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Nechemia’s first haircut

This past Monday, our son Nechemia (in Morah Batsheva’s class) turned three years old and got his very first haircut. Although, our morning routine will be now be one step shorter – I won’t have to brush his hair – it was with wistfulness that I approached that day.
The third birthday represents a significant developmental stage in a child’s life. It is a time when a baby becomes an individuated child; when he becomes more self-aware and self-sufficient. At the age of three a child can think in sentences, comprehend a story, and most importantly, the child becomes aware of his own identity and that of the people around him. Babyhood has now ended, and this new milestone marks the beginning of the child’s formalized Jewish education.
For a boy, the celebration that marks this new phase of his life is called an Upshernish - his first haircut. Until this age, his hair grows untouched. At the Upshernish his hair is cut, but his peyos (sidelocks) remain. From this time onward, the child is encouraged to wear a kippah and tzitzit.
At an Upshernish, it is customary to dip Aleph-bet letters into honey and give it to the child to taste, symbolizing the sweetness of learning. Instead, we gave Nechemia cookies in the shape of the Aleph-bet letters. He licked off the icing and looked at us with sparkling eyes as if to say, "I am a big boy now!" 
As Nechemia’s baby locks were shorn off, it was as though we were removing his last vestige of 'baby-life' and launching him toward maturation. After his hair was all cut, we made a circle around Nechemia and danced. Peering into the mirror and seeing his big boy haircut for the first time, he proclaimed, "I'm like Levik now!"
We saved one locket for posterity and mailed the rest to Locks for Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who lost their hair to cancer. It felt good to know that someone else will benefit from Nechemia’s Upsherin.
For these next few days, I keep staring at Nechemia, who suddenly looks older. My baby is now gone, replaced by a big boy. I promise myself to savor this next stage of growth and development...pretty soon he’ll be right where his oldest brother is, asking to get his driver’s permit

Shabbat Shalom,

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