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My grandfather was a rabbi. My great grandfather was a rabbi. And so was my great-great grandfather. In fact, the line of rabbis on my mother’s side of the family stretches back 13 generations, in an unbroken line of scholars, spiritual seekers and wise men who, while trying to survive in the Jewish ghettoes of eastern Europe, spent their every moment pondering the deepest mysteries of life, ethics and the transcendent. So it should have come as no surprise that while we were sitting around the house the other day, out of the blue, my son Lev started saying, “God.”
He started softly at first, and then began growing in volume. Over and over and over. It wasn’t like he was saying, “Oh God!” More like just intoning the name of the primordial creator as if it was a mantra, rolling the word around in his mouth slowly and repeatedly, like it was a marble or a malted ball.
I didn’t want to be egotistical but impulsively I said, “Yes?” Technically, of course, I am not God, but I am sort of Lev’s creator, and in the absence of a burning bush, I figured I could answer his question. Also I didn’t want to assume he was talking to himself, as that would make him seem really crazy.
At nearly 4 months, Lev is going through a phase where infants move from cooing to babbling, and we all know what happened in the Tower of Babble. The other thing that happens at this stage in a baby’s development is they begin to make sounds with consonants. Like the word, God, for example.
Technically, of course, I am not God, but I am sort of Lev’s creator, and in the absence of a burning bush, I figured I could answer his question.
But it turned out Lev wasn’t asking for God. He was declaring God: He looked at me with that look that says, “In the beginning there was the word. And the word was good. It was better than good. It was God.”
And I looked at him, like, “Did you say something, boo boo?”
And he looked at me like, “Yes, you idiot. Words have power. Thought mounted on the breath brings to life the power of truth. What part of Rastafarianism don’t you understand?”
And so Lev lay there, intoning the name of the Lord over and over, while I intermittently said, “Yes, for Chrissakes, what? What???”
But Lev just kept saying, “God.”
Actual transcript of conversation:
Lev: Not you, fatty. God.
Me: Really though, do you think I’ve gained weight? It’s weird, because I just joined a gym but I also feel kind of fat. Maybe it’s because muscle weighs more?
Lev: Right. Nice try. You look like you live on a diet of Pop Tarts.
Me: The package says they’re only 100 calories.
Lev: That doesn’t mean you can eat the whole box, saddle bags.
Me: Anyway, check out my lats.
Lev: Oh God.
This went on for a few hours until bedtime. I was reading him 101 Dalmatians and he got all excited and started pointing wildly at the drawings and yelling “God.”
It was then I realized he’s just dyslexic. He meant “dog.”
My theory was confirmed this morning when he saw me getting out of the shower and muttered, “It’s about time you shook a tower, Atty Farbuckle.”
As a man of science, I had to be certain. So as I layered him into his bassinet for his nap today, I put my lips close to his bulbous rosy cheeks and whispered, “Dweet streams, Vel.”
He smiled back with a look of recognition and love, and then made a soft cooing noise that sounded suspiciously like “You douche,” backwards.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.