Welcome to the world, baby boy

by Brian on December 4, 2021

in A Parent in Israel,Jewish Holidays and Culture

My wife, Jody, and I joined a club that we really wanted entrance to – the grandparents club. Our daughter, Merav, gave birth to a healthy baby boy a bit more than two weeks ago. I gave a speech at the brit milah ceremony. Here’s what I said.

If I were to tell you that I fell in love with this little guy in the first minute I met him, you’d say that that was a cliché. But sometimes cliches are true.

There is something about a newborn that is hard to resist. Even more when that newborn is your first grandson and your daughter and son-in-law’s first child.

It’s difficult to describe exactly the feeling. We don’t know him yet, nor has he expressed a strong personality yet (although he’s got a good set of lungs on him).

So, it’s not his witty jokes, his seamless repartee or his physical actions that led to this love affair. It’s a visceral, subconscious feeling that seeps over you with an intensity that’s different than even having your own children.

Maybe that’s because with a grandson you can simply enjoy him, knowing that at the end of the day, someone else will be doing the feeding and changing and not sleeping.

But even that doesn’t explain entirely this love. 

Is it his sweet baby smell?

Is it those little baby noises he makes that are so adorable (until they transition into full on crying)?

Is it his lips – oh, those beautiful lips – that are so perfect?

Is it his skin that is so incredibly soft because it’s brand new? 

Or is it simply the fact that Merav worked so hard to carry him, to nurture him inside of her, to grow him for nearly 40 weeks with all his toes and fingers and body parts (now minus a foreskin, of course), and to take care of his every need for the rest of his life! (An exaggeration, but only slight.)

Regular readers know I am not much of a religious person these days, but the first thing I thought when I saw him was, “He’s a miracle.”

Another miracle: that Merav and Gabe found each other. 

Merav moved with us from California to Israel when she was one year old. Gabe didn’t come from New York until he was a teenager. Somehow, they found each other and they’ve created an entire world with their own circle of friends and now a new human being.

The baby’s name is Ilai Ze’ev. (That’s pronounced “ee-lie,” accent on the second syllable.) My son-in-law Gabe explained the meanings of the names at the brit milah. 

Ilai stands for greatness and strength, Gabe said. (It literally means “supreme.”) His middle name honors my father who passed away in 2009. I am so thrilled and delighted that this name will be continuing on in the world.

My father’s name in English was Walter but his Hebrew name was Tzvi Ze’ev. His parents added Chaim when he contracted polio at age 17 and they were told that adding a third name – meaning “life” – would be a good omen. 

It was – he recovered and was able to live a full life, even if he could never run or play sports again the way he did when he was an active teenager.

Ze’ev is Hebrew for “wolf” – it’s an animal that runs in packs. “Merav and I take community very seriously,” Gabe said in his naming speech. “We have incredible friends and family. We wish for Ilai Ze’ev that he grows with the same support system we are so lucky to have.”

My father was a complicated man – aren’t we all? – but I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t be half the person I am today were it not for him. He was a writer, a radio disk jockey, a connoisseur of classical music. His creativity, his love of politics, science, literature and culture – those are all things that I received from him in abundance. I hope that this little baby boy picks up some of those attributes by sharing a name. 

My father didn’t have the ability to play ball with us, but he was passionate about reading to his own children and then to his grandchildren. He would have loved to have met his great grandson. I am so sad that he didn’t make it this far, but I know that his spirit will live on in little Ilai Ze’ev. And I will take up the mantle and read to him the way his great-grandfather surely would have.

Ilai Ze’ev is fortunate to have five great grandparents still alive. And the sixth is here in spirit through his name.

Merav and Gabe: You have brought an incredible gift into the world – another human being who will be so loved by all his many relatives and your many friends. You are going to be incredible parents – no, you already are incredible parents – I’ve seen that in just a week with this little guy. 

Savta and I (still getting used to that) are so happy for you, so excited for him, and so over the moon in love. 

I first welcomed Ilai Ze’ev to the fold in The Jerusalem Post.

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