I am expecting twins any day now. The excitement is rising and the worries that these babies may arrive too soon are being relieved day by day. But when my colleagues offered to give me a baby shower months ago, I cringed.
As a rabbi, the idea of disappointing every bubbe in my congregation by having a baby shower did not feel right. Members of my own family had already asked, “You’re not going to have a baby shower, right?” As if that is a question and not a statement. Jewish women are not afraid to share our opinions, and often baby showers are simply taboo.
The conversation continued and the other rabbi’s wife, who happens to be a mentor and friend, reminded me that communities like to celebrate with their rabbis, so we had to come up with something.
The idea of a Rosh Chodesh celebration arose, which falls on the first of every Hebrew month and has long been considered a special holiday for women. We believed we had found a solution. That was until we realized we would be celebrating the month of Tammuz.
During the month of Tammuz the Jewish community begins a period of mourning. It is believed that on the 17th of Tammuz, Moses broke the first set of tablets he had been given by God. The walls of Jerusalem were being penetrated by the Romans during the Second Temple Period, and just three weeks following the 17th of Tammuz we commemorate Tisha B’av, the saddest day of the Jewish year. Tammuz did not strike us as a month of renewal and celebration.
Lucky for us, the month of Tammuz is a fascinating time in our Torah reading cycle. This month we read Parashat Pinhas, highlighting the story of five daughters who changed the course of history for all Jewish women. These daughters of Zelophehad lost their father, and as Moses began to apportion his property to the tribes of Israel, the daughters spoke up and asked if they too could receive a portion of the land. They had no brothers to inherit their portion. God decided their appeal was legitimate, and they were offered their father’s land.
And here we have a theme to celebrate. When women come together, their collective strength has the ability to alter God’s law.
This year, on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, over 75 Jewish women of multiple generations came together to celebrate through prayer, study, and song. I led a discussion about the daughters of Zelophehad and I asked the women to share stories from their lives when they changed the course of history for women. We spoke about how far women have come in Judaism, and how much work there is still left to be done in our communities and in our world. We joined together in prayer for women who are struggling to be mothers, and we recognized that motherhood comes in many forms. When we completed our service, we joined together for a meal that may have looked like a shower, but felt more like a sacred feast. My shower looked nothing like the kind those bubbes in my congregation so greatly feared.
The truth of the matter is, I never had a Bubbe. I had a grandmother who told me I too could change the course of history. My grandmother worked full-time when women were expected to stay home, and she was never one to keep her opinions to herself. In honor of my grandmother’s strength and perseverance, and in honor of every women who struggles to become a mother, I celebrated the upcoming birth of my babies with a community of Jewish women who believe in tradition while fully embracing modern Jewish life.