As the rabbi gave his blessing with a touch to her forehead just below her pink bejeweled bonnet, little Evelyn Belle Plaut echoed her approval with a squeal.
Just a month old, Evelyn’s Hebrew name – Chaya - was announced to the crowd at the new member’s service inside Temple of Israel on the Friday night of Hanukkah, Dec. 14.
Chaya is the symbolic thread tying Evelyn to her Jewish ancestors, a special name that means “life.”
“May it become a name honored in the house of Israel," proclaimed Temple leader Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky.
An acoustic guitarist at the Temple sang a song for Evelyn called “Eyes of a Child,” which he had written for his own daughter on her blessing day.
But Evelyn’s part in the service was also symbolic. Evelyn’s parents Sarah and Shannon Plaut of Holly Ridge already had held an official Simchat Bat or “Celebration of a Daughter” at their home on Dec. 8 where 22 of their closest relatives offered prayers and blessings for a long life. (The Plaut's said they often drive the 45 minutes to services at Temple of Israel because the Jewish population on Camp Lejeune, where Shannon Plaut works, is so small.)
Observing a tradition from Shannon’s family, who are Ashkenazi Jews, the couple wanted to hold the baby naming in her first month of life.
Hebrew baby namings for girls are not mandated in Jewish tradition but have become more popular in modern times within Reform Judaism, Sarah Plaut said.
“The significance of the birth of a baby girl is that in Jewish tradition we celebrate strong women who’ve been the leaders of our faith and who have continued to have children even in times of adversity,” she said. “Because the original language that people spoke with God was Hebrew, having a Hebrew name gives us a link to God that way. We are sort of anchoring her to our traditions.”
While Shannon Plaut was overjoyed to see his daughter recognized in the Temple, he knew he was lucky to be there.
A Marine serving at Camp Lejeune, he was originally scheduled to deploy on his wife’s due date in November for seven months in Afghanistan.
“His deployment got delayed for six months because somebody else ended up getting selected to do the job he was supposed to do so it was just a fluke that someone else got selected,” his wife added.
So during his baby girl’s Simchat Bat, Shannon Plaut was there in person to add his own prayer:
May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord shine his light upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn towards you and give you peace.
While he’s still scheduled to deploy in May, Shannon said having the extra time to spend with his young family has been special.
“I pretty much cried the entire time,” Sarah Plaut said, adding that Shannon’s parents flew in from Mexico and her parents came from Virginia for the ceremony. “It was really beautiful to have both sets of grandparents say a blessing for her.”
Sarah Plaut’s ending prayer for little Chaya:
Let our daughter learn love from our love for each other and of her. Help me be diligent for the sake of my child. Fill me with patience and fairness, and let me act correctly toward her. Let me nourish her with food, with love and words of your Torah. And may all my fears be like smoke without fire, like clouds with no rain.