How My Son Helps Me See Creation in a New Light
Waiting for our first child to be born, I had plenty of time to reflect on the amazing and holy process taking place as our long-awaited hope first appeared as a speck in a picture, then developed miniscule human features, and finally emerged into the world. A healthy beautiful boy now nestled in our arms.
Throughout the pregnancy and in the days following Noah’s birth, my wife and I gained a fresh understanding of the morning blessings Asher Yatzar (which thanks God for the complex and proper functioning of the human body) and Elohai Neshama (which affirms the pureness of one’s soul). These prayers helped us articulate an age-old wonder at the creation of body and soul that we were now experiencing in a new way – no longer grateful for our own bodies alone, but also for a new body and soul brought into this world.
During those long sleepless nights and early days, my mind was drawn, time and again, to another apt piece of our tradition – the first chapter in the Book of Genesis, which tells the first story of creation. It was suddenly clear to me that this ancient narrative was descriptive of the new creation growing before our eyes.
This was Noah’s Genesis, and so I began to read the text in a fresh, new way.
1:1 In the beginning, God created this child by separating boy from mother. 1:2 The boy was unformed, a fresh vessel, with the spirit of God hovering above him. 1:3 Then God called out, “Let there be light,” and a light began to shine in the boy’s eyes. 1:4 And the boy did not know “day” from “night” (and would only slowly learn to separate them). 1:5 The light brought a new day, and the dark ushered in the long night; this was the way for many days. There was evening and there was morning, the first day(s). 1:6 Then we said, “It is time for us to go home,” and the boy came to know the difference between the hospital room and the great world outside. 1:7 The boy came home and his parents were comforted by their natural surroundings, and, lo, it was good. 1:8 The nursery (long prepared and filled with anticipation for the boy) was finally used for its namesake. There was evening and there was morning, the second day.
So it went every day. New features and facets of Noah’s body unfolded according to their own plan and design. Miniscule nails began to grow and bowel movements multiplied. Lips formed a smile and hair covered his head. The echoes of Genesis did not cease, and neither did my wonder at the work of creation, as Noah grew and changed before our eyes.
The Genesis story of creation concludes with God ceasing God’s work on Shabbat, but many commentators have been uneasy with this concept. Some early commentators, including Rashi (the great 11th-century French master), argued that God used every bit of the six days of creation to do God’s work, so much so that to humans it might have seemed as though the work carried over into the seventh day. Others like R. Hayyim ibn Attar (an 18th-century Moroccan teacher known as Or ha-Hayyim) contended that the work of creation is ongoing and the Genesis text describing the seventh day should be understood to say “on the seventh day, God finished the work that God had done [up to that point].”
A similar sentiment is expressed in the beautiful words from the morning liturgy that celebrate creation. Indeed, in the blessing Yotzeir Or we praise God for “renewing each day the works of creation” – light and darkness, sun and moon, grasses, animals, and people – all created and all renewed day by day.
I feel blessed to be a father and a witness to the daily wonders of creation that brought this sweet boy into our lives.