The Four-Hour Bris

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Bris Bib
27 Jun 2009

In the old days, when I was growing up, most babies seemed to be born on time, and the bris took place on the eighth day as prescribed in the Torah. The moon also circled the earth and the earth circled the sun. That’s just the way things were.

Nowadays, since the Theory of Relativity made its debut, it’s no longer clear what circles what, and babies seem to appear earlier and earlier in ever smaller sizes while a bris milah held on the eighth and proper day is becoming a rarity. Or so it seems to me.

(Someone once asked me if any of my sons had a bris on the eighth day. When I answered, somewhat surprised, that they all had a bris on the eighth day, it was her turn to be surprised. “Wow,” she said, “what a zechus!” And here I had thought that was just the way things were supposed to be!)

When one of our grandchildren made his unexpected appearance a full two months early, the bris was obviously not going to be on time. The newcomer spent the first month of his life in an exclusive, five star preemie ward until he was big and smart enough to come home. (The little fella had to learn a few survival skills before coming home. With five curious brothers and sisters and ten busy hands just aching to “hold” him, home presented certain dangers!)

At the ripe old age of two months, the pediatrician finally gave a go-ahead signal for the bris. It was twelve-thirty in the afternoon when mother and child emerged from his office. Sunset was at 4:30. That left around four hours to arrange things.

By one-thirty, the father had hurriedly returned to Jerusalem from Ashdod and managed to contact the mohel. But no one could promise us a meal on such short notice.

“Can’t we have the bris tomorrow?” I asked. “It’s not on the eighth day anyway.”

“No,” said the father with determination. “The Rav said if the doctor gave his OK, it has to be today. Besides, we don’t push a bris off for lack of sandwiches!”

“What’s the problem?” asked an uncle. “We’ll buy some Bamba and Bisli (Israeli versions of spiced potato chips) with cookies and something to drink. What else do we need?”

“We need a meal,” said his wife coldly. “This isn’t going to be a Bisli bris!”

By two-thirty, after endless phone calls in a desperate search for food for the seuda, they found a place in Meah Shearim that promised us a proper meal for eighty people and they could have it ready in an hour.

“Do you think everyone will get here on time?” I asked. “Shekiah is in two hours.” I looked up at the rapidly descending sun.

“You’re here, we’re here. We have a mohel and a meal and the immediate family. What else do we need?” was the reply.

What else indeed? Still, it would be nice if the baby’s aunts and uncles and cousins could be present.

By three-thirty, food for eighty, paper goods, serving dishes and other necessary items had all been purchased, assembled, picked up and rushed to the hall in the neighborhood shul where the bris was scheduled to take place.

By four o’clock, two marvelous sisters-in-law, one marvelous niece and one super special aunt had the hall set up – as beautiful a job as any caterer could have done.

(“Boruch Hashem we didn’t have to shlep tables and chairs in addition to everything else!” said one exhausted uncle.)

At five after four it started to pour. In this dry, desert-like area outside Jerusalem, the rain came down in torrents.

At four-ten the father rushed into the house to change his wet clothes and grab his tallis and tefillin. Then he ran back out to the shul.

At four-twenty-two, the mother of the celebrant was still making braids, curls and putting barrettes into her daughters’ hair.

By four-twenty-seven the baby was duly dressed, wrapped up and taken down to the shul by another special aunt.

At four-thirty the bris began – in a darkening, chilly shul (no one could find the gabbai who was the only one with the keys to the electric box).

At four-forty-five the gabbai was found, the keys handed over, the lights and heat turned on.

At four-fifty, in the middle of the ceremony, the last of the Mohicans – two uncles and two cousins – arrived from Tel Aviv.

Everyone was finally there. The children were dressed in their Shabbos best (although one young lady lost her shoe), the lights were on, the heat was working, the mohel was doing his job, the baby was crying (me, too!) and then… the deed was done! Another descendant of Avraham Avinu had duly entered the Covenant. I finally began to breathe and was filled, not only with oxygen, but with a feeling of overwhelming joy and thanksgiving.

The hall looked lovely and the food was fresh, plentiful and delicious. Most of the guests were indeed immediate family (as were the waiters and waitresses!), but a few good friends and neighbors were present despite the short notice and the rain. Everyone else was notified after the event.

It was, in fact, a perfect simcha. The family was grateful, happy, blessed. Everyone was smiling, the mechutonim most of all. We had proved it again. When family and friends gather round to help, the impossible can be accomplished. Even in a mere four hours. Mazal tov!

Originally appeared in Hamodia Magazine.

© 2005 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.