A Third Birthday & A Haircut: Upsherin!

Today is our eldest grandson’s third birthday.

I remember when he was born three years ago; we’d just sat down in a local theater to see a Shakespeare play. I was about to turn off my phone and noticed I’d missed a call from our son Jacob. He and his wife were  living in Israel and expecting a baby any minute.  We managed to stay until intermission and by then I couldn’t sit still anymore; I couldn’t wait to start calling family and friends.


Shimon Yashaya (Simon Isaiah) was born on Saturday, on the Jewish Shabbat. Our son couldn’t call us until after sundown. So by the time we got the news, it was already Sunday his time. We made our plans and arrived in Israel on Tuesday and went straight to the hospital.

The family moved to New Jersey the following March. Though I loved visiting Israel—I’d been there several times since both boys began studying there in 2005-I’m happy everyone is home. And especially now that there are grandchildren.

I try to see SY every week, when I pick him up from nursery school. We have about two hours together before his dinner, bath and bedtime. We go to the park, read stories, build with blocks, cook or bake, and engage in all sorts of pretend play that usually involves toy trucks and cars. CIMG1335

Reliving childhood by observing the grandkids’ development is truly a gift.  I seem to remember little of my own kids’ early years, though my 82-year-old mother recalls many details. Raising kids is hard work: time consuming and tiring. It’s a busy time; rushing to activities and appointments; it’s rewarding and flies by fast.

On Sunday, his parents held a birthday celebration that included his first haircut, or  “upsherin,” which is Yiddish for “cut off.” His silky, blonde shoulder-length locks would be cut and donated to charity.

He greeted us at the door very excited that he was “all dressed up” with a new shirt and a tie. He entertained his two great-grandparents, four grandparents,  two great-aunts, one great-uncle, two uncles, two aunts, and one of his first cousins by playing his Suzuki violin and singing.DSC_1172 DSC_1184

When it was time for the haircut, he sat patiently on a stool while everyone who wanted to trimmed a little bit and then his mother buzzed his head.

DSC_1194 DSC_1205

I remember an email exchange I had with a blogger friend who wanted to know what “he’d done” that is special about turning three. It’s not what he’s done so far, but what the expectations are going forward. At three, he begins to wear a kippah or yamulke, required by Jewish law, as a sign of respect and awareness of a higher entity.  He’s also wearing a little “tzitzit,” a square poncho-like garment under his clothes, that has fringe on each corner. The fringe- comprised of strings and knots- represent the Torah’s 613 do’s and don’ts, or commandments.  He’ll also begin learning Hebrew and studying Torah.


The haircut done; it was time for cake! DSC_1273

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27 Responses to A Third Birthday & A Haircut: Upsherin!

  1. What a lovely tradition! (but we need a bigger photo, Grandma, so we can see that darling face,) I love that your mom recalls details that you forgot. My mom can do that too. Let’s hear it for the generations, especially the newest and most brilliant one yet!


    • Gosh I don’t know. Kath posts so many that I tend not to worry so much. But you can send me one!

      Exciting on books. That’s a ton!

      Let me know on post. If she says okay, then I can contact her. There’s no rush on her part at all (or yours). Thanks!


  2. What a cutie! Amazing he would just sit through a haircut like that!


  3. It is amazing that it has been three years since his birth. i remember talking to you around that time and your trip there. What a lovely tradition. I think three is a good time for the first haircut. It is not so traumatic.Having his mother perform the act is not so scary.


  4. I had no idea the third birthday is so momentous, in most cultures it’s the first. So many expectations for such a sweet little boy. How lucky you are to live so close and have that weekly visit. Congratulations and blessings to the whole family!


  5. Mazel Tov Sy! I went to my first upshering last year and it was such a wonderful event. The little boy we were honoring, Gabi, sat so patiently as each person (nearly 100) came up to take a small snip of his hair! Since his upshering, he’s been so much more mature—3 year old wise. It was a big deal. Thanks for sharing this interesting and fun religious event. I agree; we need bigger pictures of that sweet face! 🙂


  6. Northern Narratives says:

    He’s so patient and cute for his hair cut. An important day for him 🙂


  7. Ariana says:

    Mazes Tov! 3 year oldis a such a sweet age. I’m just like you I’m learning as I go along!


  8. beachbarb says:

    What a sweetie – He’s beautiful! Mark’s little one is also three and you’re so right. When you’re raising your own kids you are so busy that it’s hard to step back and delight in every delicious new moment. The only trouble now is that when you get down on the floor to play trucks, it’s a lot harder to get up!


  9. Leah says:

    Happy Birthday to your sweet grandson. His haircut looks great too!


  10. tchistorygal says:

    What a sweetie, and so smart. Learning Hebrew already! Give him a big hug for me. He looks like you could eat him up!!! JK I’m not the wicked witch of the West!!! Marsha 🙂


  11. Louise G. says:

    Tradition and ritual are so very important. I love how you’ve woven the story with such joy and how he weaves such beauty into the world. Lovely!


  12. Patti Winker says:

    What an incredible tradition. I learned something new today. Thank you so much, Grandma Lisa, for sharing your experience with young SY. And what a cutie! (Agree with Barbara – these old eyes need bigger pics. I hit ctrl/scroll and got a better look at that sweet face, albeit fuzzy.) Yes, being a Gramma myself I realize how many more memories I have stored of my grandkids than my daughter has. I also see this with my nieces and nephews and their parents. In many ways, I’ve enjoyed being an Aunt and Gramma much more than being a parent.

    Congratulations to your Big Boy SY and Happy Hanukkah to you and your family!


  13. This was really interesting. He’s a cute little guy. Thanks for sharing.


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