More than 30 years ago, my wife gave birth to our fifth child, a beautiful, healthy son. He was born en caul, something so rare that most delivery doctors never witness an en caul birth in their entire career. We even have a photograph of our newborn son taken by the doula, a family friend, who assisted my wife with the delivery! This type of birth is described with other names as well, including a “veiled birth”. Quite simply an en caul birth is when the baby comes out still inside an intact amniotic sac (caul). The newborn is completely gift-wrapped in a soft, jell-like bubble.
As you might imagine, different cultures ascribe great significance to this very rare event. There is even a Jewish tradition that being born en caul is a sign of good luck, a sign of an extra layer of protection for throughout one’s life.
And there’s more! Our son was born just as Tuesday the 24th of Elul was just about to become the 25th, sort of like the “Twilight Zone” time of day. It was crucial to ascertain the exact time of birth to determine the correct date for his “Bris”. After a bit of investigating it was determined that although the birth was only recorded after the fact, the main birth had, in fact, occurred on Tuesday the 24th, requiring a “Rosh Hashana” Bris. On the Jewish calendar, Tuesday is considered a doubly Blessed day, that being the day of creation when God states twice “And it was Good.” My son’s birth occurred at the very moment in time when in Jewish tradition Creation began.
Throughout his life, we have seen time and time again how this special protection of his has come through. He celebrated the first part of his bar mitzvah, safely, in Israel, during the Intifada. I have a photo of him enjoying pizza in the very same restaurant that would be blown up two weeks later.
And when was his bar mitzvah party in Teaneck, New Jersey? 9/12. Yeah, that 9/12. The morning after. One day we are all enjoying a beautiful time of year, and the next day… disaster. On the morning of 9/11, I was driving an ambulance for TVAC and in the afternoon I was driving along abandoned highways with my son to pick up his bar mitzvah suit from Sy Sims, the only store still open.
The celebration took place albeit with a much, much smaller crowd than originally expected, but life went on.
Over the years, if any of my kids ever needed this extra layer of protection, it was this child. Without it … well, let’s just leave it at that. Many a tear was shed praying for him.
And my prayers were answered. In a big way. Last week, amid the latest crisis but before the wedding cancellations began, he got married to a most wonderful girl. There were a few hairy moments. My daughter from Jerusalem had her flight canceled. They didn’t allow my father-in-law out of his assisted living residence. After a three hour drive to Baltimore, my wife was not allowed into the hospital to visit my mom. But the celebration was able to take place. And what a celebration it was!
Fortunately for us, our flight home to Israel via Amsterdam, in the end, took off without a hitch, again despite some hairy moments along the way. We even had the great fortune of performing a mitzvah along the way, escorting from New York to Israel an elderly woman who required reaching her family. It definitely added to the drama of our journey. Mission accomplished!
When I think about the en caul birth of my child, I not only think of the special protection that he has been blessed with throughout his life. It brings me to better appreciate the special protection that we are all in fact blessed with. It is at times like this that we are reminded of the great miracle of life itself on this planet of ours that we all call home. It is a strong reminder to all of us of how small and fragile our world is, of the mission we all have to fulfill here in the short time that is allotted to us and to how connected and united we all are with each other.
Our unity is our own en caul.