Thursday, November 20, 2014

Minhagei Worms, Germany (2 of 2)

The first installment is the previous posting. Here are a few more gems from the book "Minhagei Vorms."

1. Rabbenu Tam would be sure to stand during Torah reading and during a bris. The reason for standing during the bris was the same verse from Melachim II 23:3 - that the people stood at the covenant. The reason why the person saying the bracha needs to be standing is because of a comparison from the word לכם to the word לכם that we learn from ספירת העומר. Just as by the counting of the Omer the Torah tells us וספרתם לכם, the Torah tells us regarding the bris, המול לכם כל זכר. Just as we stand for counting the Omer, we stand for the bris. 

2. When there is a bris associated with שחרית we have a custom not to say עלינו until after the bris is over (most shuls today finish davening and then repeat עלינו, but that may be because many mothers bring their babies to the bris a little later than the end of davening (and some mohels have the bad habit of coming late*), and it takes a few minutes from baby's arrival before the bris begins). Why is עלינו not recited until after the bris is over? Because we say in עלינו the following phrase: "שלא עשנו כגויי הארצות" - that He did not make us like the nations of the land. When the child is uncircumcised, he is like the nations of the land. When he is circumcised, we can mark his entry into the mark of the covenant by including him in the missive that we are different from them. 

* I pride myself on coming on time, and not double booking, in order to be sensitive to everyone's schedule. 

3. Why is there a custom to have a party for a bris? There is a gemara that says that "all mitzvos that the Jews accepted with joy they still fulfill with joy" (i.e. with a party), and the classic example is bris milah. 
Furthermore, we are told that Avraham made a big part ביום הגמל את יצחק, Another way to read that is that Avraham made a big party ביום ה+ג מל את יצחק. On day (5+3=8) Avraham מל (circumcized) Yitzchak. And that's when he made the big party - at Yitzchak's bris!

4, We have the custom to say that just as the child entered the covenant so should he enter
"Torah, Huppah, and Maasim Tovim" - learning about (and living based on ) the Torah; the marital canopy; and a life of good deeds. In the footnote on this pronouncement, the author writes "I've been asked many times why Huppah precedes good deeds. Why can't it be the other way around? And I don't really have a good answer."

But I (AB) have a good answer. Simply put, one who does good deeds before marriage knows that a volunteer may step away at any time. But one who is married, in a committed relationship, cannot just go when things are rough. It is true that "chesed begins at home" and a life of good deeds truly begins AFTER marriage, when a person should do good deeds because it makes the other person's life easier and better. It isn't voluntary in the way one can just walk away when one is done. It is a commitment that one sticks with no matter what (again, in a lasting relationship) that outweighs any sense of "I'm volunteering and can walk away whenever I like."

Some of these vignettes are really fantastic. I hope you enjoy them as I have.

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