This has been an incredibly exciting year for me and my family. My wife Rachel and I welcomed our wonderful daughter Mira into the world the day after Pesaẖ, and after the fall ẖagim, we moved into our first home. As we mark all the significant moments in Mira’s first year—rolling over, sitting up, her first tooth, and soon (but not too soon I hope) crawling—we are finding that these markers of physical and cognitive development are exciting and impressive; however, we are most excited to be celebrating her first year of Jewish holidays.
As I write this, H̱anukkah is less than a week away. Rachel and I are already talking about how I can make sure I am home from work in time for us to light H̱anukkah candles as a family, as there is a narrow window from when I usually get home until Mira’s bedtime. We excitedly celebrated Rosh Hashanah and used the opportunity and theme of newness to give Mira her first solid food that day. Just before Sukkot, as we saw the upcoming weather forecast, we rushed to find Mira a warm enough outdoor snuggly so that she wouldn’t be too cold in the Sukkah, and she thoroughly enjoyed being outside and looking at all the decorations.
Once on the other side of H̱anukkah, we encounter Tu B’Shevat and Purim as the next holidays. We will be fortunate to be in Israel as a family a week before Tu B’Shevat, meaning that we will try and celebrate a little early in the place where the holiday makes far more climatological sense. Hopefully we’ll plant a tree and see the almond blossoms begin to bloom. And as for Purim, we have already bought Mira’s costume, taking advantage of early November costume sales, and we are excited to share our family costume theme in early March.
Everyone we speak to with a child or children has told us to take advantage of this first year and to build and create as many memories as we can, since the time flies by so quickly, something I now more fully understand. But what happens once Pesaẖ is over and Mira has turned one year old? Are the memory-making moments gone? We might have to work a little harder to create them, as nothing will be Mira’s first holiday anymore; however, that should not and will not diminish our enthusiasm for maximizing each special day on our Jewish calendar, be it something that comes along once a year, like Tu B’Shevat or Purim, or once a week, like Shabbat.
Building strong Jewish connections, instilling a sense of Jewish pride and the transmission of Jewish rituals and values happen most often and most successfully in the home, surrounded by family and friends. Finding meaning, purpose, fun and enjoyment in the unique occasions and celebrations of our Jewish calendar can enrich all of our lives in different and new ways year after year. The challenge before all of us is to find new perspectives for these rituals, themes and stories. In my family’s case, we are going to have to move on from the theme of ‘Mira’s First _____’ soon. If you have any suggestions of how you create meaning and connection to holidays and Shabbat in your home, I’d love to hear them.