Soon it will be my birthday.
Happens every year, right around this same time.
I’m not Jewish, despite the title of this post. But I was born on Rosh Hoshannah (never mind the year, in either the Hebrew or Julian calendar) and delivered by Dr. Nathan Steinberg, an Orthodox Jew, who, as he ought to be, was in the synagogue when I began my entry into the world.
I was my parents’ first child and both grandparents’ first grandchild. My mother was the oldest daughter in her family and Dr. Steinberg was their family doctor. Family doctors did everything then, bringing lives into the world, easing lives out of it, and everything in between. To mom’s family, Dr. Steinberg was a godlike, all knowing figure.
My mother always told me how very important it was that Dr. Steinberg was called out of the synagogue on Rosh Hoshannah and came to the hospital to deliver me. He was in “church” praying on a most holy day and he came because he was needed.
I had no what it meant, this Rosh Hoshannah, synagogue, Orthodox Jewish thing. To me, “Jewish” was a nationality like “Irish” or “Polish” or any other “ish” and I knew Dr. Steinberg as an austere, soft spoken, serious man with a mustache, to whom I dared not speak one word.
But mom emphasized how special it had been for him to leave his Rosh Hoshannah for me.
As I grew up, I didn’t know much more about this holiday that I didn’t celebrate but was always aware of it, even though the date was different from my birthday each year. But I learned.
On Rosh Hoshannah, Jews begin their New Year. Tradition requires that they review their lives over the preceding year, contemplate their successes and shortcomings, and prepare to enter the next year with a purpose of amendment for their wrongs and determination to continue with their righteous behavior.
A good day to be born
I learned more about Dr. Steinberg, too. He was a true humanitarian who held a deep reverence for life. No matter who the patient, no matter what the need, he tended the sick and needy in a practice that extended not just to those who could afford it, but to the inner city poor people who could not.
Now I know a little more about being Jewish, what Rosh Hoshannah means, and how the Jewish reverence for life was embodied in Nathan Steinberg.
So thanks, Dr. Steinberg, for being with me on Rosh Hoshannah so long ago. If you were here, I would still be afraid of you, but thanks. And L’Shana Tovah….
Sincerely, The Rosh Hoshannah Kid