Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bris

Today was Micah's bris! For those of you unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, a bris is the ceremony for welcoming a new baby boy into the Jewish religion. The ceremony consists of two parts - a circumcision and the giving of a Hebrew name. The circumcision is performed by a mohel, a highly trained professional. In our case, our mohel was also a pediatric surgeon, so we were sure Micah was being attended by a medical doctor (and he was properly anesthetized before the procedure).

All of our friends and family came to the ceremony - it was their first opportunity to meet our son, and to celebrate such a special day with us. We had somewhere between 60-80 people join us. We started the ceremony with a reading about our wishes for rearing our son. The mohel then spoke about the significance of the ceremony, and invited our mothers to light candles and do another reading wishing Micah a wonderful future. We used my grandmother's candlesticks, and used candles that our niece bought us on her trip to Israel last year. We walked Micah to the front of the room, surrounded by his Aunts, Uncles and Cousins - his "guardians" who will help guide him in the Jewish traditions. Micah was then placed on a special chair, and several blessings were said over him. There were three tallitot (prayer shawls) used to decorate the chairs and being worn during the ceremony. One of the tallit DH and I used at our wedding as the chuppah (the tent we stood underneath during the wedding ceremony), one of the tallit DH bought in Israel, and one he wore at his bar mitzvah.

Micah was then placed on a pillow in front of his grandfather, who sat with him and held his arms during the circumcision. I sat next to his grandfather and stroked his hands to comfort him. Micah was quite calm and relaxed the whole time - clearly, the anesthesia worked, because he didn't make a sound during the entire procedure! After the circumcision, he was wrapped up, blessed again, and then passed to his other grandfather.

The next phase was the naming part of the ceremony - the mohel said a few more blessings and announced his Hebrew name to our friends and family - Micha Benyamin. It is common in the Jewish tradition to name new children after close relatives who have died - we see it as a sign of honor for those loved ones we have lost. DH and I had the opportunity to share some stories about the people in our lives for whom we named Micah.

DH and I selected the name Micah to honor our grandfathers. My grandfather was named Martin and DH's grandfather was named Morris. We did not particularly like either name, so we decided to use the letter "M" and find a name we both liked. Initially, we were thinking of naming our son Max . . . but in the past year, we've had several friends and a bunch of cousins name their sons Max. In fact, there were 6 boys named Max at the bris! We struggled for a long time to find another name we liked that began with "M." We were especially looking for a name that had a Hebrew root (or at least was fairly widespread among the Jewish community). After a lot of discussion and research, we started to like the name Micah.

In Hebrew, Micah means "Who is like." It is believed that the name is a nickname for "Michayahu," which means "Who is like G-d." We thought this was a wonderful name, and that it would be a wish for our son to strive for goodness. I also felt that the meaning "Who is like" could be interpreted another way . . . as unique, or unusual, and I also wished for our son that he find his own unique way in the world and become his own unique person.

Not only was the meaning of the name important to us, but Micah was a prophet, and much of his writings focused on social justice - a topic that is quite meaningful to us. Ironically, my brother's bar mitzvah portion (the part of the Torah and the prophets that he read at his ceremony) was also from the prophet Micah, so there was another connection to our family. One of DH's favorite passages is also from the Book of Micah: "It has been told to you what is good. What does G-d require of us? Only to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly before G-d." DH has always found this passage profound, and wished that Micah live up to these words and the memory of his great-grandfathers.

We did not really take much time to discuss the meaning and significance of the name Benyamin. We gave him the middle name Benyamin to honor my other grandfather, Ben (whose Hebrew name was Benyamin). As many of you are aware, my grandmother also died earlier this year. Her name was Belle, and we felt that the "B" in Benyamin also honored her life as well.

After announcing the names, DH and I were given the opportunity to speak about our grandparents. I first talked about my Poppy, Martin. We were very close - we used to get ready together in the mornings and dress alike whenever I went to visit my grandparents. I loved to sit with him and listen to his heart beating against my ear as I lay across his chest. He was very gentle and easygoing, and I never saw him angry or upset. My grandmother always used to say that my grandfather was not only a gentleman, but he was a very gentle man. I wished that Micah inherit some of his great-grandfather's gentleness and kindness.

I then spoke about my Grandpa Benny. He was also a good, kind man, and family was of the utmost importance to him. He was a voracious reader, and intellectually curious (although not well-educated). He always used to ask my brother how many sons he had, and when my brother responded "two" he would say "No, I have three sons because you are my son, too, my grandson." I told everyone at the bris that my grandfather would have been proud to say he now has five sons (my cousin also had a son since Grandpa Benny died). I wished for Micah that he value family as much as Grandpa Benny did, and that he inherit Grandpa Benny's intellectual curiosity.

DH went on to speak about his grandfather Morris. DH did not know his grandfather well - he died when DH was only 2 years old. His grandfather was a civil engineer and built all kinds of great roads around New York from the 1920s-1960s. He was quite proud of his grandfather's accomplishments, and he emphasized how much his grandfather valued family and education, and wished for Micah to grow up surrounded by family and educational opportunities.

Finally, I spoke about my Grandma Belle - whom we always called Grandma "Cookie" for all the cookies she used to bake. Her family was her life, and I also wished that Micah inherit her love of family. I also told everyone that in honor of Grandma Cookie, who would have been baking up a storm had she still been here and able, I baked a few of her best cookie recipes and would have them out at the house for any visitors to try.

With that, we concluded the service with a few more blessings, and invited everyone to join us for a light lunch. It was a wonderful celebration, and we were so thrilled to have our family and friends join us.

I should add that I took Micah into a side room to breastfeed him during the lunch. My little niece came in the room while we were there, and she was very interested in how I was feeding Micah. She kept saying "Baby Micah eating" and she wanted to see what he was doing. While we were there, she found a doll, picked up her shirt, held the doll to her nipple and said "I feeding dolly, too!" We were laughing hysterically - it was SOOO cute!

After the bris, we invited our immediate family and one or two friends back to our house to celebrate the first night of Chanukah. It was low key - we just hung around and chatted, we lit the candles, and we exchanged a few gifts. We were too tired to actually make any of the traditional food to honor the holiday - so we did the next best thing and ordered Chinese food!

Here is a picture of Micah sitting on a pillow on Elijah's chair before the circumcision - he is wearing a kippah crocheted by my mother, and the colored tallit beneath him was the same tallit we used as a chuppah at our wedding:

2 comments:

Emah S said...

Just wanted to wish you a MAZAL TOV!!! The bris sounds perfect and although you've had a rough pre-birth and a rough beginning, it seems that from here on out you are doing great!!! May it only continue!!

Sending hugs and good wishes from the Holy Land! :)

--susie (Sus E)

Mandy and Russel said...

Oh, it sounds like a day full of wonderful celebration! I can't wait to see the pictures!!!

(((((HUG)))))