Six years ago, the blueberries were still green in New Hampshire when I was awaiting the birth of my first grandchild. I remember wondering which would pop first: the blueberries or my daughter-in-law. In Judaism, upon hearing of a pregnant woman, a traditional response is b’sha’ah tovah – May your baby be born at a good hour, at the right time. She was, and she is now almost six years old, with spaces between her front teeth.
Fast forward to mid-2020. The blueberries are green again, and I am awaiting the birth of my fifth grandchild, whose due date is the same day as my first granddaughter’s birthday. While we wish the baby to be born “at a good hour,” these words feel different this time around.
In many ways, this pregnancy feels like it has not come at a good hour. Because of the pandemic, I did not have the chance to feel this baby kick in utero. I couldn’t go shopping with my daughter for pregnancy clothes or for baby supplies. Our scheduled half-hour Zoom conversations lacked those revelatory moments I experience in face-to-face encounters.
And at this moment, in the midst of the pandemic, we are witnessing a time of reckoning for the racial divide that has torn our society apart for so long. What does it mean to bring a baby into a world in desperate need of r’fuah sh’leimah, the full healing of body, heart, and soul?
I feel sad that my generation failed in what we tried to do 50 years ago, but when I looked at my daughter’s belly the other night (from 10 feet away), I felt a twinge of optimism. I realized that we are witnessing a moment when people, including those of us in the Jewish community, are coming together and responding to racial injustice in a new and powerful way.
We are looking at ourselves in the mirror rather than looking at others. We are allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable, feeling the pain and knowing that we don’t yet have all the answers. And we are recommitting ourselves to the Prophetic call to pursue justice: tzedek tzedek tirdof, “justice, justice shall you pursue.”
This baby will be born into a changed world. This baby will be born into a world where Crayola has a 24-pack set of “colors of the world skin tones.” She will never know a world that only had one “flesh” tone. Her parents and grandparents have the opportunity to ensure that her books manifest the beauty of diversity, populated with people of all colors and genders.
This baby will also be born into a world that has slowed down a bit; that, at least for the moment, no longer feels like it is on a hamster wheel. The past few months have both forced and enabled all of us to reflect on what matters, who matters, and how we want to be spending the precious time we have in this world.
For grandparents, that impact is profound, even if for the moment it means lots of distancing from our loved ones.
And so, as the blueberries begin to ripen and as my granddaughter spends her last days or weeks in the womb, the world is getting ready to welcome her and to enable and empower her to continue the work of making the world more just and whole.
May she arrive b’sha’ah tovah – at a good hour.