Hannah, names

The gift of a name and a parent’s sacrifice

All of our kids are in Jewish Day School.  Hannah is in Kindergarten.  This has been very important to us.  We have sacrificed new clothes, new cars, vacations, etc. to make this happen for all our children.  We basically still live like poor graduate students.  Days like today remind me why…..

Hannah’s class held a “naming ceremony” for all of the children and their parents.  This was a very moving (tear jerker) ceremony.   The children sang songs like:  “L’Dor Vador”, “Thank You God”, and “Shehecheyanu”.  The Rabbi spoke about the meaning in Judaism of one’s name.  And each child’s parents stood up and talked about the significance of the name they had chosen for them.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house!  Parents shared such intimate stories about their hopes and dreams for their child.  They told such tender stories about family members that the children where named after.  And they even just caressed their children so lovingly as they stood together and spoke  in front of the crowd.  Through my tears I kept thinking what an effect this will have on these little souls.  To hear themselves talked about in such a special way by their parents in front of teachers, family and friends.  It also bonded the parents together as we shared in the love of our children.  It reminded me that our sacrifice is nothing compared to the gain for our children.

I went back and found the letter I had written and read at Hannah’s naming ceremony when she was just 8 months old.  I knew I could not speak  “off the cuff” in such an emotional setting, so I read the letter again to Hannah.  I am so glad that this occasion created an opportunity for her to hear the loving words said about her and her name.  She can now understand them and remember.  It becomes a part of her inheritance.  Following is that letter:

March 18, 2007

Dear Hannah

When your Daddy and I first began to wish for children, we knew that it was possible this blessing would not be given to us.  But we asked anyway.  When we were blessed with your brother, Noah, we were quite amazed.  it took us 4 years to work up the courage to ask again.  And when we did, God blessed us with your sister, Micah.  We were overjoyed at God’s generosity.  We had done nothing to deserve such blessings.  We assumed we had tested the limits of G0d’s grace.  God had given us more than our share of blessings.  How could we possibly ask for more?

One day in shul, Rabbi Dan Sherbill told a story about a king with all the riches in the world.  This king had a son that was coming of age, and would soon come to his father to ask for his share of blessings.  The king was so looking forward to that day.  He had so much to give and all his son had to do was ask.  When that day finally arrived, the son came to his father the king.  But because he did not feel worthy, all he asked for was a nickel.  The king was so deeply disappointed.  This story stuck with me.

I realized I had it all wrong.  God’s blessings are limitless.  Not only can we ask, but it gives God great joy when we ask.  And there is nothing more valuable in all the world than our children.

So we began to ask.  My prayers were not done exactly right I am sure.  They were not even in Hebrew.  But they were from such a deep place of longing in my heart.  I prayed so hard sometimes I would cry.  I prayed at every stop light.  I prayed every time I woke up afraid in the middle of the night.  And when God answered yes, I prayed even harder.  I kept thinking about Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel.  She prayed for a child.  She prayed so hard from deep within her heart that Eli the Kohen thought she was drunk.  Yet, God heard her and blessed her.

When God blessed us yet again, with you; you can imagine how great was our joy.  It seemed only fitting that your name become Hannah.  I felt the presence of our fore mother Hannah during my pregnancy, helping to guide me through my fears and doubts.  I hope that by naming you Hannah, you will have the deep faith of our fore mother to overcome your doubts and fears.  I hope that you will be able to pray from your heart to reach God and find your way.  And I hope that you will be able to ask for your share of blessings.

Wyatt is your middle name.  This is in honor and remembrance of your great grandmother, Nana.  Nana was really more than Daddy’s grandmother and your great grandmother.  She was leader and counselor to us all.  When I am not sure how to deal with a situation, I stop and ask myself……What would Nana have done?   It always becomes crystal clear which direction to take.  Her strength of character and integrity earned her the respect of everyone that knew her.  Her kindness towards others was bottomless.  Many things she had done for others, we did not know until she died.  So many people then came and shared with us the things Nana had done for them.  What I cherish about Daddy, I know he inherited from her.  I thank her for teaching him how to be such a wonderful leader of our family.

I wish for you Hannah (and your sister and brothers); Nana’s quiet strength, her deep well of kindness, her compass of right and wrong, and her true selflessness.

