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The Inconvenient Truth

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

There is nothing convenient about having a celebration in the middle of a weekday. People have work or in school. They have appointments, places to go, people to see.


And at eight days old every male shall be circumcised among you through your generations… Genesis 17:12

Not on the nearest weekend day. Nor on the next national holiday. It doesn’t say a thing about convenience. Short of any medical contraindication, the bris (ritual circumcision) is to be on the eighth day.

But Rabbi, my Great-Uncle Hymie is coming all the way from Florida and he says it’s cheaper if he has a Saturday night stay. I know that Sunday is really the eleventh day of life…but it would really be so much more convenient for everybody.

Here’s the thing; no one said that being Jewish was convenient. In fact, being Jewish is decidedly inconvenient much of the time. Trying to straddle the (sometimes) great divide between traditionalism and modernity requires flexibility, compromise, and commitment.

Even when it’s the middle of a weekday…

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. threadzofblue permalink
    Wednesday, 10 November 2010 5:21 pm

    Amen. No-one ever said being Jewish was easy. But it IS worth it.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:30 pm

      Yes it is!

  2. ositakoala permalink
    Wednesday, 10 November 2010 7:01 pm

    Absolutely agree.

    I’m curious to hear your take on this scenario that was posed to me:

    A mother of a three year old boy wishes to convert. She has studied well, engaged with the community and is integrating Jewish practice into her life. She intends to bring up her son as a Jewish family, but doesn’t wish to circumcise him.. (feeling that he’s at the age where it would be an extremely negative introduction to becoming Jewish, and conflicted about why he should suffer for her choices).

    Your opinion?

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:37 pm

      I respectfully disagree. While I understand the mother’s concern, I think he will suffer far more by not being included in the Covenant. He will not look like the other Jewish boys. And it is a more involved procedure later in life.

      That being said, he is only three. Both this mother’s rabbi and the child’s doctor should be consulted to see if it is wiser to wait just a couple of years so that he can better understand.

      In my experiences with Jews-by-choice, I have only had one individual not undergo circumcision but it was for medical reasons.

      • ositakoala permalink
        Monday, 15 November 2010 7:00 am

        Thank you for your reply.

        Just to play devils advocate:

        I’m not sure that there is any proof it would be a more involved procedure later in life – do you have any resources about this?

        I believe it is customary (mandatory?) to give children that were converted as infants a choice before bar mitzvah age whether they would like to continue, at which point, if the answer is no, the conversion is considered annulled. But circumcision cannot be undone! Wouldn’t it be possible to leave the circumcision until the age of 12/13 when he can decide for himself as part of bar mitzvah preparations?

        Again, I’m very interested in your thoughts.

  3. Wednesday, 10 November 2010 10:19 pm

    and even worse when you try to convince people that it’s equal-opportunity to schedule a Brit Bat on the 8th day.

    We were so lucky that Yael’s 8th day WAS a Shabbat. Worked out perfectly but I still had some complaints. “Can’t you wait so we can all get there?”

    If she were a boy, no one would question my doing a Brit on the 8th day. What is UP with that.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:38 pm

      I hear ya! Same experience with Poppyseed.

      When I was born, my parents were guided to hold my Simchat Bat on the 8th day. After all, why shouldn’t the birth of a daughter be heralded in much the same way?

  4. Wednesday, 10 November 2010 10:36 pm

    But there’s another message too:

    No day is a “throw away” day. No day is “just a work day” where, if nothing better is happening, you can just phone it in.

    On any day, there can be a Brit Mila (or Brit Bat, as Phyllis points out). On any day, at any hour, we may find ourselves saying “shehechianu” (Or, sadly, “Baruch Dayan Emet”).

    So sure, have the Bris at 10:45 on a Thursday morning. You’ll never again think that nothing important happens on Thursday mornings!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:39 pm

      Awesome way of looking at this. Thanks so much!!!!

  5. Former Reform Jew permalink
    Thursday, 11 November 2010 3:12 am

    What exactly is a brit bat? I hope there’s nothing being cut off….

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:40 pm

      I’m with you. I NEVER refer to it as a Brit Bat. Though I am in a minority in our Movement.

      (No surprise there).

      I call it a Simchat Bat. How does that work for you, FRJ?

      • Former Reform Jew permalink
        Sunday, 14 November 2010 11:42 pm

        In my circles, the father of a newborn baby girl gets an aliyah l’torah. Sometimes it’s the very next Torah reading day (i.e. girl is born on Sunday, father gets aliyah on Monday), sometimes the father waits until the shabbat Torah reading.

        After he makes the bracha “asher natan lanu” (after the reading), the gabbai – (how the heck can I translate gabbai?) /I> – blesses the mother and baby girl. In the middle of this “misheberach”, the father announces the baby girl’s name for the first time. Typically, nobody other than the parents has heard her name until this moment.

        The parents often sponsor a kiddush after services conclude. Depending on communal norms (and communal affluence), “kiddush” can be anything from cake and soda to a full buffet lunch.

        If the girl is named at a Monday or Thursday Torah reading, the kiddush is held on following shabbat.

        Interestingly, we don’t seem to have a name for what I just described above. If that’s called a simchat bat, then we’re on the same page.

  6. Thursday, 11 November 2010 2:03 pm

    Very good post!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:40 pm

      Thanks. Inspired by my holy work!

  7. Saturday, 13 November 2010 11:19 pm

    One of the many great things about living in Israel is that it’s much easier to say:
    “I’ll be late/leaving early/taking a few hours off because of a brit/(l’havdil) funeral.”

    Almost 55 years after my aunt’s funeral, I was interrogated by my high school for missing a day, I’m still upset. I had a note from my parents and the school didn’t accept it as a legitimate excuse.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:42 pm

      One of the MANY great reasons 😉

      With the death of my grandmother, z”l, earlier this year, it was clear that society as a whole dictates which are the legitimate relatives for whom we mourn. How short-sighted your school was to confront you at a time of loss.

      And unkind…

  8. Sunday, 14 November 2010 1:26 pm

    Batya –

    How awful. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be for your school to not considering a funeral of a family member to be a good reason for a day off.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 14 November 2010 6:44 pm

      I was amazed, l’havdil, how amazing our public school was in their understanding of the loss of our kids’ Great-Grandmother. They provided a safe place for the kids to work their way through their initial sadness and grief.

  9. Former Reform Jew permalink
    Sunday, 14 November 2010 11:43 pm

    oops – I forgot a ” <" in my html tag above, and accidentally italicized half of my comment! Sorry.

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