First Fruit

This week I returned from my maternity leave from leyning. Since Matan’s birth, I have leyned only rarely. I was reluctant to commit to reading Torah because I worried that Matan might need to eat at that very moment when I was at the Amud, or that I’d be so exhausted from yet another sleepless night that I would not wake up in time for shul. Perhaps I was still traumatized by the memory of last Yom Kippur, when I nearly fainted while leading shacharit – this was also on account of Matan, though at the time I did not even know I was pregnant. But now with Matan more or less sleeping through half the night and blessed with patience and equanimity far beyond his four months, I felt it was time to return, at last, to reading an aliyah or two each week.

This week’s parsha is Ki Tavo, a reference to Benei Yisrael’s entry into the land of Israel and a reminder to me that I am re-entering the Torah reading cycle, this time as a mother. Like the farmer bringing his first fruit to the priest in the opening verses, I will come to shul with my own first fruit so that Matan might hear me recite from the Torah before the Lord my God. Unfortunately, it is not the Bikurim passage that I am leyning but rather the Tohekha, the long list of curses that will befall the people of Israel if they fail to observe God’s commandments. Poor Matan has been listening to me practice all week, and trembles at the breast each time I come to the verse about mothers eating their children. (He ought to realize that in his case it is the child who is eating from the mother and not vice versa.) In an attempt to reassure my hungry boy, I shift him from Har Eyval to Har Gerizim, and he latches right back on.

And perhaps I am correct in doing so. After all, when I look down lovingly at Matan (whose nicknames include everything from Matanushi to Nuni-nu), I find myself thinking about the words of the blessings shouted from one hilltop rather than the curses shouted from the other. I truly feel that God has opened for us the bounteous stores of the heavens to bless all our undertakings. Each night I watch Matan sleep with his arms above his head like Moshe fighting Amalek, confident and trusting that the world is a safe place. In the morning (“Would that it were evening,” I sometimes mutter groggily) I wake to the sound of our son gurgling to himself and staring mesmerized at his own two hands, which he turns slowly in each direction as if he is conjuring the dead. (I hope he is not doing that, because then, as the Torah threatens, the curses will catch up with him!) Lately he has also started turning around in his crib, so that I put him down with his head on one side and find him a few hours later with his feet and head reversed. (He who was once at the tail will soon be at the head.) He seizes every opportunity to stand up on his two feet, and perhaps it won’t be long until he is walking in His ways….

Matan and I do quite a bit of walking together, hopefully in God’s ways. Tonight, for instance, we walked back from the shuk in the early hours of the evening, his stroller laden with an overflowing basket of the last of the summer nectarines and the first of the green winter clementines. I sang the blessings and curses to Matan from memory, using the same nursery rhyme lilt for both so as not to scare him. He stayed awake for the entire 45 minutes of our walk, looking at me with his wide blue eyes and occasionally smiling and then looking away bashfully, as he is wont. Each time we came to a red light I leaned in close, planting small kisses on his cheeks and his forehead that will grow, someday, into mountains of blessings.

2 thoughts on “First Fruit

  1. Ariella Kurshan says:

    Beautiful posting. You really capture Matan in the last paragraph…”occasionally smiling and then looking away bashfully.” I love those fleeting little smiles. I hope your leyning went well and that Matushki listened quietly to your voice.


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