Hannah Wyatt Shaffer……………you must always know how much all of us love and adore you.

Love Mom

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Hannah Wyatt

Noah holding his new sister
Noah holding his new sister
Day one
Day one
Micah is now a \

Micah as a big sister

Dear Hannah-

You are getting ready to turn 2 years old, and become a “big sister” yourself.  I wanted to let you know how celebrated your birth was.  It still seems like yesterday that you were born.  Although you were the third baby to be born in this family, you were the first “birth” that I truly experienced.   I gathered courage from the birth of your older sister and brother, and decided to have you “au natural”.   So I felt every little thing about you being born.  It was the most awesome and unbelievable experience I have had so far in my life.  I think I was the most present during your birth and you were definitely the most alert baby I have ever seen at birth.   It was the biggest “high” I have ever felt.  My labor was short, (3 hours), and I was doing so well laboring in a tub of warm water that you were almost born there!   I called you my little Mikvah baby.  This is fitting as you were the first baby born into our family since we began to practice the laws of “Family Purity”.  This is a religious (Jewish) practice between husbands and wifes that goes back thousands and thousands of years.   It includes the mother going to the Mikvah once a month.  When you get a little older we will talk more about that.  You were also the first baby to be born since your mother converted to Judaism.  (Also including a trip to the Mikvah).   Now that I see how you are drawn to water, I know that there is a spiritual aspect to your attraction.  You have no fear of this substance that has such a spiritual significance in your beginning.  You were born from it and almost IN it!   (I will add though, that your lack of fear around water is giving your  Dad and I  a few extra gray hairs)

We continued to celebrate your birth several months later with a “naming ceremony”.  Many of our friends and family came from great distances to celebrate YOU.  It was such a happy occasion at our home.  Now that you are getting ready to give up your spot of “baby” in our family, I thought it would be fitting to go back and remind you how we felt when you came along.  I wanted to share with you the words that I spoke about you on that day.  March 18th, 2007:

Hannah Wyatt Shaffer

When Richard and I first began to wish for children:  We knew that it was possible this blessing would not happen for us.  But we asked anyway.  When we were blessed with Noah, we were quite amazed.  We couldn’t believe that we were given such a wonderful, strong, healthy, child to love.  We had done absolutely nothing to deserve such a blessing.  We were not sure we could ask for more.  It took us four years to work up our courage to ask.  And when we did…….G-d blessed us yet again, with Micah.  We were overjoyed at G-d’s generosity.  We were in awe of this incredible blessing.  We had done nothing to deserve Noah.  And yet, G-d had blessed us with both Noah and Micah.  We assumed we had tested the limits of G-d’s grace. 

When we moved here 4 years ago, I knew not a single soul.  The very first person I met was Amy (Lowenstein).   It was at a PO meeting for first time Schechter parents.  I was late, of course, and the room was packed.  I was terrified and about to turn right back around and go back out the door.  But Amy caught my eye, and made sure I came in and sat down.  Then when Amy introduced herself as a mother of 5 children, I think I almost fell out of my seat.  I was so suprised, that after the meeting I had to ask her, “You mean you really have 5 children?”  As if she had somehow miscounted. 

That was the beginning of an amazing and wonderful experience we have had over the past 4 and a half years getting to know all of you and your wonderful families.  Seeing you all with your children helped plant the beginning of an idea.  Maybe, just maybe WE could ask for more.

But still I was afraid.  Sure, you guys could ask, but I had done nothing worthwhile to earn that right.  G-d had given me more than my share of blessings already.  How could he possibly give me more?

Rabbi Sherbill told a story once about a king with all the riches in the world.  This king had a son that was coming of age and would soon come to his father to ask for his share.  The king was so looking forward to that day.  He had so much to give and could not wait to bestow all this unto his son.  When that day finally arrived, the son approached his father to ask.  The son did not feel worthy and asked for just a nickel.  The father was greatly dissappointed.  He had so much more to give.  Of course, this is a metaphor for our relationship with G-d.  G-d’s blessings are limitless.  And not only can we ask, but it gives G-d great joy when we ask.  And I realized, that there is nothing more valuable in all the world than our children.  They are the greatest riches of all.

