Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, is referred to as "ben zikunim", the child of old age (Genesis 37:3). The medieval commentators debate whether this pet name refers to Jacob's actual age at the time of Joseph's birth, or simply to the fact that Joseph was the 12th child. Either way, Jacob made the near-fatal mistake of favoring his ben zikunim over the others. Families are complicated. A ben zikunim can cause upheaval, but there is also something special about a baby that arrives when the other children are older, the parents are wiser and some aspects of life are more stable.
This October, G-d willing, my husband David and I are expecting our third child. Eight year old Shira and nearly-eleven year old Zev are adjusting to the news of a new sibling. Knowing there are challenges as well as joys ahead, we can't wait to meet the newest member of our family and introduce him or her to our community.
If you are reading this and feeling a twinge that I did not tell you my news in person, please forgive me. About a year and a half ago, I shocked my best friends by announcing in a blog post that I had suffered a late miscarriage -- few of my friends even knew I was pregnant. Call this my idiosyncrasy, or maybe the flip side of what makes me a good rabbi.
For those who are reading this and feeling a twinge of jealousy, because you want a baby yourself; I've been there, too, and I understand. It is part of the richness of being human, that we can experience joy and pain, jealousy and happiness, all in one breath and from the same provocation.
The Talmud teaches that the Torah was not given to angels, because angels are perfect. They feel no anger, no envy -- only holiness. But G-d created humanity because we are beautiful to Her in our complexities, in the ways in which we wed dark with light. Herein lies the secret of human creativity. There's is no birth without labor, no life without death, and there are no accomplishment withs out sorrow, lost opportunities, and envy. There are many ways to live a meaningful life, whether with children or without. May all the complexities of bringing a new baby into this world make my family richer and more full, and may each of you find richness and fullness in all the gifts and challenges that come your way.