Sela Milgrom Dorfman s Brit Ceremony lifemates

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					                            Sela Milgrom-Dorfman’s
                                 Brit Ceremony

                                         I.   WELCOME

                                          ‫ברוכה הבאה‬
                                  May her arrival be blessed.

Looking around at the family and friends in this room, at all the people who love us and
who have loved Sela since before she was Sela, it is clear to us that Sela’s arrival in this
world has already been blessed. Aaron and I feel so very lucky to have been nurtured in
our lives by all of you and have loved watching Oren get to know you, and you her. We
are deeply thankful that now Sela, too, is being welcomed into this exceptional
community and are so happy that you are here to celebrate her new life with us.

Judaism welcomes a new child into the world with a brit or covenant. For a boy, that
ceremony is traditionally a mila, or circumcision. When Oren was born, we decided to riff
off of the traditional ceremony and weave together a brit or covenant ceremony that
welcomed her as a member of the community of Israel and a citizen of the world, and we
committed to using the same format to welcome any siblings, male or female, who

In the last days before Sela was born, I found myself anxious about what it would mean to
love two children. In order to love both equally, I felt as if I’d have to break my full heart of
love for Oren in two, giving half to her new sister. I was consoled by the hope that each
half would regenerate itself, giving me two full hearts with which to love both of my

In talking about this, we were reminded of a song we sing with Oren, one that Talia sang
as a child. You can find the words on your sheet, and you can watch us or Oren for the
accompanying hand gestures.

Love Is Something
Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away, it comes right back to you.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, give it away,
It comes right back to you.

Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away, it comes right back to you.
                                           II. BRIT

This space has become deeply resonant for us. We were married here almost three years
ago, and 21 months ago, we brought Oren home here from the hospital and welcomed
her with many of you.

As we stood under the shelter of this tallit at our wedding and at Oren’s brit, we now hold
you, Sela, with your sister Oren beneath it as we expand the circle of our family. As we
wrap you in this tallit, so may your life be wrapped in justice and righteousness. As we
embrace you today, so may you embrace your tradition and your people.

Doda Li(ore)
As your eyes are filled with wonder when you gaze at the world, so, too, may you be filled
with wonder at the everyday miracles of life.

Aunt Diane and Uncle Jeff, Aunt Debby and Uncle Etan
As you startle to the world around you, so may you remain ever open both to the
happiness and to the pain of those you encounter in the world.

Aunt Leah
As you cry for food and comfort now, so may you one day cry out to correct the injustices
of the world, to help clothe the naked and feed the hungry.

Ima Ruth and Abba Eddie
As your hands tightly grasp your parents’ fingers, so may you grasp hold of learning and
grow in knowledge and in wisdom.

Talia and Aaron

   ‫ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו להכניסה בבריתו של עם ישראל‬
                   Blessed are you who has taught us ways of holiness
              and called us to bring our daughter into the Covenant of Israel.

                                        III. NAMING

As we mentioned in the birth announcement, the name Sela comes from an archaic
Hebrew word that means to balance or weigh, as in to discern, to see all options, to bring
judgment to bear. And, as Yaron told us after we had named her, in Kabbalist literature,
Sela refers specifically to striving for balance between judgment and compassion.

The book of Ecclesiastes captured that striving to see all sides with a sense of equanimity
and insight in its poetry, and Pete Seeger put that poetry to song. On your sheets, you’ll
find the words to “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season) (Pete Seeger)
To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

Among the many confluences in Sela’s name is one we didn’t anticipate when we chose
to celebrate on this day. Today is Yom HaShoah, a day for remembering the Holocaust.
And, as we learned on our way home from the hospital, having just named Sela, she
shares that name with Sela Gompertz, who shared her home with my great-grandparents
and grandmother Ruth after their home was destroyed on Kristallnacht. On this day of
celebration which is also a day of remembrance, it feels particularly fitting to honor Sela’s

Since Oren was born, three very important people in our lives have passed away: my
mother’s father, Earl Lhotka, and our family’s close friends Rosanne Kalick and Lil Lerner.
Each of them met Oren exactly once during her first six months of life, and we wanted to
honor their memories here.

My grandfather Earl was a gruff man, very much a product of the Depression and his
experience in World War II. The word that comes to mind most often when thinking about
him is resourcefulness—we used to joke that you could drop him in the woods with a
hunting knife and by the end of the season he’d have put up a log cabin and set in
provisions for the winter. What I remember most fondly about him was that he was an
outdoorsman who loved the woods—hunting, fishing, and gardening, in particular; the
wilderness was what animated him. We hope for Sela both his self-sufficiency and also his
immense love for the natural world and the sense of wonder that it can inspire.

