A Weaning Ceremony for Joshua Ruben and Eli Nathaniel and for Me

And then Sarah said “God has brought me laughter, everyone who hears will laugh with me…” … The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. —Genesis 21:6–8

Since the day they were born, my children, Joshua and Eli have brought me great joy and laughter. From their earliest days, when life revolved around nursing, burping, changing and sleeping until now, when nursing is just a small part of our morning and evening routine, this nurturing, cuddling time has been a very special time that the three of us spend together.

Bringing this phase of our lives to an end is bittersweet. I am amazed everyday as I watch Joshua and Eli grow and I take joy in their every new accomplishment and discovery. But I also mourn the loss of their babyhood and know that this is just one of many times that I have to let go and let them grow and move on themselves. I am no longer their sole source of nourishment. Breastfeeding was the one thing that only I could do for them, where they were completely dependent on me. Now anyone can care for them and they no longer need me in this way and letting go of this dependence is sad. Nursing is one of the last vestiges of Joshua and Eli’s babyhood, and giving it up very concretely means saying goodbye to this phase in our lives.

I am also sad to lose this very physically intimate time that we spend together but on the other hand, I want my body back. I savor that calm time that the three of us have together. I fear that once nursing is no longer part of our routine, Joshua and Eli won’t want that cuddly time as much and we will become more rushed and miss opportunities for contact. I need to make sure that we don’t lose the time to cuddle and snuggle while reading stories, saying good night, or just giving hugs.

For us, weaning is a process that happens over time not just a one-day occurrence. I needed to be ready to let go and since they are old enough to talk about and understand this change, Joshua and Eli had to be prepared, too.

A few weeks before we gave up the morning nursing, Joshua and Eli began drinking milk from cups in the morning and evening to supplement what they were getting from me. I found a “declaration of intention” that I was ready to begin the process. I recited this declaration every evening for several nights before we dropped the morning nursing.

הִנְנִי מוּכָנָה וּמְזוּמֶנֶת

Hineni mukhanah u-m’zumenet

I am prepared and ready to hold on and to let go to fulfill the mitzvah of rearing these children.

The morning before last Shabbat, I talked to Joshua and Eli about how they were growing up and that we were ready to stop nursing. I told them that Shabbat morning would be their last nursing in the morning. We made it a special cuddling time and then for the next week, they had cups of milk each morning. Although they asked to nurse every morning and wanted ‘mommy milk’, reminding them that we were stopping and giving them their cups of ‘cow milk’ while cuddling in my lap appeased them. They seemed to be ready; the question still remained: was I?

May 12, 2000
Shabbat Emor
8 Iyar, 5760

Dear Joshua and Eli,

As we begin Shabbat this week, we enter a new phase in all of our lives as a family. Over this weekend, we are going to do many special things to celebrate your growing up, now that you are weaning and finishing nursing.

You are both getting so very big, growing and changing every day. When you were very little babies, you received all of your nourishment from mommy when you nursed. But now you eat all kinds of foods (except vegetables) all by yourselves and drink milk and juice and water from a cup. Now you can run and jump, and talk and sing and dance and more. Now that you can do so many things all by yourselves, you are growing up and ready to be finished with nursing.

Remember last Shabbat we had our last nursing in the morning? You have both done a great job this week with drinking milk from a cup each morning. For this Shabbat, when we say Kiddush, we have something very special for each of you. Now that you are being weaned and drink from cups, it is time for you to have your very own kiddush cups. After we light the Shabbat candles, we can put a little wine in each of your cups and you can hold them up all by yourselves to say kiddush.

I love you both so very, very much and I am going to miss being able to nurse you.

Love and Kisses,

Opening boxes with new kiddush cups

Candle Lighting



Since this is the beginning of a new stage in our lives, let’s all sing the Shehekhyanu together:



בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּ.

Barukh atta Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha-olam Shehekhiyanu, v’kiy’manu v’higianu la-zman ha-zeh. Amen.

