I have been waiting a long time to write this one.
And suddenly, I find I don’t know what to write.
My first note this year, on September 18th, was about not being sure if I was “doing it right.” I wrote about each of us taking our first steps of the year – my first steps as school director, children and parents’ first steps at finding a school community, and teachers’ first steps at meeting their new charges.
Once again, that feeling has returned.
Earlier this week, the day before his bris, my son did not yet have a name; my wife and I had been calling him “baby” for the first few days of his life. Only two people besides us knew what his name would be: the woman at the hospital who we handed his Birth Certificate form to, and the woman at the pediatrician’s office who we set up an appointment with. Monday morning, sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office, we heard the receptionist call out, “Jonah?” We continued chatting. She repeats, “Jonah? Jonah Hichenberg?” Then it catches us – that is our Jonah. Our baby has a name, one that we had never heard actually said out loud.
Taking my first steps as a dad, I’m trying just to hold on to the basics. My son’s name is Jonah. My wife is a superhero. His family loves him.
For everything else, that feeling of not being sure about “doing it right” predominates. But yet, we feel confident that we are moving in the right direction. How to reconcile uncertainty with confidence? I find myself turning to community and Judaism. Those two pillars, so often intimately intertwined, allow us to take strong steps forward when we would otherwise falter.
Community, whether it is here at the nursery, the JCC at large, a local synagogue, or for that matter a Zog sports league, is where we turn when we are not sure. Community provides us the ability to lean on the cumulative wisdom of those who came before, and on the questions and answers of our contemporaries. Judaism provides us with an access point to that community, giving us occasion to come together to celebrate, mourn, learn, or just be.
So I look at Judaism and community with gratitude and awe this week as I turn into a father, for they have allowed me to move forward where otherwise I may have stalled.