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Reflections on a New Year, a New Baby and COVID

Reflections on a New Year, a New Baby and COVID

January 4, 2022
Sondra Oster Baras

This is a day for celebration.  Or as King David put it in Psalms: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).  This morning, my newest grandson, my 10th grandchild, will have his circumcision ceremony.  And while this is my 9th grandson undergoing circumcision, following 4 sons who experienced the same ceremony, this time it is all quite different.  And wonderful all in its own way.

This circumcision, or Brit, as it is called in Hebrew, is taking place in the midst of a global pandemic which we have been dealing with for two years.  And while the ceremony remains timeless, it is the details that have changed and give us pause.

My daughter and son-in-law have been living temporarily in the US.   But especially since this was her first baby, we did not want to miss the occasion. So the plan was to wait until the baby was born and then my husband and I would hop on the next plane and fly to the US, arriving within a few days of the birth.  I was looking forward to helping out my daughter as she learned the ins and outs of mothering and Ed and I were looking forward to participating in the Brit.

But then Omicron hit and Israel began to limit entry and exit to the country.  At first, tourists were banned except in special circumstances, and then it was announced that Israelis would not be allowed to leave the country for the US and other “red” countries.  We had 24 hours to act.  We took one of the last flights out of the country before it was too late.  We landed in the US on my daughter’s due date but the baby was not born that day.  Or that week.  So we waited.

The wait was an interesting experience for us, giving us an opportunity to observe an America struggling to celebrate the holidays while dealing with COVID.  I talked to friends and heard their hesitation as they deliberated how best to celebrate Christmas — should they join their extended families, should they invite the grandchildren, should they go out to church.  I saw lines of people waiting for COVID tests as they tried to ensure they were healthy before visiting friends and family. I saw people finishing up their last-minute shopping, wishing each other a merry Christmas or happy holidays through their masks, trying to communicate warmth and joy with their eyes.

Of course none of this is new to any of us, but experiencing COVID in a different country, watching people as they struggled to find joy during a holiday season not my own, gave me perspective.  It provided the distance I do not normally have when I experience COVID in my own country.

And then the baby came.  What a thrill!  But because of COVID, I was not able to visit my daughter and her newborn in the hospital.  And as my daughter related her experiences in the hospital, she noted how frightened the staff was of infection.  As they watched the numbers rise, they knew that their risk of infection would rise exponentially.

Once the baby came home, I was able to revert to my full-time savta (grandmother) self.  I just can’t get enough hours of holding the baby.  As I watch his expressions, as he sighs and smiles in his sleep, cuddled up against me, I feel a thrill that never gets stale.  No matter how many children I gave birth to and no matter how many grandchildren I have held in recent years, the thrill, the joy, the contentment is always fresh, always amazing!

And today is the Brit.  We don’t have family in the US and my daughter has few friends here.  So we are having a very intimate ceremony — the parents of the baby, Ed and I, the baby and the rabbi.  But the rabbi assured us that in today’s COVID reality, this is the sort of ceremony that he prefers.  Keeping safe seems to be a justified and over-riding concern.

But when it comes to the Brit itself, nothing has changed.  This ceremony was first established by G-d Himself when He commanded Abraham to circumcise himself. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised (Genesis 17:10).  This is the sign that G-d gave us, to mark us as His people, as members of His covenant.  What a privilege!  And as part of the ceremony, we name the baby, declaring his name in Israel, and in this way, incorporating him formally into the People of Israel.

Each Brit that we celebrated in Israel reminded us of the unity of our people, our land and our G-d.  We were eternally grateful that G-d had restored us to our land, which lent greater significance than ever before to the Brit ceremony.

But as we prepare to celebrate this Brit in the US, outside of Israel, I realize we have something else to be thankful for.  It is truly a miracle that our people survived so many centuries of exile and remained a people to be restored to the land.  And one of the things that kept us together was the Brit— the physical marking of our baby boys as members of the covenant.  This indeed was the sign that we carried for generations that reminded us of our everlasting connection to G-d and to His promises.

We have just turned the corner of a new year.  May 2022 be a year of joy and good health.  May we reach out to one another with our faces exposed, may we hug one another in love and tenderness, may we all enjoy new beginnings — new babies, new relationships and new initiatives.  May G-d have mercy on us all and carry us safely through another year.  And may we all feel G-d’s mark upon us, always.

39 thoughts on “Reflections on a New Year, a New Baby and COVID”

  1. Oh congratulations to you all. How exciting for all that you made the last flight.
    Praying for this blessed son of G-d and his parents and grandparents.
    Thank you sondra for sharing with us xx
    With shalom from New Zealand 🇳🇿 🇮🇱

    Reply
  2. Congratulations on the Birth of your PRECIOUS Little Grandson. May he bring you much Joy.
    May GOD BLESS You Always!
    Lot’s of Love,
    Loretta 🙏💖🙏💖🙏💖

    Reply
  3. Mazal tov to you and ED,
    Shetirbeina sachet b’Israel !
    If this is the first child/boy of this daughter of yours, would it be Pidyon HaBen?