So I began to ask.  My prayers were not done exactly right, I am sure.  They were not even in Hebrew.  But they were from such a deep place of longing in my heart.  I prayed so hard sometimes I would cry.  I prayed at every stop light.  I prayed everytime I woke up afraid in the middle of the night.  And when G-d answered yes, I prayed even harder.  I kept thinking about Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel.  She prayed for a child.  She prayed so hard from deep within her heart that Eli the Kohen thought she was drunk.  Yet, G-d heard her and blessed her. 

When G-d blessed us yet again with this baby girl, you can imagine how great was our joy.  It seemed only fitting that her name become Hannah.  I felt the presence of our foremother Hannah during my pregnancy, helping to guide me through my fears and doubts.  I hope that by naming her Hannah, she will have the deep faith of our foremother to overcome her own doubts and fears.  I hope that she will be able to pray from her heart to reach G-d and find her way.  And I hope that she will be able to ask for her share of blessings. 

Wyatt is Hannah’s middle name.  This is in honor and remembrance of Richard’s Grandmother, Nana.  Nana was really more than Richard’s grandmother and Joan’s mom.  She was leader and counselor to us all.  When I am not sure about how to deal with a situation, I stop and ask myself…..What would Nana have done.  It always becomes crystal clear which direction to take.  Her strength of character and integrity earned her the respect of everyone that knew her.  Her kindness towards others was bottomless.  Many things she had done for others, we did not know until she died.  So many people then came and shared with us the things Nana had done for them.  Many of the things that I cherish about my husband, I know he inherited from her.  I thank her for teaching him how to be such a wonderful leader of our family.  

I wish for all of my children:  her quiet strength, her deep well of kindness, her compass of right and wrong, and her true selflessness. 

Hannah Wyatt Shaffer……….you must always know how much all of us love and adore you.  And although you will not be “the baby” any more.  You will always be “our Hannah”.  You will always have your own special place in this family.

Love Mom 

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Miriam

Dear Noah, Micah, Hannah and baby soon to be:

As we are looking forward to meeting our new baby, names are on our minds.  I believe the name you pick for a child is a huge responsibility.  It can actually have an influence on that person.  As well, I believe that you invite the protection of that Biblical spirit to be with you as you journey through this life.  Being Jewish we choose a Hebrew name for our children.  We chose to have the name you are called and your Hebrew  name, be one and the same.  We also chose each of your names for very specific reasons.  Those reasons are related to the characteristics of the Biblical person and what we hope for you.   In future posts I will make sure to go into detail about each of you and  your name.  (just in case the original falls out of your baby book that doesn’t exist)

But, I thought I would begin by sharing with you something I came across recently.   I had the privilege and burden of choosing my own Hebrew name when I converted to Judaism.  I had to give it alot of thought and weed through so many options!  Yet, by doing this, was able to pick someone with characteristics that I cared about and that I  hoped to emulate.  Now, as we are taking our family through an orthodox Jewish conversion, I was asked why I chose the name Miriam.  I went back and found what I had written at that time.   Here is why:

MIRIAM

I chose the name Miriam as a constant reminder of the lessons she teaches us, and the kind of Jewishness I want to strive for.  When I think about the evil and oppression facing the Jews in ancient Egypt, it is hard for me to grasp the intense faith that led 6 year old Miriam to convince her father to remarry her mother and risk having another child.  It is never easy to be so sure of who you are and what you believe in, even when we have every comfort.  It would seem impossible when faced with slavery and persecution.  Yet, her faith never waivered, and because of this, I believe, she carved out a space for G-d to work miracles.

We learn in Genesis, through the story of Cain and Abel, what tragedy can come of not being our brother’s keeper.  Miriam shows us the miracles that are possible when we are our brother’s keeper.  We may sometimes feel insignificant and unnamed as Miriam is in much of the story of Exodus.  The lesson I believe, is to hold on to your faith.  Faith in yourself, in the gifts the Jews have given the world, of the rightousness of this path, and the possibility of miracles.  This is a trying time for Jews everywhere.  Many have lost their faith in the face of true evil and terrorism.  It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and insignificant when you look at the problems that need to be solved.  Miriam reminds me that it only took the faith of a 6 year old little girl, to make a new world possible.

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