Baby Shopping with Leviticus November 11, 2007Posted by voolavex in baby gifts, chasids, evil eye, Jews, kosher, leviticus, Lubavitch, talmud, teddy bears, torah.
Tags: baby gifts, chasids, evil eye, Jews, kosher, leviticus, Lubavitch, talmud, teddy bears, torah
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I have very close friends who are Lubavitch Chasids. I have known them for years and this year they welcomed their first grandchild – a lovely little girl. Usually when one goes to visit a new baby it’s fairly simple. Pink or blue, high end or tacky? Toys or clothes? Stocks or bonds? Usually.
To start, most Jewish folks do not have baby showers. It is considered bad luck to purchase anything for the baby before it is safely delivered from the womb. I tend to agree with this idea. By extension, however, Chasidic Jews do not even discuss names or gender. The basis for this is called kinahora – although it is spelled many ways. Ritualwell.org has this to say: “Jews have long believed that to call attention to a good thing-like overpraising a child-is to tempt the evil eye, a faux pas that demands the immediate recitation of “keyn eyn harah”, or kinahora, meaning “no evil eye” in Yiddish. This is also, in part, the basis for the little red string or bead that many observant Jews wear. Having this in mind I prepared to visit the new baby and her ecstatic family laden with gifts. But this was not just any baby; she was a Chasidic babe and if you want to do to the right thing for your friends’ joyous occasion (called a simcha), respecting their faith and tradition is the right thing to do and righter still if it’s your own faith as well.
Let me say this right away, shopping for babies is better than being pregnant and for little little girls it’s even better. Nowadays there are so many wonderful things to buy and knit and look for, that it boggles the mind. There seem to be endless sources of clothes and toys in every price range for boys and girls. Pale pastels, bright primaries and a world of amazing animals and soft things that shout “buy me!”. Except for the very observant. This is not to say that the very observant don’t go wild over their babies – they just don’t go hog-wild. Fortunately as I was tucking lions and tigers and bears, oh my, into my gift bags, I realized that these stuffies might not work for this little girl and her family. Now is when the concept of Tum’ah enters the picture. Tum’ah is a form of ritual impurity which can be expressed in several ways. For my purposes the most important consideration was in the representation of the stuffed animals. Wikipedia tells me that one may become tum’ah by coming in contact with certain animals; including some insects and lizards (enumerated in Leviticus, Chapter 11, verses 29 – 32). Leviticus is where we get the list of what’s kosher and what’s not and this includes animals. (I am still monumentally confused about Noah and the Ark – but that is another whole story.) And come on, who gets a baby bugs or lizards anway? I had also thought this restriction meant animals one ate – not house pets certainly, but apparently I was incorrect. I called my friend, the Bubbe (grandmother) who told me that ” you think a teddy bear is just a teddy bear – but it’s not”. I gather it’s a big, unkosher maneater. I started to point out that most Jews in Brooklyn don’t go out and run into bears but before I could mention this, she started to include other warm, fuzzy creatures that were treif (this is Yiddish for unclean) while I started to toss the poor, hapless stuffies from the bags. Pigs were out – no Olivia for this baby; no cats, no dogs, nothing with scales, no shellfish (Spongebob’s friends were totally a no-no – but the Sponge himself – not sure – isn’t he a kitchen sponge?), no crocodiles or alligators, no bunnies and presumably no mice or squirrels. The list is sort of narrow but I saw it as a challenge and one that I welcomed because domestic fowl are okay as are cows and goats and lambs. Ducklings!!! Chicks!!! And what could be more wonderful than a fuzzy, woolly little lamb? Could it be that simple? Not so fast. Nothing is wrong with a lamb unless the sheep wool is mixed with linen (and with things as they are in China you really cannot know). This is called “sha’atnez”. And is also covered in Leviticus and in the Talmud. Companies exist only to examine garments to guard against this admixture. So, in the end, the bags that went to visit this lovely little sheina maidele (beautiful girl) were filled with cotton onesies, little cotton tights, smocked cotton dresses, a Got Milk outfit in pink and androgynous little dolls that turned out to be perfect. I think I even worked in a little lamb too. Next time, though, I will go for duckies. The baby herself was adorable and just as sweet as she could be and the entire event was made even better because everything was, well, kosher. And when the next one arrives, I will be way ahead of the game. As soon as I know the gender I may even knit something – but not with sheep wool or spun flax; no, no, no – more likely it will be cashmere or cotton. Pareve, in kosher speak, neutral. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.