Rabbi Gavriel Horan
I have something to admit. I don’t like newborn babies. Don’t get me wrong – I love each of my kids a lot. I just didn’t really connect to them when they were newborns. All babies do is eat, excrete, sleep and cry whenever they need to do any of the above. For years I felt guilty about feeling this way but I recently broached the subject with a few fellow fathers and discovered I wasn’t alone. Everyone I spoke to agreed that they didn’t really feel much connection to their babies for the first few months of their life. Most fathers take some time to develop a bond with their little ones.
Women are the opposite. From the moment my wife finds out she’s pregnant she’s already in love with the baby. And after birth – she’s head over heels.
When our first son was born my wife squealed, “I love him!” as she laid eyes on the tiny infant for the first time. I was anxiously awaited my turn to get to hold him. They finally finished cleaning him and placed the bundle in my arms. His cone-shaped head and wrinkled face was a pale shade of pink with grey and blue hues. It was a face only a mother could love.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” my wife cooed from the hospital bed.
“Um. Yeah. He sure is something else,” I said through my teeth. So I guess this is what it’s like being a father, I thought. Just nod and smile and pretend you know what she’s talking about.
Why the different reactions? Of course hormones play a role. But there’s more to it. My wife spent the past 9 months developing an inextricable bond with the baby – a bond more intimate and intense than a man could ever know.
I felt kind of left out of the whole baby thing. She carried him, she gave birth to him, and she did the feeding. My job was secondary.
Then one night, everything changed. I was sitting on the couch holding my first born son when he suddenly looked me in the eyes and smiled. For the very first time I felt like my part in the relationship mattered. He acknowledged me. Now we had a relationship. He giggled when I tickled his stomach, squealed when I threw him into the air, and stared into my eyes with affection as he stroked my beard with his little hands. Someday I would read to him, tell him stories, take him hiking and teach him to ride a bike. I was suddenly more than just a diaper changer and stroller pusher. I was a father.
Perhaps this is the reason that Judaism often refers to God as our Father – Avinu. I mean, isn’t mother a more accurate description of the Creator who gives life to the universe? According to Jewish philosophy God created the world for one reason: to give us the greatest gift possible – a relationship with Him, the Infinite source of creation.
As our Creator He loves us unconditionally simply because we exist – just like a mother. But as our Father, He is longing for us to do something in return, to acknowledge Him and to seek a relationship with Him. God is anxiously waiting for us to smile at Him, ask for His help, thank Him, and actively make Him a part of our lives.
Many people approach the High Holidays as a time to ask God for everything we need in the new year. We come to Him with a long shopping list of requests: health, happiness, financial success, and love. As we approach the New Year, instead of thinking about what God can do for us, let’s think about what we can do for Him. How can we make Him an active part of our lives this year?
This Rosh Hashanah, let’s start by thanking God for all the amazing blessings we had during this past year. Many of us paid our bills, enjoyed overall good health, and experienced meaningful moments with our families. None of that was possible without Him! Letting Him know we appreciate the life He’s given us is the ultimate gift we can give our Father. And in response He will surely shower us with all the blessings that we need for the next year.
So as I spend another late night rocking my latest newborn son, I look forward to the day when he looks back at me and says, “Thanks Dad.”
Rabbi Gavriel Horan and his wife Rachel spent five years working for Aish HaTorah on college campuses in New York. He currently lives in Baltimore, MD where he continues to work as an outreach rabbi, therapist, life coach, journalist and grant writer.