Early Friday afternoon I had the great honor of serving as the Sandek during the Brit Milah (Circumcision) of my client/friend’s son. I held the baby still while the Mohel performed this ancient ritual. This particular Mohel is a licensed physician who has received the proper training to lead a brief service, circumcise the baby, and explain the procedure to the family and guests. Yes, guests.
The Brit is a community event, the celebration of another son into the House of Israel. There were members of several congregations present. My friend is affiliated with B’nai Jeshurun. Three of that synagogue’s Rabbis were in attendance.
It gets very quiet when the Mohel is doing his work. It may be the only time that Jews are completely silent! I was holding this beautiful baby and thinking of this uniquely Jewish practice that has been done for thousands of years. I thought about previous times that I have had the special honor of being the Sandek, like my nephew’s Brit almost twelve years ago that ended just before an ice storm.
And I thought about my son’s Brit, thirty-four years ago, in Phoenix, Arizona.
This connection is so personal, so sacred, that it is beyond our ability to properly explain it to those outside of the community. So we don’t. The Midrash Tanchuma tells of Rabbi Akiva being confronted by a Roman procurator about this ritual. If I may paraphrase, Rabbi Akiva showed the ruler, Turnus Rufus, that just as it is up to man to refine wheat into cakes, so too is it up to man to refine G-d’s laws through the Mitzvah of circumcision.
And while I was sitting there helping to bring this eight day old baby into the community, I also thought of Norway. Norway is attempting to chase its Jews out of the country. There aren’t a whole lot of us left, less than a thousand in the entire country. The first step was to outlaw the Kosher slaughter of animals. Since that didn’t eliminate the community, the Norwegian Centre Party, a member of the ruling coalition, is attempting to criminalize ritual circumcision. That ought to do it.
The Mohel’s work was flawless. I handed the baby to his mother. The father, also a doctor, looked relieved and happy. There was singing and prayers. And food. Oy, was there food.
I had lox and sliced tomatoes while talking with the Rabbis