On 15 July, 2021 I became great. Great in the very best sense of the word. My grandson and his wife brought forth into the world a baby boy, their first child, and with his birth I became a great-grandfather to Elazar Shalom ben Ariel Matityahu and to Rivka Shoshana Ben-Sorek. The Hebrew word “nin” for a great-grandchild hardly expresses the delight, the joy and the pride of becoming a great-grandfather for the first time.
Because of my age and distance I know that I will be unable to see the baby very often. They live in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and frequent visits are an impossibility. Thus, I am confined to the gorgeous photos of a gorgeous baby boy which they e-mail to me and which I kiss as a token of my kiss to Elazar.
Shortly after the announcement of his birth I went to the cemetery to my wife’s grave to share the happy news with her and to regret that she did not live to become a savta-raba, a great-grandmother. She would have been the greatest one.
Regarding names, I choose not to be a “saba-raba” (Hebrew for great-grandfather) but rather a “zaideh”, the Yiddish term. That was how I referred to my only grandfather, the first great love of my life. Sadly he died when I was only eight years old but no day passes ever since without my remembering him. The two greatest loves in my life were my zaideh, Moshe Tzvi and my beloved and sainted and blessed wife, Rahel. Hopefully, young Elazar may become my third greatest love.
Now in my daily prayers I ask God to bless my baby great-grandson with good health of body and clarity of mind, of long and happy years of life, for success in all that he chooses to do, and for the continuation of the religious faith and traditions of our family over centuries.
I pray that my grandson, Elazar’s abba, will be gentle when changing the dozens of diapers daily so that there are no leakages or spills!
I add a prayer that their second “child-to-be” will be born within a year as is the custom of ultra-orthodox Jews, a tradition by which they live.
My wife gave birth to our second child when our firstborn was only fourteen months old. We were caring for two babies at the same time. Not an easy job!
Since Elazar was delivered by Caesarean section there is no pidyon ha-ben, the party in which the father redeems his child from a Kohen, a member of the Aaronic holy family of Jerusalem Temple priests two thousand years ago.
What are the duties of a great-grandfather? To love and to cherish his great-grandchild. To pray that God will help him to grow from infancy, to childhood, to youth, to adolescence and to adulthood healthy and strong, dedicated to serving God with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his might.
Facing reality, I understand that I will be unable to watch him grow. At the age of 88 I hope for a few more years of life which will still separate me from Elazar’s growth and development. Better fewer than none !
But for this precious time of my old-age, I pray to be able to hold baby Elazar Shalom in my arms, to kiss his head and face instead of only photos.
And I thank my heavenly Father for granting me a life in which I can be called “great” for a good reason.
Long life and much love to my infant two-week-old grandson Elazar Shalom. Welcome into the Ben-Sorek tribe!