To Everything There is a Season/A Child is Born
Pete Seeger revived it. The Byrds rejuvenated it. Tradition tells us King Solomon wrote it: The Book of Ecclesiastes.
You know it - “To everything there is a season.” “There is nothing new under the sun.” “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.”
Ecclesiastes is part of the Biblical canon, and will be read in part this Saturday morning in synagogue as we enter the final days of Sukkot, the festival of humility. Above all, the festival of Sukkot is a time to embrace our roots.
We return to simple huts where we sit, eat and even sleep.
It reminds us that we come from a simple past, and that the cycle of nature, within its current gush of autumn colors, continues to Turn, Turn, Turn.
Indeed, Ecclesiastes invites us to examine and embrace the cycle of life That reality came full circle last night as the Cantor and I presided over the baby naming of our newest congregant Noa Shlomit, daughter of Reut and Gil.
Since the Friedrich family has some Orthodox friends who do not travel on Shabbat, it was not practical to hold the baby naming at our synagogue this Saturday.
But there was another way.
On Thursday evening, we gathered at Reut and Gil’s home under the damp and dripping roof of their Sukkah, and officially grounded their six week baby with the name she will carry for life.
There is also a tradition on Sukkot to invite Ushpizin – spiritual visitors from the past. These usually include Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Miriam among others.
But this time, we asked the baby’s mother Reut to tell us about who the baby was named after, and to invite him in spirit to the Sukkah.
She excused herself for a moment, walked into the house and brought back a photo album of her late grandfather, Saleck Goldstein.
As she turned the cover of the album, a photo glared from under the plastic. It was a picture of her grandfather – dressed in the uniform he wore at the Majdanek concentration camp. He was the only member of his family to survive.
It was a dramatic moment which transported us to another time. A time when it appeared that God’s face was hidden. A time when the world was askew. A time when darkness appeared to dominate light.
But there was that image of Saleck in an album which included many family photos, and reflections of happier times. And there was the cycle of life.
A time to be born, a time to die.
And it occurred to us all, that Saleck’s survival at Majdanek had made it possible for this new soul, Noa Shlomit to live.In years to come, this precious child will grow to womanhood.
She will contribute to this world any way she chooses. She will likely bring life into this world.
Yet, on this Thursday evening, it was the spirit of a man who survived the Holocaust that filled the Sukkah. And a piece of his name and his spirit was handed to a baby with an entire life ahead of her.
There was no better place than under the drip of an early evening rain, in a dimly lit Sukkah to teach us the lesson of Sukkot; that we each come from humble beginnings, whether that be Brooklyn, the Bronx, the garment district of Manhattan, Israel or the concentration camps of Europe.
For as Ecclesiastes wrote three thousand years ago, “to everything there is a season.”
And for Noa Shlomit, there are countless seasons ahead of her.She will stand on the shoulders of her parents, her grandparents, and perhaps more than anyone, her great grandfather of blessed memory.
On that night, each of us stood on the shoulders of Saleck “Yisrael” Goldstein, as his granddaughter Reut rocked her newly named daughter to sleep.
May each of us be equally inspired to consider the essence of life, and those whose shoulders we stand on.
For whatever troubles we think we may have, each of us has a roof over our heads, and food at our table, and above all, the freedom to live in peace.
May Noa Shlomit’s days be numerous on this earth. May her path be right, leading her to truth, humility, understanding and peace.
It is customary during times of happiness and transition to recite the Shehecheyanu prayer which praises God for allowing us to reach this day. In English it reads,
Praised are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us inlife, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this precious moment.
Thank you God for the gift of life. Thank you Saleck for your courage. Thank you Noa Shlomit for the promise of the future.
For as the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, this is how it always has been, and how it will always be.
To life, to life.
Rabbi Irwin Huberman