Praised are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the universe, for keeping us alive, for sustaining us, and for helping us reach this day. Amen.

Shabbat evening

As Shabbat draws to a close, so does our nursing time. Since this is going to be our last nursing, we are going to make it very special.

I repeat:

הִנְנִי מוּכָנָה וּמְזוּמֶנֶת

Hineni mukhanah u-m’zummenet

I am prepared and ready to hold on and to let go — to fulfill the mitzah of rearing these children.

I spend a little time nursing each of the boys separately with each wrapped in a family treasure: the fabric of our Chuppah canopy. Our huppah was created as a family heirloom that would connect each life cycle event: we have subsequently used it to wrap each boy for his brit, it is being used now, part of it will be transformed into tallitot for their B’nai Mitzvah, and who knows what else.

During this time, I talk to Joshua and to Eli each about how they have grown and affirm that they too are ready to let go. I repeat our hopes for them: the words taken from their namings during their brit.

For Joshua,

May you have the love of the outdoors, the yearning for understanding, the inquisitiveness, and the daringness that your Uncle Jeffrey had. And may you be tender and caring like your Grandma Renee was. Like Joshua in the Bible, we hope that you have the qualities of a leader and a prophet. May you be trusting and have a positive outlook on life likeJoshua, who as one of Moses’ scouts, entered Israel and returned with a favorable report. And like Reuben, we hope that you, Joshua Reuben will be compassionate, righteous, and caring just as Reuben was when he saved his brother Joseph’s life from the hands of their brothers.

For Eli,

Eli means to ascend or uplift. You have already lived up to your name as you uplift our spirits with all of your silly antics and faces. May you forever strive for success and rise to great feats. We hope that you have the wisdom and compassion of your biblical namesake Eli, the high priest. It was Eli who heard Hannah’s heartfelt prayers and misjudged her. To atone for his mistake, he blessed her and made her life sweet. Nathaniel, meaning gift of God, was also a leader of the children of Israel in the wilderness. May you also have leadership qualities and be a lover of the outdoors.

Then the three of us snuggle, wrapped in the huppah to finish our last nursing. When we are finished, we say goodbye to the nursing chair and go outside with Rick to look for three stars and celebrate an ending Havdalah.

Introduction to Havdalah

Deborah recites:


  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂנִי לְהָזִין מַעֲשֵׂה בְּרֵאשִׁית

Barukh atta Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha-olam, she-asani l’hazin ma’aseh b’reishit.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the universe, who has made me to nourish the work of creation.

Deborah and Rick together recite:


אֲנַחְנוּ מוּכָנִים וּמְזֻמָּנִים

Anachnu mukhanim u-m’zumanim

We are prepared and ready to hold on and to let go-to fulfill the mitzvah of rearing these children.

A prayer for both of our sons:

(from their brit)

May God bless Joshua and Eli as our ancestors Jacob and Esau. May they each learn to serve God in their own way. May they find strength in the special bond which unites them while ever striving to discover their own uniqueness. May the bond between Joshua and Eli be as the covenant between God and the Children of Israel. May they love one another as Israel loves God; may they protect and nurture each other as God protects and sustains the Jewish people. 0 God, awed by the miracle of their birth, we pray that You will accept the offerings of these sons of Israel and grant them blessings throughout their lives. Amen.

    —Adapted from a prayer written by Rabbi Maria Feldman (a twin)


For tonight I chose a candle with four wicks — one for each of us in our family. As we light it, each wick starts burning separately, but once it is lit, they all come together to join as one united flame. This symbolizes each of us as individuals coming together in our bond as a family.

Light the candle
Ha-esh (The Candle)
Shavua Tov A Good Week!
Eliyahu Hanavi(Elijah the Prophet)

We end Shabbat and our nursing time now. As is an Eastern European tradition, we will give tzadakah equal to the weight of the boys together. And tomorrow, we will celebrate with a special Mother’s Day celebration brunch that Daddy is making. For:

The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned.

    —Genesis 21:8


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