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Mordechai Soskil

Becoming a Zaydie for the First Time, Again

I get a mazel tov! My son Shua (and I guess some credit goes to his wife, Sigalle as well) had a boy! After four granddaughters, this is the first Soskil grandson. And I know, I know, I love them all the same. Sure. Your parents were lying when they told you they loved you and all your siblings the same just like you were lying when you told it to your kids. You love them all 100%. But it’s not the same. I love all these grandkids; the wise and beautiful 4-year-old; the fearless messy one with pretty eyes; the rambunctious love monster who worships her bubby; and the eternally smiling toddler who inexplicably likes climbing into cabinets. I love them all. But I’ve been waiting for a grandson for a while now!

Being a Zaydie is amazing. While the parents have to worry about where to have the bris and who will cater and where the Shalom Zachor will be, I had to decide whether to buy this soon-to-be-named snuggle muffin a doggie, a dragon, or a dinosaur. (The dinosaur won.) My wife and daughters helped pick out practical outfits for Mr. Cuddles and make sure my daughter-in-law had what she needs, I grabbed a baby-sized sweatshirt that had a particular band logo on it and words, “Sweet Child ‘O Mine.” I’m really good at Zaydie-ing.

On Monday we had a little meet and great for the smoosh potato and his cousins and uncles and aunts were able to meet him for the first time. It’s crazy to watch everyone oooh and aaah over a barely sentient, mostly inanimate, micro-human, but you can’t help it because his hair is so soft and he smells like butterfly whispers. You also can’t help but feel the overwhelming sense of blessing and miracle at this moment.

I know that every baby is a miracle and blah, blah, blah. That’s not my point. I mean that this beautiful buckaroo’s existence is like an actual miracle because of that time his dad fell off a mountain and impossibly didn’t die.

Maybe you heard this story already. I’m sorry for being that old guy that tells the same stories again and again, but this is a good one.

In November of 2016, my son Shua was 18 and in Shana Alef at Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael. It’s no secret that Shua was the most challenging of my children and we were very excited to send him to Israel for the year, for a whole lot of reasons. The year was progressing far beyond our hopes and Shua loved his rebbeim, loved his friends, loved Shabbos, and was really getting into the flow of things in yeshivah. On that particular Friday the yeshivah was headed north for a Shabbaton in Tzfat, but on the way was a day of hiking and rappelling. Shua was always a bit of a daredevil which is why when my wife called me during morning carpool and said that Shua’s Rosh Yeshivah called and said Shua fell off a mountain I said, “Of course he did.”

It would be some time until we found out that he had been running back up the mountain to take another turn rappelling when he slipped and fell — 60 feet. (That number was confirmed by at least two dozen people including members of Unit 669, Israel’s “Black Ops” search and rescue team who airlifted him to the hospital in Haifa.) His head and spine were miraculously ok but his legs were not. I’ll skip all the gory details except to say the first of three surgeries in Israel was to put his femur back inside his body where femurs belong.

Eventually Shua was able to start physical therapy and learning to walk again and he progressed from a wheelchair to crutches to a cane. But meanwhile…

Just a few days after the accident we got a call from Chai Lifeline with an offer to help. We told them that the most tangible thing we could think of was someone to be a “big sister” for our little Shira who was about eight at the time. We were worried with all the focus Shua would need, Shira might get lost in the shuffle. Enter Sigalle. Sigalle had been a classmate of Shua’s in high school (Let’s gooooo Beth Tfiloh Warriors!). They were in the same social group, more or less, but they weren’t particularly close. But Sigalle has a heart of gold and a desire to be helpful in any way she can, and she jumped right into the “big sister” role. (I should mention that technically, Shira has a big sister in her big sister Yocheved. But Yocheved was in 10th grade and too young to drive and take her to do cool stuff.) Sigalle spent a lot of time with Shira and of course with Shua, and pretty soon they were a thing. Fast forward and they got married in a beautiful backyard wedding, right in the middle of Covid in May of 2020.

And now they just had their first child. I may have mentioned this already but IT’S A BOY!!!

With every child you could say, the odds of these parents meeting, and so on and blah blah makes this child a miracle. But take all of that and multiply it by falling off a 60 foot cliff and now you get it.  And also I should mention, this little squish-melon is my first grandson and that’s pretty neat.

One particularly interesting note is that, G-d willing, the little hug nugget will have his Bris on Shabbos. The reason that’s so interesting is that the pasuk that we learn a Bris on the 8th day can be done on Shabbos is right at the beginning of THIS WEEK’S TORAH READING. Almost as if Hashem is saying, “Hey guys, I planned for this moment even before creation, when the Torah was written and still ensconced safely in the heavens. I was planning for just this moment.” That’s pretty neat.

The midrash at the beginning of parshas Tazria goes through many ways that carrying and delivering a child is miraculous. Everything that was opened in the child’s body gets closed and everything that was closed gets opened. The baby’s heart starts beating in the opposite direction. And not just that. The midrash points out that when an animal nurse the baby it happens from below the animal, for a human, it happens right there in the mother’s warm embrace. Right there in her loving gaze. Right there next to hear heart of gold. That’s also a miracle.

This Shabbos, after the venue has been chosen and the food delivered and the super cool outfit selected I get to sit back and bask in the glow of one more big cheeked, smooshy faced miracle. And this miracle is a boy!

For the first, first time I became a Zaydie click here.

For an actual Davar Torah on Parshas Tazria/Metzora, click here.

About the Author
Rabbi Mordechai Soskil has been teaching Torah for more than 20 years. Currently he is the Director of Judaic Studies at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. He is also the author of a highly regarded book on faith and hashkafa titled "Questions Obnoxious Jewish Teenagers Ask." He and his wife Allison have 6 children. And a blessedly expanding herd of grandchildren.
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