“Uncle Jason” — I really like the sound of that! Yesterday evening as my children and I kindled seven Hanukkah candles on the hanukkiyah
, I received the anticipated phone call from my wife who was at a hospital in Chicago with her sister. “It’s a boy,” she said, and with those words I became an uncle. I told my children and watched them jump for joy with the news that they now had a first cousin.The Hebrew word for uncle is dod
(דוד), which sounds a lot like the word “dad.” It is also the same word the Torah uses for beloved. A quick etymology search on the website Balashon.com informed me that the Hebrew dod
is related to Syriac דדא for uncle or beloved, Mandaic, Nabatean and Palmyrene “dada” meaning father’s brother and the Arabic “dad” for foster-father. Balashon.com explains that the Hebrew dod
is the most ancient Hebrew word for love and was probably a primitive caressing syllable taken from the sound “da-da” that babies make.
Another term for uncle is the Aramaic chabiba (חביבא) which can mean both “friend” and “uncle”. In the Babylonian Talmud in Bava Batra 41b the sage Rav Chiya calls his uncle Rav by that term. The modern Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz mentions that chabibi (חביבי) might be a contraction of achi avi (אחי אבי) for “my father’s brother”.
In modern Hebrew, dod has no romantic connotation at all and is used as a slang word for “buddy.” As a brand new uncle, I like the idea that this Aramaic word for uncle seems to be a father and a friend all rolled into one. As an uncle I promise to be a loving, doting and caring role model and friend to my nephew.
Unable to find a blessing to say to mark this milestone of becoming an uncle for the first time I decided to write my own:
Ribono Shel Olam — My God and the God of Uncle Abraham of the Torah, as I enter into this new role of uncle may I have the merit to be a fun, loving and nurturing uncle to this newborn baby boy. May I be granted the honor to complement the teachings of his parents and teachers and guide him along a path toward becoming a strong, courageous and ethical individual. May I have the good fortune to take him to sporting events, concerts and other fun and exciting endeavors just as my uncles have done for me. Thank you Adonai for allowing me to reach this day and may this beautiful baby boy enjoy a full lifetime of health and happiness.
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה