The miracle of being

Two-day old Jacob Mordechai Shoer.
Two-day old Jacob Mordechai Shoer.


People, by nature, chase miracles.

It may be a cure for the terminal patient whom, according to the doctors, only “a miracle” will save. Or the hope that a miracle will provide an easy fortune with the jackpot from a winning lottery ticket. We look for a miracle to find a job or love at first sight, to get a raise or to depart on an idyllic vacation overseas.

Less than a month ago, I was witness to a miracle, one so trivialized because it occurs so often that it is no longer considered miraculous.

I saw the birth of a child.

Never before had I cradled a newborn just emerged from his mother’s womb. I shuddered when I felt his essence, when I sensed his divine splendor, when I saw him embrace joy. With a loud and vibrant voice, he burst into the world, free of evil, not wanting riches or glory. So fragile, so defenseless, his tiny hands reached with full confidence toward the unexplored. His gentle, angelic face asked for love and protection. My first nephew had been born.

The coming of Jacob Mordechai Shoer, the firstborn of my only sister, has been jolting and amazing, a gift from the universe — the fleeting breath of peace. The baby enjoys some attributes of divinity itself: kindness, purity and consciousness. He uses his senses without having been taught to. He knows how to eat and summon others’ attention, crying when he is hungry or feels unwell. He quiets down and sleeps atop his mother’s bosom, where he finds food, warmth and affection. Without realizing it, he makes the children and adults around him cheerful.

A child of God joined a world populated by some 7.1 billion individuals, each one with unique qualities not found in any other human being. Deep within me, I perceive his naked, honest soul. He smiles at me gently, lips parted. I’m one more pair of hands that hold him, fearing to disturb him. He looks like me? He doesn’t? Who does he resemble? A resemblance must be found for every baby.

Relatives and friends walk into the rooms carrying flowers, shiny helium balloons, cookies and other delectable pastries. Every time another infant sees the light, a joyful melody is heard throughout the hallways. But not always. Tears choke and grief crushes a mother who wails, in disbelief, for a child who has returned to the dwelling of the spirits on the white wings of death.

Eight days later, we take Jacob to seal his alliance with God in the Brit Milah — the covenant of circumcision — an ancestral ritual preserved for four millenia by the children of Israel.

From generation to generation, since the days of our patriarch Abraham, the man who defined and promulgated monotheism, Jewish males undergo this ceremony, where we learn that adding a spiritual dimension to the physical body is not exactly a stroll through the Garden of Eden.

While the child cries, “anesthetized” by drops of sacred wine, his blood drips onto the diaper in what appears to be a cruel procedure carried out by a kind mohel, not a professional surgeon but well trained and qualified. It is, however, the holiest commandment in the Jewish faith because on its observance depends man’s eternal union with the Creator and the guarantee of the spiritual relationship with the Almighty.

When the circumcision mitzvah — good deed — is complete, the officiants sing religious songs and benedictions before giving the baby his Hebrew name publicly. Then, the guests wish good luck with an enthusiastic “Mazel tov!” shouted in unison.

After the Milah, the community shares a festive meal to rejoice in the continuity of the Jewish people. In our case, it was a simple affair in Lake Mary, Fla., where the baby was born. Jacob didn’t calm down until he received the food from his mother’s breast, another miracle from God’s abundant love that sometimes goes unnoticed.

Returning to Miami in the Beetle convertible of a friend who accompanied me to the circumcision, the vehicle’s top down, I gazed up to the heavens, the infinity and the stars above, under a moon that glowed with eternal light. I then understood — and celebrated — the miracle of being.

Daniel Shoer Roth, El Nuevo Herald’s Metro columnist, is writing the biography of Monsignor Agustín A. Román, the late Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Read more Daniel Shoer Roth stories from the Miami Herald

The ring of Bishop Agustín Román.


    The bishop’s ring

    One evening two years ago, Bishop Agustín Román limited his supper to a handful of grapes. Urged by Father Fabio Arango to eat a healthy diet he answered that he felt no appetite. As was his custom, he helped his fellow priest wash and dry the dishes at the rectory. Then it was time for him to teach the evening catechism classes at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, a routine that he had carried out with apostolic zeal since 1968.

Two-day old Jacob Mordechai Shoer.


    The miracle of being

    People, by nature, chase miracles.

Miami Herald

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