The expressions on the faces of both the father and his very young
daughter, above, are ethereal. His eyes are to heaven. Her eyes are,
too, or at least to a point on the horizon that is farther than her
imagination can soar.
The expressions on the faces of both the father and his very young daughter, above, are ethereal. His eyes are to heaven. Her eyes are, too, or at least to a point on the horizon that is farther than her imagination can soar.
His is a look of dreamy wonder. Hers of awakening curiosity.
His arm is stretched emphatically upward punctuating a plea or a paean of praise or perhaps both. Her tiny hand is stretched casually to the side, probably as far as she can extend it, in subconscious replication of her father’s reach.
In his other hand, the father holds a sheaf of paper, undoubtedly words of prayer that he has just spoken urgently and fervently for the little girl whom he holds so entirely in his arms, and for others, too.
It is a scene so poignant, so evocative, so universal that we sigh.
“May God protect the little children,” we cry to ourselves.
“Our Father, our King, have mercy upon us, upon our infants and our young children,” we pray together as a community on Rosh Hashanah.
Thoughts for and about our children are a central theme of Rosh Hashanah. Indeed, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks suggests that focus on our children is part of the very theological core of the holiday itself.
“One thing has always struck me about these days: the biblical readings we recite in the synagogue. You would have thought we would read the majestic opening chapter of the Bible… the story of creation,” he writes.
“But actually we don’t. Instead, we read about the birth of the first Jewish child, Isaac, born to Abraham and Sarah after many years of waiting. We read about Hannah and her prayer for a child, which was also answered. I find that deeply moving. On this day of days, we read not about God’s act of creation, but about ours; not about the echoing vastness of the universe, 18 billion light years across; but about the joy and responsibility of bringing new life into the world. We don’t think of God as the master scientist devising systems of organized complexity, but as a parent, loving and forgiving us, his children.
Typically, Rabbi Sacks has once again led us to a profoundly moving insight.
He could have also added that on the second day of Rosh Hashanah we read of the nurturing and sustaining of the lives of whose births we read on the first day of the holiday.
On the second day of the holiday, we read about the near-sacrifice of Isaac. Then we read Jeremiah’s promise to his people that there is a future for us full of hope, that our children will return to their homes.
“The message of Rosh Hashanah is that greater even than an understanding of creation is the ability to hear the cry of a child,” he tells us so plainly.
The father in the above photo is holding tightly to his daughter, undoubtedly whispering to her the dreams and hopes that rise every day for her in his heart, the very dreams and hopes his own father once whispered to him.
“Have in front of you the image of a single human child,” Rabbi Sacks urges us.
In speaking to his daughter, he is, as all parents know, speaking to the Eternal.
Our prayers to the Eternal on this Rosh Hashanah and forever will always be to sustain our ability “to hear the cry of a child.” And respond in Eternal conversation.