A Covenant of Parenthood

Rachel Petroff Kessler
May 17, 2013
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My sweet little girl took her sweet time coming into this world. As my due date approached and passed, my husband and I eagerly anticipated her arrival and worked to prepare our home and our hearts for the arrival of our baby. Along with building the crib, washing the newborn clothes, and preparing freezer meals, we planned for our baby’s brit ceremony.

So eight days after we welcomed her into our family, my husband and I affirmed our daughter’s identity as a member of the Jewish people and welcomed her into the covenant. We also forged our own covenant with her as we articulated not only our hopes and dreams for her future, but also our responsibilities towards her.

Now, just seven months later, those early days seem so hazy, colored as they were by that potent cocktail of exhaustion, post-partum hormones, and first-time parent anxiety. This morning I watched a video of our brit bat ceremony and scarcely recognize the tiny sleeping bundle in my arms. Surely she can’t be the same as the squirming, smiling, jabbering baby that practically leaps into my arms when we reunite at the end of the day.

The covenant that my husband and I have forged with her overwhelms us. What great responsibility and privilege have been placed into our laps! It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the possible consequences of every decision we make for her: If we don’t sleep train, will she never learn to sleep on her own? Should we be concerned that laptops and remote controls are her favorite things to grab for? If we speak to her in gibberish, are we hampering her language development? And don’t laugh, but it took me almost an hour just to select a baby sunscreen!

But on Shabbat, we are gifted with an opportunity to set aside the concerns of the week. And I believe it is no coincidence that right after we welcome in Shabbat tradition teaches us to bless our children. Every Friday as we place our hands over our daughter’s head and bless her I am reminded that we are not alone - not set adrift casting blindly for unknown shores. Rather, as we strive to raise our daughter as a member of the Jewish people we know that the covenant we forged with our daughter sits squarely within the covenant between God and the Jewish people.  If we allow ourselves to be supported by our community, if we put just a fraction of the faith in God that God put in us when allowing us to become parents, we will be able to fulfill the covenant we made with our daughter.

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Rachel Petroff Kessler is the Family Educator at Temple Isaiah in Fulton, Maryland. Originally from upstate New York, Rachel has worked as a Jewish educator in a variety of settings, including Hillel at Binghamton, Kutz: NFTY’s Campus for Reform Jewish Teens, and Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan. Rachel graduated from HUC-JIR’s New York School of Education in April 2010 with a Masters in Religious Education and was a summer fellow at Yeshivat Hadar in 2009.

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