    Kol tut!
    Rouhama

    Reply
  4. Mazel tov Sondra (Savta), we are so happy for you that you were able, just, to be there for this memorable birth, and the Brit. My, but you truly are blessed with a quiver full of grandchildren arent you!! May this child be a continual blessing to his family, and all those in his life, but especially to The Almighty.

    Reply
  5. Mazal tov, Sondra!
    So glad you got to celebrate such a wonderful simcha in our (not lost) shtetl!
    K’shaim Shenichnas L’Bris Kain Yikones L’Torah L’Chupa U’Lmaasim Tovim
    – Judy Kamber (Shira’s sister)

    Reply
  6. Shalom

    Congratulations with your new grandchild. You are so blessed to have been able to attend the celebration.

    Shalom from South Africa

    Reply
  7. I rejoice you are there for this precious time of your grandson entering the covenant of circumcision. Thank you for sharing this time with us. Truly HaShem appointed you to be there. Brachot Rabbot! May he live to see the complete restoration of his people to the Land and the coming of Messiah!

    Reply
  8. Congrats Sondra! Another feather added to your grandma’s status.
    Our best wishes on the brit on your newborn grandchild and may he be wrapped up in the love of God and with great blessings.

    Reply
  9. Mazel Tov Sondra!
    What a great joy for you and your family. May G-d’s richest blessings of his presence always abide with him as he journeys through this
    life. May G-d’s mighty hand be upon him even as it was upon Moses. May G-d grant you and your husband strength that your love and
    wisdom will help to shape his character and give him the overwhelming joy of being loved and highly favored.

    Love & Prayers

    Pastor Rudy & Gina

    Reply
  10. Thank you dear Sondra,
    May Almighty God bless your little grandson, and all your family.
    I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
    May Jehovah bless the land of Israel, from Bendigo Australia

    Reply
  11. What a great blessing in this troubled time the world is going through. Congratulations on number 10 and may you be blessed with many more healthy and happy grandchildren.

    Reply
  12. Mazal Tov 1,000 times over. We grandparents better stick together. Philosophers have mentioned that while we love our children to bits–and they us (especially when they’re grown), there is no denying that there is also a built-in hostility that sometimes erupts between us and them. I am convinced it is why grandparents and grandchildren get along so well: We have a common enemy, and children often hew to the old saw–The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Enjoy your family across the generations.

    Reply
  13. How wonderful to have such a wonderful experience, holding your grandson and praying over him. Many Blessings to you all.
    Numbers6: 24-26.

    Reply
  14. So great to hear the miracle of you both being able to be there. How wonderful for you to absorb the beauty of new hope and relationship in your arms. Congratulations! And, thank you for reminding us of the grace of covenant life 🙂
    With love and hope from Gillian, Judith & Lisa, in N.W. England

    Reply
  15. How wonderful. Congratulations to you all. Many blessings be upon your beautiful grandson. May God always guide him and protect him as he grows into maturity.
    Much love
    Vicky

    Reply
  16. Shallom Sondra
    What a thrill to observe your grand children go through what Avraham our forefather went through!Thanks for keeping the hopes of Israel alive. Great to be a covenant people.

    Reply
  17. Good news and a blessing
    We are all very grateful to God for His mercy endure for ever

    Psalm 136:5-7

    God bless your grandson and Israel for ever.

    Reply
  18. Thank you for sharing the birth of your grandchild. Children are such a blessing!! I was able to celebrate Christmas with my grandchildren and my newest great grandchild. God is great and no matter what is going on, He is still in charge. Jimmie

    Reply
  19. I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of good wishes and the warmth of all of your messages. I can’t keep up. So please see this thank you as a personal message to you all. I am so pleased that you have shared in our “simcha” celebration in this way.

    Reply
  20. Mazal Tov Sandra and Ed and Family! Thank you for sharing this precious time with us.
    Tom, Brenda, and family

    Reply
  21. Dear Sondra
    Thank you very much for a wonderfully spiritual message with which you introduced the story.
    It is a wonderful up-llft to me, even though I realise we differ regarding our large scale understanding of the spiritual details of Jesus’ birth.
    One day we will fully enjoy the truth of the Advent, as will the whole world.
    To God be the glory, great things He has done.

    Reply
  22. Shalom and Mazel Tov dear Sondra, We rejoice with you that you could attend your grandson’s Brit, Just 2 days ago our 11th great grandchild was born in Portland Oregon, USA. Lily Belle is a beautiful baby girl but at our age Victor and I no longer are able to travel to hold and cuddle her but we do have photos which are precious and we can pray for her.
    With love and blessings in Him, The Schlatters–Victor & Elsie

    Reply
  23. This is quite late, but my gratitude to you for sharing this momentous event in your family and valuable information about B’rit Millah, as well as for all that you share each week, is always current!

    Mazal tove, Sondra! I am so happy for you; May you continually be blessed – you and your family!
    Shabbat shalom!
    Josefina

    Reply

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