Monday, December 31, 2007

A Haunting Mitzva

(Picture by Dixie Yid)

Standing at a bris recently, I recalled a halacha that has always troubled me since the first time I came across it. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 163:7 states,

"An infant who dies before circumcision is circumcised at the grave in order to remove the foreskin which is considered a disgrace to him, so he should not be buried with his foreskin which is considered a disgrace to him. No blessing is recited on this circumcision, but a name is given to him as a remembrance that mercy will be shown him from Heaven and he will be included in the resurrection of the dead, and that he then have sufficient understanding to recognize his father and mother."

When I imagine the mohel assigned to perform this task for the first time, I try to put myself in his place and think about the thoughts that must be going through his mind. Such an experience must undoubtedly leave a profound impression on the mohel and haunt him for days afterwards.

I then recalled a story about how the Baal Shem Tov once explained to a mother who lost her son before his bris that the reason why he had not survived was because he had already attained his soul correction; in less than eight days he had accomplished what sometimes takes others a lifetime to accomplish.

While I understand that ultimately the mohel is doing a chesed shel emes and also that there may be a "positive" story behind this seemingly negative event, I still can't help but think how haunting performing this mitzvah task must be.


At December 31, 2007 at 11:07:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not every Mitzva is fun. But if we look at the Jewish perspective on the soul & body connection and the purpose of birth (even if for only a short while) as significant to the soul, how can we not perform the milah?
Of course, I would agree that this, like performing a tahara before burial, has a haunting element and gives one pause...which is probably not a bad thing.

At December 31, 2007 at 11:10:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I agree with you 100%. When I said I was troubled by it, I did not mean to imply that it should be done away with, chas v'shalom.

At December 31, 2007 at 12:31:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is a mohel, who performed his very first bris on a neifel. (The second bris my friend ever performed was for his own son, who is B"H very much alive.)

In my friend's case, I don't think he was particularly "spooked," but rather he was elated at being able to have some practical experience in learning a new skill.

At December 31, 2007 at 8:42:00 PM EST, Blogger Alice said...

Thank God for the amazing people who do this. Incredible.


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