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The introduction of giving tzedakah (charity): Each family member who cuts the hair gives the child money to put into his tzedakah box.
The introduction of giving tzedakah (charity): Each family member who cuts the hair gives the child money to put into his tzedakah box.

Ami’s Upsherin

Beverly Kent Goldenberg Special to the Jewish news

3-year-old marks birthday with Jewish tradition.

Although they are not religious, Etai and Caroline Goldenberg love Jewish traditions, customs and celebrations. This Lag b’Omer, they marked their son, Ami’s (Amichai Barak Goldenberg) third birthday with an upsherin.

Ami’s upsherin took place at an Israeli-style Lag b’Omer celebration at Congregation Bais Abraham in St. Louis, Mo., where the Goldenberg family resides. His father, Etai, was raised in Huntington Woods and attended Hillel Day School and Berkley High School, then University of Michigan and Wayne State Medical School. He met his wife, Caroline, a St. Louis native, while doing his residency in urology at Washington University. Etai is currently in private practice, specializing in male infertility. He and Caroline have two sons, Leo, 5, and Ami.

The word upsherin means “hair-cutting” in Yiddish. It is an age-old custom to allow a little boy’s hair to grow untouched until he’s 3, and on his third Jewish birthday, to invite friends and community members to a festive haircutting ceremony. The upsherin ceremony marks a new stage in a child’s life, an intellectual coming-of-age and the passage from babyhood to childhood and is the beginning of a child’s formal Jewish education,

Because it is an introduction to Hebrew study, Hebrew letters are dipped into honey.  The child licks the honey on each of the letters while they are read so that Torah study will be sweet.

Ami was born on Israel Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, which falls during the counting of the Omer. Counting the Omer commences on the second day of Passover and is completed on Shavuot. It is considered a mourning period, so no weddings or parties are permitted, except on Lag b’Omer.

Cutting hair is also not allowed during the time of the Counting of the Omer, which is why boys who turn 3 between Pesach and Lag b’Omer celebrate upsherin at the Lag b’Omer celebrations.

Bonfires are the symbol of this holiday. In Israel, bonfires, barbecued foods and bow and arrow play can be seen across the country. Many religious families travel to the burial site of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Meron Mountain for their son’s upsherin.

God was shining his countenance upon Ami and the Goldenberg family at his upsherin, as the rain predicted held off until the next day. A good time was had by all at the celebration with the Lag b’Omer activities of bonfire, bows and arrows, pita making, drums, dancing and s’mores. Everyone enjoyed an Israeli meal of hummus and falafel, along with hot dogs, chips and cotton candy.

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