Houston Brit Milah

Brit Milah is Hebrew for “Covenant of Circumcision”. This underscores that regardless of the scientifically-documented benefits that inhere in circumcision from a medical point of view, Jews circumcise their eight-day-old infants primarily for one vital reason. I.e., circa 3300 years ago our ancestor Abraham was commanded by God that he and all succeeding generations must do so for no better reason than as a sign of God’s everlasting covenant with the Jewish people. That covenant has stood firm for all these centuries and millennia, and it is reaffirmed at every Brit Milah event.

Baby was not born yesterday! (It’s been eight days already.) So he’s smart enough to know instinctively that something is going on today. Yes, an incision on a very sensitive organ is involved; not the best way to start anyone’s morning! But he’s cool. The flowers, besides creating the mood for the attendees, reassure baby that although this may hurt a little, it’s all being done in happiness and joy, and for an immensely noble purpose.

And ditto for the colorful and delicious victuals that already tempt. But the eating thereof will have to wait until the ceremony/procedure has been accomplished. With rare exceptions (e.g., the 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur every Autumn), no major Jewish event is complete without a tasteful repast. God cares about our souls, of course, but He cares no less that our bodily needs are also met. And as our Creator, He recognizes that the two are so often inextricably linked.

That’s Mama just arriving with baby. She’s still recovering from the ordeal of childbirth — still no small thing, even as modern medicine has done so much to make it more safe and bearable than for hundreds of prior generations.  Be that as it may, such a humanly soulful experience as childbirth cannot fail to render an already beautiful woman yet far more so.  This photo perfectly demonstrates that point.

Family and guests fawn all over mama and baby. They are the guests of honor today, but there will be others, too. (My, oh, my, let’s not forget Dad!)

The brit officially opens with the mohel (circumciser) announcing the arrival of the newborn, and the customary passing of baby from guest to guest (only selected ones, if it’s a big crowd). This gives the guests a heightened appreciation of the importance of the event, through active participation — another cardinal principle of Jewish practice: full comprehension requires doing, not just thinking.

No doubt, these recent newlyweds of our community are sharing one and the same thought:  the shape of things to come for them, God willing!

Here receiving the baby is Rabbi Yossi Grossman of Houston, a recognized specialist and promulgator of Jewish Ethics. It looks like he’s come to oversee that this circumcision will be conducted strictly in accordance with time-honored Jewish values. (Seriously though, so long as the bris is performed in conformity with time-honored law and traditions, Rabbi Grossman has nothing to be worried about here.)

And now we get down to business. The rabbi receiving baby here is the mohel (circumciser). It’s all in his hands now, both literally and figuratively.

And here’s Dad, still in his tefillin (“phylacteries”; yes, the Greeks had a word for everything). These are two black leather boxes, one worn on the head and one on the arm, containing hand-written inscriptions on parchment of sacred Jewish biblical texts. Every morning at prayer, Jewish males don tefillin for the length of the service. Tefillin are not directly connected to circumcision, per se. But since this Bris takes place in the synagogue (Meyerland Minyan of Houston)  immediately following the morning prayers, why not retain the tefillin for the duration of the Bris as well? And so dad does.

There is hardly a greater joy known to mankind than grand-parenthood.  Observe Grandpa’s face here, and tell me it isn’t so!

The actual circumcision is now complete, and baby will now receive, immediately following the Bris, his Jewish name, as hundreds of generations of Jewish boys have before him. Conversely Jewish girls are almost always named in the synagogue over the reading of the Torah on the Shabbat (Saturday) following birth.

Rabbi Gideon Moskovitz, spiritual leader of Meyerland Minyan Congregation, is here honored with reciting the baby naming and the accompanying prayer.

Here’s Grandpa again, helping baby find his way back to Mama, after a challenging morning. But it’s all good!

Big sister is checking to make sure little bro’ is happy and content.

This writer is not sure what is going on here. So check back, please, when we can get some more details. In any case, it is absolutely not an integral or commonly practiced part of the Bris itself.

But a meeting of the minds among Jews is never a bad thing, for any reason!

The other grandfather (maternal), this time. His face radiates a more reserved expression of deep personal satisfaction, as opposed to external ecstasy. But our previous comments about the the joys of grand-parenthood are no less relevant here by any means.

As the guests head for their long-awaited reward (a sumptuous breakfast), baby is now safe and sound back in his mother’s arms.

We have only an oblique view of Mama’s face, but we see enough to know that no words could express the depth and breadth of her hopes and dreams for her newborn son at this moment.

We are all familiar with the phrase, “As American as motherhood and apple pie.”  I’ll hold my thoughts on fruity pastries for another time. But as for motherhood, if there is any truth to the phrase just quoted, then this must be one astoundingly great country indeed!