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The Circumcision That No One Would Attend

The Circumcision That No One Would Attend


While pregnant with my first son, I thought often of the day of his ritual circumcision, the brit milah. I dreamt of the loved ones and family who would attend. I planned to invite old friends, and looked forward to the reunions we would have. My husband and I intended to hold the circumcision at our local synagogue, so everyone in our community could be present.

At the circumcision we declare that this Jewish child will always be connected to G‑d. The Hebrew word brit also means “bond.” The circumcision is a constant, physical sign that within this Jewish boy is an actual part of his Creator.

The circumcision is performed purely out of love, drawing the child into the ancient but constantly renewed pact between G‑d and the Jewish people. It is a gift to our child which relays, “You are already important here; you have a purpose in this world.”

Despite our wonderful plan to celebrate with all our family and friends, as often happens, what unfolded was very different than my fantasies.

My son was born exactly eight days before the holiday of Passover. The circumcision would take place on a day when none of my friends or relatives would be able to drive to participate in the event.

As this new reality set in, we realized that it would be unrealistic for us to stay in our own neighborhood to perform the circumcision there. We had no family in the area, and no way to accommodate them nearby. We decided to stay with my sister-in-law for Passover, and hold the event in their synagogue, where I did not know a soul. We knew that the circumcision would take place the morning after the Passover Seder, where families spend many late hours discussing and feasting in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. We thought that few other than family would join our joyous event.

Surprisingly, this breach from my original imagery of the circumcision proved to be the most beautiful aspect for me. Observing tens of prayer shawl–enveloped men crowding around my tiny baby was astounding. Here they were, physically exhausted after a late Passover Seder, yet exuding excited energy because a new child had been born into their nation. They gathered around my husband and the baby. They sang with true passion, not because any of them knew us personally, but because they felt the beauty of the moment—a new Jew with his own unique purpose was being brought into the covenant that binds us all together.

This eight-day-old child had done absolutely nothing yet that would deem him important in the eyes of the Western world. He had accomplished no intellectual achievement or contributed anything new. In an achievement-oriented world, my child was nothing but a cute 6.5-pound mass. But in a world that views a new baby as the very future of our nation, the key to our continuance, my child was a star.

Rivka Zahava is a graduate of the Hadassa School of Optometry. She lives on the outskirts of Jerusalem with her husband and children.
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Anonymous Rochester, USA December 3, 2011

True Jewish Community I am not Jewish, but I am from New York City. This story does not surprise me in the least -- it illustrates one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Jewish culture, the sense of Community. As you wrote, "a new Jew with his own unique purpose was being brought into the covenant that binds us all together." Make sure you tell him about this as he grows! Mazel tov! Reply

Ron Low Chicago, USA December 2, 2011

HIS body I think it's a shame that we feel entitled to choose on behalf of another person how much of their healthy normal body they get to keep. Thou shall not steal. I'd wait until I could ask for his rational informed permission. HIS OWN choice; now that would have a rich and beautiful siginificance. Reply

Linda Yorkshire, UK December 2, 2011

In response to comment: 'cute 6.5 mass' In response to Anon from New York asking why '... someone, let alone a mother describe her child as 'nothing but a cute 6.5 mass'
I understand why, when I read it, I understood it is a way of describing the wonder of a newborn baby and an appreciation of the older welcoming, newlife, the future, her son. An amazing moment as if time stood still and all for a little cute 6.5 mass!
Beautiful. Reply

Linda Yorkshire, UK December 2, 2011

has made my day! Reading this has made my day. What a beautiful start to your son's life and how wonderful that you recognise it. Reply

Anonymous New York, USA November 30, 2011

Why would someone, let alone a mother, describe her child - and for that purpose any human being - as "nothing but a cute 6.5 pound mass"?! Reply

Susan Levitsky November 30, 2011

Jews are all one family Your son had his brit with a part of the family you hadn't met yet. The men crowded around your husband, I hope women came to celebrate with you too. Reply

Ronda Kay Jerusalem, Israel November 30, 2010

Born a star! Thanks for sharing the beautiful vision of your son's bris, surrounding by strangers who welcomed him like family. Reply

Anonymous miami beach, florida November 29, 2010

Brit Mila what a beautiful article of a loving jewish mother. Reply

Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.
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