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Joining the Jewish party

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12/04/2009

Joining the Jewish party photo 1

During my pregnancy, despite not knowing whether we were having a boy or a girl by any scientific means, I always knew that there was a boy in there.  And because I just ”knew” the baby was a boy, I started planning his bris months before he was born.

By “planning his bris,” I mean I chose a location, figured out the menu, thought about what I’d wear, thought about what he’d wear and put together an invite list.  I daydreamed about showing him off to family and friends for the first time.  I emailed a few mohels.

I considered the bris to be an essential Jewish rite of passage for my son, without really thinking about what would have to happen at the ceremony.  In my mind, it was just another Jewish party – lots of love and too much food.

After Ben was born, and we met with the mohel prior to the ceremony, reality struck.  He explained the process to us in detail, and my feelings slowly changed from “boy am I excited for my son to join the tribe” to “keep that evil man and his knife away from my baby.”  How could I subject this tiny little child, who I had protected for nine months in the womb, and for just days in the real world, to certain pain?

Friends and family tried to reassure me, telling me that Ben would be the zillionth Jewish baby to go through this ritual and come out ok, and that at least these days the procedure is done with sterile equipment and topical medication – imagine what babies in biblical times went through.

In spite of my dread, we went ahead with the ceremony.  On a sunny Friday morning, our closest friends and family gathered to welcome Ben to the tribe.  The hysteria that had been slowly building inside me since the day we met with the mohel was unleashed as I watched him place Ben in the circumstraint.  I didn’t watch the procedure, and instead focused on my dad, the Sandek, as he held a gauze strip soaked with sweet wine in Ben’s mouth to soothe him.

The rest of the ceremony went by in a haze.  Our rabbi gave Ben his Hebrew name, we read him a letter explaining where the name Benjamin Cooper came from, we sang a song, and then whisked Ben off to feed him and give him some alone time.

While I sat upstairs, dazed, our guests mingled and had brunch.  I couldn’t help but think it odd that my son had just gone through a minor surgical procedure, yet everyone moved on to the food and fun seemingly without much thought.  To everyone but the baby and his parents, it was indeed just another Jewish party.

It took me a good hour to pull myself together enough to go downstairs.  Ben required only a feeding, and promptly fell asleep.  Apparently his recovery was much smoother than mine.

Joining the Jewish party photo 2

While Ben slept in my arms, family and friends kvelled.  I had a bagel and cream cheese, hugged and kissed about a million people, and my feelings about the day slowly changed from nervous anxiety to relief and pride.  Ben had just joined the ranks of generations of Jews before him, and I finally joined his party.

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