These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Guest Post] Birthday

Posted on January 6, 2015 by Rivka Epstein

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Rivka Epstein, married to Pardes instructor Rabbi Michael Hattin,
wrote the following piece on the occasion of their son, Elchanan's, 
first jump with the IDF.


I gave birth today. But my belly was steel and my arms, wings. I flew above the sands, precariously positioned myself, and ejected a life. Gracefully, he dropped, gravity his partner.

From afar, one might view the scene with a romantic air. The endless blue, the dancing body suspended by a drifting parachute. The gradual descent tempered by soft winds and a hazy skyline.

My son was never one for thrilling rides. Visits to the amusement parks were more exercises in observation, than participation. Even as an infant, he made clear by his piercing cries, that being tossed upwards, was not a preferred sport. And as he grew into his teens, it was a hefty sci-fi novel that turned a vacation day into a real treat, not a joy ride on a bungee tether.

Yet today was a birth day.

A treasure from above, he joined us finally on firm ground. Wet with sweat, naked of all possession. And those eyes-that told us of something big, known from the beyond. We could barely sense the largeness of it, and the miracle hung there in the morning breeze, to be felt and let go. Miracles are like fireflies, they ignite our attention, but defy our grasp.

The past twenty years could not have been charted by the wisest cartographer. The trajectory lines were all drawn in pencil, an endless display of the journey’s unpredictability.

We intimately knew of our son’s gifts, and we equally feared for his flaws. His craft was built of strong stuff, but we were overly aware of the joints and seamlines, and I am ashamed to admit, how we worried they would ground him.

Alas, son.

You taught us a grave and sobering lesson- that map reading the human spirit is like x-raying a rainbow.

I gave birth today, again. Twenty years later.

From the swollen womb of a noisy, diesel-filled jet plane, dropped a hero in Israel. He landed, two feet on the ground, smiling, and looking forward.