For the week ending 8 January 2005 / 27 Tevet 5765

Baby Maisehs

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Paula Sharfe

Dear Rabbi,

Friends and I heard that one should not allow a baby in its first year to look into mirrors. We have been unsuccessful in finding a source for this and would appreciate it if you could help us. Thank you.

Dear Paula,

I've heard this as well, with different versions as to how long to keep the baby away from the mirror: For a boy until the brit; during the first year; until the baby get its first tooth. However, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, said he knows of no source for this whatsoever and indicated that it is a mere bubbe maiseh, an old wives tale.

From: Name Withheld:

Dear Rabbi,

I am a nursing mommy. Sometimes, my baby will cut short the interval between feedings. Some ladies' rooms tend to be a little too dirty for me to nurse there and I end up having to duck into the back seat of the car. However, I feel like I am breaking modesty laws by feeding my baby in the back seat of the car. Could you explain modesty laws and how they relate to nursing in public? Thank you.

Dear Name Withheld,

Unfortunately, babies don't seem to arrange their feeding habits around their mother's "modesty schedules."

When this happens, it is perfectly permissible to feed your baby in a public place if necessary, but you should do so in a way of maximal modesty. Going to the car is fine, but may not be necessary. Why inconvenience yourself and prolong your babys crying when there are other possibilities?

For example, take a chair into the ladies room, enter a changing room, phone booth or even photo-booth. If that is not possible, find a secluded bench and sit with your back toward the public and/or drape a blanket, cloth or jacket over your shoulder.

From: Name Withheld

Dear Rabbi,

I like to be shomer Shabbos [Sabbath observant] but my son will not eat anything that I have made for Shabbos. He is nearly four years old. I have been cooking for him on Shabbos, otherwise he would not eat but I feel bad about breaking Shabbos like this. Can you please advise me what I should do?

Dear Name Withheld,

As a parent myself, I understand the importance of empathizing with one's children and trying to accommodate their needs. However, except for emergencies, G-d forbid, this should not be at the expense of breaking Shabbat.

It sounds like your son doesn't like traditional Shabbat foods. How about fries? Macaroni and cheese? Pizza? These and most other foods can be cooked before Shabbat and kept warm. They can even be heated on Shabbat itself under certain conditions (consult us or a local Orthodox rabbi). These aren't traditional "Shabbat" foods, but it doesn't matter. The main thing is that he eats and that you observe Shabbat.

Your situation brings to mind a story about the famous Rabbi Yosef Rozen, known as the Ragotchover. A womans newborn wouldnt nurse on Shabbat. This was endangering the baby, as once a week, from Friday afternoon before sunset until Saturday night after dark, the newborn refused to eat. The doctors were stumped. Finally, the mother brought the baby to the Ragotchover for a blessing. Interestingly, the Ragotchover told her not to change into her special Shabbat clothing but rather remain in her regular weekday clothes. That Friday night the mother remained in her weekday garb, and the problem was solved! The baby nursed.

The Rogotchover later explained how he solved the mystery: The Talmud (Bava Kama 37a) asserts that an ox which establishes a pattern to gore on Shabbat is considered "wild" only regarding Shabbat, but not during the week. Tosefot explains that the different clothing people wear on Shabbat prevents the ox from recognizing them, and is the cause of its irregular behavior. Similarly, the newborn didn't nurse because he didn't yet recognize his mother in her Shabbat clothing. The rabbi sagaciously suspended behavior familiar to Shabbat but unfamiliar to the child.

Give your son more time to recognize the beauty of Shabbat. In the meantime, give him what he likes and what is also permitted. Thats oneg Shabbat, the delight of Shabbat, his and yours.

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