sixteenth grandchild, delivered in the same hospital as his big brother had been only sixteen years earlier. Indeed, Big Brother arrived after sunset on Shabbat and because I could not know if the baby was male, female, had the requisite ten fingers and toes and/or how daughter had weathered the experience, I did what any observant Jewish mother would do in identical circumstances. I awoke, ate some challah, laced up the walking shoes and jogged six miles to an older and grimier Shaarei Tzedek. As I frequently say, “It was the happiest day of my life.” I mean it every time.
The bris (circumcision) for my newest grandson took place this morning. From this day forward, his membership in the Covenant of Abraham is sealed as per the Commandments. Another generation emerges, despite the insurmountable odds that we, Am Yisroel, confront at every stage of history. As I proudly stood with the women—deliberately away from the field of action—and accepted warm hugs and sincere wishes of “mazel tov,” I couldn’t help but remember my Hasidic sister in the elevator who might also be standing in a room this morning, crowded with Jews and bagels.
New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.