Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Covenant - BMT +8

When we found out in April that Sam would be receiving a bone marrow transplant (and we didn't know how long it would take to get to this point!), we started to talk about ways to mark the occasion. Prayers, of course, at the moment of transfusion. But what else? What would sufficiently mark this enormous change in his body, this new beginning, this "fresh start" for his cells?

Well, we reasoned, if "day 0" was his new day-of-rebirth, and if he were "like a newborn," wouldn't people want to know his name? And, of course, a baby doesn't usually get his or her name until the 8th* day, the day of the covenant. (***don't worry -- we won't do any of that OTHER 8th day stuff!)

There is a Jewish custom to alter someone's name when they are in a life-threatening medical situation. The superstitious explanation is that this is meant to "fool" the Angel of Death, who presumably has a name of a person to "find." But there are so many other reasons to change one's name! I know of people who changed their names when they got to rabbinical or cantorial school, people who changed them for Aliyah to Israel, people who wanted their names to symbolize something different about themselves. Many people change their surname when they get married or to symbolize a partnership. In the Torah, God changes Avram's name to Avraham and Sarai's name to Sarah. Yaakov's name is changed to Yisrael. There is a teaching in the Gemara that changing one's name makes one an entirely different person.

Okay, so going back to this life-threatening medical situation name-changing affair. It's very typical to add a Hebrew name, rather than change the name entirely, and it's often the custom to choose the name Chayim, meaning life. This was nice, and good. Except that our decision to change Sam's name wasn't made in an emergency situation, and we had some time to consider. And while he was and is in a life-threatening situation, we thought that there was just a little more to it. Our decision was in some ways a meeting of the health and symbolism-of-change ideas. So we gave SAM the option of a few names, carefully chosen for their meanings (and including Chayim, by the way), and he chose....

which means "God is my strength"

I couldn't love more that he chose a name filled with power and strength, that yes, I know, he liked the way it sounded, but I also know that he likes the idea of being strong and tough. And is he ever....

Shmuel Asher Uzziel ben haRav Michael Aharon v'haRav Pesah Esther

(he might have the honor of one of the longest Hebrew names EVER!)

So as we start this new year, this Rosh HaShanah of 5774, this birthday of the world, so too do we renew the covenant that we made for Sam at his birth, asking for him to be brought to a life filled with Torah, with good deeds, and with loving companions.

L'shana tova u'metukah.
A good and sweet year, a year of HEALTH and blessing.
From all of us to all of you....

*If you're being technical, you would note that a Jewish baby born on a Tuesday (like Sam's cells and, by coincidence, Sam himself), the brit milah would take place on the following Tuesday, the 8th day. But since the doctors already have a counting system in place, we decided that "day +8" made much more sense to be "the 8th day." Please, don't think too hard about it.

One final P.S. I know that many of you may not read this until after Rosh HaShanah and that you may have said Mi Sheberach for him using his "original" name and that now you're fretting. But please don't. Please know that we believe in the intention of prayer far more than the details and semantics. I might be superstitious but I know darn well that the Angel of Death and the Holy One are neither fooled nor even interested in what we call Sam....I know how much more this all means to us, the living and the prayerful. Prayers for Sam in any and all means are welcome and appreciated.


  1. Blessings to all of you from your Team In Training supporters in St. Louis.

  2. Now if that isn't a way to start 5774 - a new name and new - super strong - marrow surging through Sam's body! Sam's Nebraska Fan Club will add Uzziel to our prayers and very good vibes that we send your way. May you all be blessed with great health, stronger spirit and nothing but joy in the new year! And to that, I say, Amen!

  3. Uzziel is an incredible name. L'Shana Tova! Only good things to come!

  4. Wishing you all a happy, sweet and above all healthy 5774!!

  5. L'shana Tova! Sending prayers and blessings to you for strength and healing.

  6. Sending warm wishes for the New Year (and xoxo from NYC) to all of you, but most especially to Shmuel Asher Uzziel ben haRav Michael Aharon v'haRav Pesah Esther!

    ~ Jane.

  7. Love you guys.
    We collected 20 new potential bone marrow donors at our little congregation in Colorado yesterday. Please tell Shmuel Asher Uzziel it's thanks to him. Shanah tovah umetukah.