What I Learned From My Newborn Son

Rosh Hashanah is around the corner - a time when we celebrate God’s creation, and our role of being his partner in that act.

On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate harat olam, God’s creation of the world. In doing so, we celebrate that while God may be the only one to create from nothing, we human beings partner with Him in daily creation, taking the raw material He has left us and turning it into sheer beauty. Being made in God's image, we have an innate ability to create: We build buildings, form wondrous works of art and music, and - most beautiful of all – we create human beings.

Having become a father for the first time over the summer, I was reminded of one of my favorite midrashim from the first chapter of Bereshit Rabbah, which I believe best illustrates human kind’s responsibility to share with God in creation. The midrash famously portrays God as the master architect of the world, with the Torah being God’s blueprints. Through these blueprints, human beings become the artisans who work on earth to improve upon God's initial work. This metaphor reminds us that without human beings, the blueprints of the world - our Torah - would be just God's unfulfilled architectural vision sitting on a shelf. Our world will only become perfect if we make it so. This is why the Zohar teaches that Israel, the Torah and God are one in the same. God, the Jewish people, and Torah live in a symbiotic relationship where without each other the world - and certainly Rosh Hashanah - could not exist.

I was also reminded of the Talmudic teaching that when a child is conceived, there are three partners: the two parents and God. However, as I have watched Zev grow over the summer and seen his perception of the world change, he has reminded me just how far beyond conception this partnership with God extends. Zev reminds me on a daily basis the capacity of wonder that is present in our world. He stares at everything with an intense sense of curiosity and awe because everything is new and extraordinary. Things like buildings and inanimate objects are amazing in the eyes of a newborn child.

For me, it has been Zev's very existence that continues to leave me in wonder each and every day. Watching him wonder reminds me that God has a hand in every act of creation in our universe. As adults, we tend to lose this sense of amazement and understanding of God’s presence. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once called the challenge of working to regain that sense of wonder as “radical amazement.” In his book “Man is Not Alone,” Heschel famously remarks that “mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.”

This year, I look forward to having Zev as my guide to once again experiencing a life that is worth living, and to seeing a world where God’s hands have a role in every act of creation.

Rabbi Dan Dorsch is the assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, New Jersey. You can follow him on twitter @danieldorsch.
 

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