Saturday, July 21, 2007

the Godfather and other newborn tales

I didn't realize this before when I was a young mother living in Toronto - but there's so much superstition revolving around newborn babies here in Israel - particularly when your family and neighbors are from Sephardic background, as is the case with my daughter.

From the moment they took their son out of the hospital, they put a little hamsa with blue stones over his stroller. A gold hamsa is pinned onto the mosquito net in his crib. Their neighbors advised them not to leave baby clothing out at night or to take the baby out at night for 30 days "because of spirits". When I heard that, I was aghast.

I told my daughter "do you really think I stayed in at night for 30 days with you?" I distinctly remember taking her to the movies one evening when she was 3 weeks old. She was sleeping most of the time and I had my portable boobie for her to nurse on if she dared make a peep during the flick.

I laughed when the neighbors came in to "oohh and aaah" over the baby saying repeatedly "Ben Porat Yosef, Ben Porat Yosef" which is the sephardic equivalent of warding off the evil eye (the first time it is translated as 'fruitful son,' and the second time, 'a fruitful vine' ).

Tomorrow their week old baby gets his brit (circumcision) according to Jewish tradition. I don't know whether this is superstition or tradition, but "they say" that it is an honor for a person to be a sandek (godfather) at the brit. This is the person that holds the baby while he is being circumcized. "They also say" that you should pick your sandek wisely, because the baby will have the sandek's personality traits.

I know my hubby wanted to be given the honor of sandek - but the parents had much higher aspirations for their baby than to have someone who smokes alot of pot, farts all the time, curses like a truck driver and is generally very grumpy be the kid's godfather. The sandek will be no other than the colorful former chief sephardic rabbi, Harav Ovadia Yosef which is the ultimate thrill for my son-in-law's family.

Some of my friends were stunned. "This isn't you" they remarked. Of course it isn't. Who would I have chosen as godfather if it were my kid? Probably Rabbi Arik Ascherman from Rabbis for Human Rights. I would have loved for my sons to have his brave and compassionate traits, if transmitting traits from godfather to godson is actually true. But he is my grandson, not my son, and the ceremony will be in an ultra-orthodox neighborhood in an ultra-orthodox synagogue, which prompted me to buy a top with sleeves covering my elbow and a head covering. The name of the boy will then be revealed after the brit to everyone. Usually the boy is named after a deceased close relative like a grandfather (however sephardim name their children after living relatives too).

to be continued in a day or two...


lisoosh said...

OOOH LA LA, Ovadia Yosef, sounds like a party.

My in-laws are Moroccan and they are VERY big on naming after the living. The Moroccan tradition is to name first sons after the paternal grandfather and daughters after the maternal grandmother. There was a big fight when my son was born as my FIL is called Massood, and that was SOOO not happening. We compromised and his middle name is the same as my FIL's Hebrew name.

Sounds like your daughter is adopting her in-laws traditions though.

blue and white said...

Just go with the flow.
Reading Lisoosh's comment reminds me of my daughter in law's
story. She comes from mixed lineage- Ashkenazi mother Sephardi father.When she was born her grandmother wanted her called "Masuoda" naturally that did not go down well with her mother and a compromise was reached. I think her Sephardi grandparents never got over the insult.
By the way it's customary to follow your husbands traditions after marriage.
Visit me at

Myrna Golden said...

Mazel Tov!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.