Just this week, Jodi and I realized that even though Ilana’s second birthday was two months ago, we still have not gotten her two-year-old pictures taken. (Please don’t tell her – we don’t want to hurt her feelings.) Of course, this gave us an opportunity to think about how punctual we were for all of Gabi’s pictures at the requisite times. It is clear that things have changed a bit in the ten years between Gabi’s second birthday and Ilana’s second birthday.
Since Jodi and I are each the youngest member of our respective families, we are sensitive to the notion that youngest children deserve everything that their older siblings got. Despite this sensitivity, though, we are still guilty of being negligent in this area.
We don’t take as many pictures of Ilana as we did of Gabi. We don’t send out the invitations for her birthday parties in as timely a fashion. She certainly does not get as much one-on-one time with a parent as Gabi did at the same age. It’s not that we don’t love her as much. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that we are calmer this time around and we have much more going on in our family life.
In truth, there is something special about the first time we do anything – whether it is having a child, getting a job, going to Israel or anything else. There is a sense of excitement that only comes once. In this week’s parashah, our tradition acknowledges this phenomenon by stating that all firstborns – whether human or animal – belong to God. However, in the case of children, we may redeem those firstborns. This traditional redemption is performed in a ceremony called Pidyon Ha-Ben on the thirtieth day of a firstborn male child’s life. In this way, the firstborn child becomes God’s gift to us.
We similarly acknowledge the first time we have a particular experience by reciting a blessing – the ‘Sheh-hech-yanu’ – which is translated: Praised are You, Adonai, Power of the universe, who has given us life, sanctified us and brought us to this moment.
It is the power and magic of those first experiences that cause us to want to do them over again.
And so as we try something for the first time – whether it is parenthood or a the first trip to Israel – let us take the opportunity to acknowledge that these special moments would not happen were it not for the Divine Presence in our lives. And then, perhaps, we will be blessed enough to experience them a second time (and a third and a fourth – if we’re lucky!).