Rosanne and Lil were perhaps the closest non-family members to me. We often described
Lil as our New York grandmother, and Yaron captured it best when he called Rosanne our
godmother. Both women shared extraordinary qualities. They were broad and curious
readers with sharp and inquisitive minds coupled with kindness and abundant love. They
displayed deep and particular interest in each of us and asked probing and insightful
questions so that they could know each of us and, in time, our partners as unique

Lil in particular was an elegant and beautiful woman—when we brought Oren to meet her
just a few months before she died, her hair was done, she was dressed up, and the table
was set beautifully. She had the most recent New Yorker open, and we discussed our
work and the world in response to her thoughtful questions.

Rosanne was a lover of all things culture. We joked that you couldn’t take play or film
recommendations from her because her interests were so catholic and her love for the
simple experience of going to the movies or the theater so great that it clouded her
judgment about the quality of any particular film or play. Rosanne inspired by example,
running the marathon for the first time well into her 40s, when it was still an extreme sport,
and continuing to exercise every day throughout and long after she was diagnosed with
cancer. It was Rosanne who shared every holiday and celebration with us and who knew,
too, how to celebrate the mundane, arriving at the house, for instance, with chicken soup
and deli food that I was craving while pregnant with Oren.

In thinking about how to honor these people and how to invoke their best qualities as an
aspirational inheritance for Sela, we stumbled upon a lovely confluence of names. The
name Lil, short for Lilian, is a combination of Lily—referring to the flower—and Anne—
meaning Grace. Rosanne combines Rose with the same word for Grace. In Biblical
Hebrew, often so particular in its choice of words, both lily and rose share the same word,
Shoshana, the name we’ve chosen as Sela’s middle name. And this combination of
flowers and grace brings us full circle to my grandfather, for whom growing and caring for
flowers was so important.
For those in the know, Oren and Sela’s names share another connection: Both Oren and
Shoshana are characters in Quentin Tarantino movies, Oren Ishi-I the fierce warrior in Kill
Bill, and Shoshana the beautiful Jewish partisan in Inglourious Basterds.
Go figure . . .

There is an expression in Hebrew—“ki-shema ken hee—as is her name, so is she.” We hope
for Sela that she brings to bear both judgment and compassion as she navigates the
complexities of a long and rich life.

Uncle Yaron and Aunt Miriam

‫אלהינו ואלהי אבותינו ואמותינו קים את הילדה הזאת לאביה ולאמה ויקרא שמה בישראל סלא שושנה‬
             .‫בת טליה ואהרון. ישמח האב ביוצאת חלציו ותגל אמה בפרי בטנה‬
                               .‫זאת הקטנה גדולה תהיה‬
Uncle Noam and Aunt Julie
Our God, God of our mothers and our fathers, sustain this child through her parents’ loving
 care. Let her be known among our people Israel by the name Sela Shoshana, daughter
of Talia and Aaron and sister of Oren. May her name be a source of joy to her and inspire
 her to serve our people and all humanity. May her parents rejoice in her growth of body
                                        and soul.

Abu and Imama (Sela’s grandparents David and Shira)

                    ‫כשם שנכנסה לברית כן תכנס לתורה ולחופה ולמעשים טובים‬

Grammie and Papa (Sela’s grandparents Janet and Glenn)
As Sela enters the covenant, so may she attain love of learning through the study of Torah,
   happiness in partnership with another human being, and the capacity to act toward
                      others in honest, respectful, and ethical ways.

Birkat Kohanim
Please join us in reciting the priestly blessing, the prayer traditionally recited every Friday
night by parents to their children.

                                        ‫יברכך ה' וישמרך‬
                              Y’var’chech Adonai v’yishmarech.
                             May God bless you and protect you.

                                      ‫יאר ה' פניו אליך ויחנך‬
                          Ya-er Adonai panav aylayich vichunech.
            May God’s face shine upon you, and may God be gracious to you.
                              ‫ישא ה' פניו אליך וישם לך שלום‬
                   Yisa Adonai panav aylayich v’yasem lach shalom.
                    May God’s face turn to you and give you peace.

We’ll conclude by singing together the shehechiyanu, a prayer of gratitude for being alive
to celebrate this moment.

                 ‫ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה‬
               Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam shehechiyanu
                        ve-ki’manu ve-higi’anu la-zman ha-zeh.

            Blessed are You who has created us, sustained us, and enabled us
                           to celebrate this moment together.


