Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah and Bris Milah

See the entire thought in my other blog:
A thought occured to me related to Chanukah and bris milah. I blogged about it at my other blog, but I am reproducing the relevant-to-bris idea here:

"Why do we have EIGHT DAYS of Chanukah? After all, any miracle of oil only lasted 7 days (thay had found a jug of oil with enough for one day)!"

One approach to answering this question focuses on: "Is there a significance to the number eight that fits into this story?"

Two of the more known answers to the latter question are:
1. The rededication of the Temple was meant to emulate the original dedication of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, which was an Eight-Day-Celebration.
2. On account of the war, the Maccabees were unable to adequately celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. As such, upon the rededication of the Temple, they created a make-up for the holiday they missed. Since Biblically speaking the holiday of Sukkot + Shmini Atzeret is an eight-day period, this served as the model for the Chanukah time span.

Here I offer another possibility. I do not base this in any historical document or anything I found. But a unique connection came to me as I reviewed the decrees that traditionally accepted view of history offers as the background to the rebellion of the few against the many.

The Greeks aimed to destroy three fundamental tenets of Jewish life:
1. Shabbos
2. Rosh Chodesh
3. Bris Milah

Being a mohel, this simple (yet, I feel, profound) connection was staring me straight in the face.

There are all kinds of reasons suggested for why a bris takes place on the eighth day of life. One of them focuses on the idea that the baby will certainly experience a shabbos before he has his bris.

Chanukah goes for eight days, therefore, to remind us the eight-day period that leads up to a bris.
An Eight-day holiday will certainly contain a shabbos.
The fact that Chanukah begins towards the end of Kislev, on the 25th of the month, assures that Rosh Chodesh Tevet will always be observed during Chanukah.

Military celebrations alone are typically celebrated for one day. Think V-E Day (May 8) V-J Day (Sept 2), Purim (14 Adar). By all rights, Chanukah should have been a 1-day holiday.

But Chanukah is meant to be more than just a tribute to a specific date. It is a highly symbolic holiday that represents a victory over assimilation, a commitment to Jewish tradition, mitzvot, and heritage, a reemergence of a "fighting Jew," and the return of Jewish autonomy to our ancient homeland.

And if, in the background, the dates and length of the celebration can serve as a reminder to what we overcame from the perspective of those who made decrees threatening our way of life - what could be wrong with it? I find it very helpful.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jaundice - When Baby is Yellow

There are differences of opinion as to the propriety of circumcising a jaundiced baby. The argument is based in Talmudic and halakhic discussions, but the details of these Talmudic discussions might not refer exactly to jaundiced babies, and certainly not to "all cases" of jaundice.

As a precaution, I will delay circumcising a baby who has a bilirubin count above 16, unless the numbers are going down. Other mohels will run away from a baby with the number 12 or higher. [I have actually been called to do a bris on several occasions because the pediatrician said it was OK and the parents wanted to have the bris at the proper time, but the mohel they initially hired was scared to do it because he felt the bilirubin count was too high. All brisses went well and babies were fine afterwards.]

The one time I delayed a bris to a different day on account of jaundice (at least the one I recall most vividly, though there were probably others) was when the child's bilirubin count was 22 - he looked like a banana from across the room - and the bris was supposed to be on Shabbos. Since it wasn't feasible to check the baby the night before or the morning of (on account of Shabbos), we pushed it off, and the baby ended up being ready by Sunday.

I recently found this article that explains Jaundice in a very clear manner. It was written by Rabbi Josh Flug, a colleague (and client!), and is worth reading from beginning to end.

http://www.medethics.org.il/articles/JME/JMEM9/JMEM.9.4.asp