A friend of Torah MiTzion
Currently a nurse in ALEH Jerusalem
One Parsha, Three Babies
The story of the birth of Yitzchak is replete with miracles and laughter. Starting with Hashem promising his birth to Avraham, who then proceeds to laugh from happiness; on to the angels telling his parents the news a year in advance, with Sarah laughing from disbelief. The ages of Avraham and especially Sarah at their son’s birth, and even Sarah’s ability to nurse Yitzchak just like any new mother, are more miracles.
Maybe that is the reason that everyone wants a part in his naming. Unlike other names in the Torah which are generally given by the mother (see the naming of Yaakov’s sons in Parshat Vayeitze), and unlike the other forefathers who are “renamed” by Hashem later in life, Yitzchak is the name chosen by Hashem a year in advance and then officially given to the baby after birth by Avraham. Sarah too confirms the name in a poem validating everyone’s right to laugh when they find out she has given birth to a son. Her laughter has changed from disbelief to the laughter of one who hears surprising and amazing news. Of course, all the laughter stems from acknowledgement and appreciation of Hashem’s wonders, which is the laughter Yitzchak is named for.
Yitzchak’s birth is also accompanied by parties. In addition to being the first baby to be given a Brit Milah at eight days old, at age two (according to the Midrash) he is given a grand weaning party. The Midrash expands that the party was to show an additional aspect of the miracle of Yitzchak’s birth, that Sarah was able to nurse and even had enough milk to nurse additional babies. With such an impressive beginning, it is no surprise that Yitzchak becomes a forefather of two mighty nations.
Two other babies are born in this Parsha – Moav and Ben-Ami. Their births are missing the miraculous nature and the happiness. On the contrary, they are lonely births, hidden away in a mountain, and against societal norms. Yet they also become great nations, and even become connected to the kings of Israel – Ruth from Moav is the great grandmother of David and Na’ama from Amon marries Shlomo and is the mother of Rechavam. According to the Sforno, the noble intentions of their mothers is what results in such accomplished progeny. The daughters of Lot were convinced that the world had been destroyed with fire after the destruction of Sodom and Amora, just as it was destroyed with water in the time of the Flood, and they took it upon themselves to repopulate the world. The Ramban even writes that getting their father drunk instead of directly asking him may actually have been the more modest way to begin the process. Hashem rewards the mothers with children who also become great nations with land and armies.
While one may gain the impression from the text that only a miraculous birth such as Yitzchaks’ is special enough to merit such excitement, as a pediatric nurse who works daily with children suffering from severe neurological disorders in ALEH Jerusalem, I would like to argue that every baby deserves a public showing of thanks to Hashem. All babies are born to parents who have hopes and dreams for its future, and the beginnings do not always indicate what will be in the future. Let us learn from Yitzchak to notice the miracles present at every birth and celebrate each one with laughter and gratitude to Hashem. And let us learn from Moav and Ben-Ami to give each new baby, no matter what disabilities it is born with, a chance to grow and develop to the best of its ability while appreciating each milestone and while knowing that it, too, has an important role to play among its people.