                       ‫ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן‬
           Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam bo-rei p’ri ha-gafen.
                      Blessed is the creation of the fruit of the vine.
                Blessings for Sela from her Grandparents and Great-Grandparents

Ima Ruth’s Blessing
When I came here I looked around and thought: “What a time of the year for a young girl to
have her birthday party!”
     Sela, my darling, your entrance into this world came at a perfect time. The buds in the trees
and on the ground are bursting open in all their glory. What a sight! What joy! What promise!
My thoughts turned into a prayer of gratitude. And of hope for what is ahead of you in your
lifetime. This is the kind of world I wish for you, my darling. Smell it . . . enjoy it . . . improve it . . .
and above all, Protect it.
     Here is your family. Your loved ones are behind and around you. You could not ask for
better life guides and teachers. There are two in paticular: my son, your grandfater David, and
your mother, my granddaughter Talia. When they were born my heart was filled with hopes for
their future . . . and as you will soon learn, they each chose their life mates – as your Abu David
would say, “like the whipping cream on the chocolate mousse.” Now, I ask you, could you
have done better than that? I embrace and bless you on this very special day.

Abba Eddie’s Blessing
Each morning I usually have breakfast and go to the computer. When I turn it on and see the
very first picture on the screen I receive a joyous jolt. There are thirty two smiling faces; our
three children, ten grandchildren, their mates, and seven great-grandchildren. Now you have
blessed us with another great-grandchild born to Talia and Aaron.
    I wish you to be blessed with health, happiness, and success in your endeavors, whatever
they may be. I love you and am very proud to be your great-grandfather.
    P.S. I cannot wait for the extra joyous jolt on my computer.

Grammie’s Blessing
I’ve already seen your Abba and Ima in action with your big sister Oren so I know that you
have the best parents possible. Just like they do with Oren, they will be teaching you how to
make good choices, how to be responsible for your actions, and how to relish the good things
and people in your world. And you will be surrounded by an extended family of people who
love you. My wishes for you are that you always appreciate the joy in your life (don’t take it for
granted), that you have a wonderful childhood and grow up to do work that adds value to
the world, that you and Oren keep a special bond between you, and that you live a life rich
with good health and meaningful experiences.

Papa’s Blessing
You were born in the early days of spring, which typifies a time of birth and re-birth, of youth,
and gives promise of further fruits, while the other seasons are designed for gathering in these
fruits and storing them away.
     You have remarkable parents, great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and
cousins. Your sister Oren has much to teach you, and, in time, you will have much to teach
her, too.
     My advice is simple and comes in two parts: Live honorably and well. Stand up to injustice
wherever you may find it.
     I wish for you, we all wish for you, the importance of the memory of abundant blessings
acquired along life’s path. I love you very much.
Abu’s Blessing
The last words from the parasha of the week past (Vayikra Leviticus 11:45):

I am God who lovingly lifted you from the Land of Egypt to be your God: you shall be kadosh,
          unique and sacred, and dedicated to goodness, for I God am kadosh.

    Created in the divine image, you Sela are infinitely unique and valuable and born to be a
force for goodness in the world. With an astute sense of that which is just and right and a deep
compassion, may you live a long and rich life that fulfills the promise of your birth.
    Already loving you infinitely.

Imama’s Blessing
May the equanimity of your beautiful name never dull your outrage at injustice or lessen the
surprise of living.
    May it bless you with wisdom and empathy to feel pain and share joy.
    May you be blessed with a fierce love of your sister as you are already blessed with the
unending love of the generations of your family.

Sabba and Jo’s Blessing
The first kind of naming is in Bereshit, Genesis 1. Only after God named the light, Day, and
named the gathering of waters, Sea, and named the dry land, Earth, could He see his
creation and say Ki Tov. Meaning not so much that it was good, but that it was complete. So
naming something makes it real.
      Then I thought of Helen Keller, a blind, mute, wild little savage, who became human when
she understood that everything had a name…when she made the connection between the
thing, water, flowing over her hand and the word being spelled out on her other hand by her
teacher. Language makes us human.
      Third, I thought of how historical situations motivate name giving. At this time of year I
remember a story by Marie Syrkin about a child born out of the concentration camps, and
named by his mother, UD, "an ember plucked from the fire."
      Finally, I thought of the emotional context of name giving. You remember Biblical Leah,
sister of Rachel. Leah gave her four sons names that reflected her relationship with Jacob her
husband. Reuben was the joy of seeing a son; Simeon and Levi reflected her need for God to
hear her and bring her husband closer to her. Finally, Judah, was just plain “Thank You God.”
      So now I come to Sela. The root sela occurs once in the Bible and is used similarly in
modern Hebrew. Something whose value exceeds gold.
      I try to connect Sela to my thoughts about naming. 1. Sela slid into the light of day with
God's cooperation: Vayar Elohim ki tov. Yes, Good and also Complete. 2. From minute One
she is being continually enlivened by the human languages of touch, of, sound, slight, smell
and taste. 3. Does her name reflect history? I leave that one to you. 4. The one on relationships
. . . you gave us a hint by explaining that in Jewish mysticism Sela is the mediating quality
between tough justice and compassion.
      Does that speak of Sela's parents as well as Sela? What a blessed wish we all have for this
newborn: equanimity, fairness, balance, moderation, gentility, insight.

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