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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Emotions Overtake Us

At today's bris, the baby's father served as the mohel.

You may ask, "what does that have to do with you?"

I'll answer: I set it all up for him, and he was the one who said the blessing and did the incision. And why not? It is, after all, the father's mitzvah!

As long as you know what you're doing, and have an awareness of the anatomy and what takes place at a bris, this can be the most genuine way for a non-mohel father to perform the mitzvah.
 This does not suggest, of course, that fathers who put all in the hands of the mohel - properly appointing him to serve on his behalf - are not fulfilling their mitzvah. Appointing a "shaliach" (messenger on your behalf) is a highly appropriate way to fulfill this beautiful and sensitive mitzvah.

Today, in the heat of the moment, the father forgot his role. He told me, "I blanked." (Don't worry - all went well and the baby is fine. I watched every step of the way.)

One of my mohel colleagues told me about the time he did his son's bris. His wife actually told me that he did every aspect of the bris as he had done hundreds if not thousands of times before. Like a machine.

But, after the fact, he could not recall one moment of the event, because he "missed" his son's bris. His body and his mechanics were there, but his mind didn't show up.

I had a similar experience at my son's bris a little over a year ago. I did everything I was supposed to do - did not even feel the emotional role of the "baby's father." Until...

I was holding him after the bris - before he was returned to his mother for a feeding - and I began to shiver over the wave of emotions that hit me all at once. This is my son. We just did his bris. I just did his bris.

It was very surreal, but I still look at that day as if it were yesterday. And this is how I can relate to the father of three, whose older children are girls, who at his first son's bris said to me, "I'd like to do the bris." And felt confident about it. But when he had the scalpel in his hand and was told exactly what to do, he didn't hear, couldn't see, didn't know what blessing to say, and was not "present" in every sense of the word.

Thank God for this mitzvah, for our emotions, and for those who stand by us when we lose our way, who remind us who we are, what we're doing, and where we're headed.


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