Monday, February 22, 2010

4000 years

"We're celebrating a tradition that dates back 4000 years. It may be the oldest tradition still celebrated anywhere."

So began the officiant standing in my living room yesterday. Then, in front of a large audience, he cut off the foreskin of my son's penis.

Yesterday was the baby's brit milah, the Jewish ritual that dates back to the covenant made between God and Abraham. The officiant emphasized that this wasn't a medical procedure, it wasn't only a circumcision. But what is it? How can I describe the ceremony: a spectacle to which we gathered about 60 friends and family members into our home; a sterile procedure with stainless steel instruments and gauze and blood and Vaseline and Neosporin; a sugar-water-soaked cloth to suck before-hand to produce endorphins and dopamines and a red-wine-soaked cloth to suck afterwards; prayers and witnesses and a signed certificate; a public declaration of what the boy will be called; singing and clapping and shouts of good wishes and good health and prosperity and happiness.

It's not a medical procedure. It's a joyous occasion. It's ancient history and an act of faith -- captured on videotape in the living room. It's my baby, bleeding and crying. It's my baby, drunk and sleeping. It's my baby, his soul protected and his life and body recognized by God and his people.

It's pulling and pinching and inserting and stretching and cutting and kinda gross and very fascinating and I watched intently, every second of it.

He's inducted now, a member of the tribe. He's glad it's over and he's unsure what the fuss is all about and he's sleeping on my chest now, just like he and I like it.

He lost a little bit of skin yesterday but he gained an elaborate heritage and was finally given his name. You can call him G.



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3 comments:

This Heavenly Life said...

I love your fascination with one of the many boy-only experiences you guys are set to go through. The ceremony and tradition surrounding it all are so intriguing. If we ever have a boy, it will become a medical procedure, in a hospital...I like your way better :)

Emily said...

Difficult and joyous and wonderfully rich, congratulations little G!

Stephani said...

If I didn't make it clear on Sunday. We felt so honored to be part of such a special day for G and your whole family.