Thursday, July 12, 2012

We'll Call Him... (A Tale)

This is a humorous tale about a bris that I heard second-hand from a friend many years ago (please note that it does sound a lot better when I tell it). On account of this week's Torah portion being Pinchas, my brother reminded me how much he liked the tale. Inspired, I share it here.

The rabbi/mohel was hired to do the bris for a non-observant family. Apparently, he neglected to discuss the baby's Hebrew name - which is always given at the bris, unless the bris is delayed a significant length of time such as for medical reasons.

It is the moment of truth. They are up to the paragraph in which the baby's Hebrew name is announced, and the mohel turns to the parents and says, "What name have you chosen for your son?"

They mention his English name. "Very nice. But what Hebrew name are you giving him?"

They hadn't discussed it. So they have a very quick conference. And they come back with "Esau."

Anybody hear crickets? Esau - עשו - or Eisav (in the traditional pronunciation), the traditionally villainous brother of Jacob.

The mohel hesitates. And then a voice comes from the balcony in the synagogue. "No. No. Pinchas."

The mohel pauses - a voice of reason! The parents say, "Don't listen to her."

Mohel: Who is she?
Parents: She's the baby's great grandmother.  [Apparently the family's only connection to the old country and traditional Judaism]
Mohel: Who is Pinchas?
Parents: It doesn't matter. Just give him the name we gave you.
Great-G: Pinchas Pinchas.

The mohel, in a bind between giving the baby a name that just doesn't smell right (he'll be called to the Torah at his bar mitzvah with this name, and it will be written on any legal Jewish document he ever has his name on) and a sensible Biblical name being presented by a woman who is definitely not the baby's mother, comes up with the plan to save face and bring our tale to its dramatic conclusion.

In a voice booming with authority he asks, "Alright. Who is paying for the bris?"

The parents sheepishly pointed at Great Grandma: "She is."

Mohel: And let his name be PINCHAS.

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