The tiles were full of animation, of expectation, of elation. A new baby, a cherubic girl, had joined the tribe. Bound in digital proximity, the community gathered as we have come to gather these days. Each allowed a brief moment of longing for the in-person congregation that had brought the same folks together that beautiful evening in Caesarea. And yet the pangs for that time, the current predicament keeping us apart, could not overshadow the joy that there was another member in the midst.
From Israel, from New York, from Amsterdam, from Colorado, from other outposts of the diaspora, the electrons pulsing through fiber optics carried blessings and hopes, made the screen come alive with the energy that has sustained the faith through millennia of tribulations. As the new parents came into our view, looking no worse for the wear a week into their nascent parenthood, the anticipation began to build in earnest. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but there is no denying the power, the marker of a name. Baby Girl was imminently to take her place within the lore of the family, to claim the moniker that was both her individuality and her heredity.
A crowd prone to clamor, the group was wisely muted as the ceremony began. With some quick opening remarks, the virtual floor was given to my uncle, a sage scholar of the Talmud. Characteristically, he delivered his wisdom in a measured, but still passionate tone, placing the day’s event in the arc of history, in the continuum of our people. That perspective is one of the touchstones of the faith: that there is little interruption from the days enslaved to the most immediate modernity, one of relative prosperity and control about which the ancestors could only but dream.
Back to the moment, my cousin, the radiant new mother, began to speak. Baby Girl’s parents are beyond thoughtful and deeply spiritual. With the first spark of pregnancy, my cousin had begun postulating names for her offspring. Upon finding out that she was to welcome a girl, there was an undeniable impulse to honor the strong women that had laid both her path and the one that Baby Girl would tread. A force of nature herself, there was no question that my cousin’s life to date had been lived with the influence of her forebears, a trait that she would no doubt pass to Baby Girl.
Baby Girl’s first namesake was our mutual grandmother, a woman who made her own way in the world, nursed a son through terminal illness, cared for a whole community of the forgotten, contributed to the cause, and who was so very wise and witty and singular. This announcement immediately brought tears to my eyes, those of my uncle, and the others assembled who had been deeply affected and influenced by Tata. For her middle name, Baby Girl was to pay homage to Golda Meir, the former Israeli Prime Minister and feminist icon. The family has lived and will continue to make their home in Tel Aviv; Israel being more than a theoretical pull to their souls.
It was the first time that I had experienced a cacophony carried in silence. The name was so fitting, so inspired, so inspirational that we all could not help but be moved to unbridled joy, the sound imagined but no less loud.
As we remembered those who passed before, we welcomed the arrival of Ella Zahav Mandel into the lineage. The circle continues.