The Talmud records: (Bavli Shabbos 130a) “Any Mitzvah which the Jewish people were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to fulfill during the times of persecution, that Mitzvah is still ‘strongly held on to’ by them… for example the Mitzvah of not worshiping idols and the performance of Bris Milah”.
We have all heard of countless stories of how even during the holocaust Jewish mothers and fathers went to extreme self-sacrifice to have a Bris performed on their son.
Rabbi Israel Spira, the Rebbe of Bluzhov, would often relate the heart-wrenching incident which he personally witnessed of a woman who asked a Nazi guard for his knife in order to perform a Bris on her son:
Taking the knife, she hurried back to her work station and bent over a small bundle of rags that she had placed on a log. Quickly unraveling the bundle, she took out a tiny infant. Before our astonished eyes, she swiftly and skillfully circumcised the week-old boy.
“Blessed are You, G‑d our G‑d, King of the Universe,” she recited in a clear voice, “Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to enter him into the covenant of Abraham our Father.”
Cradling the child in her arms, she soothed his cries. Then, she addressed the heavens: “Master of the Universe! Eight days ago you gave me a child. I know that neither I nor he will long survive in this accursed place. But now, when you take him back, you will receive him as a complete Jew.”It was therefore very painful to see this article which appeared in today’s New York Times:
The article, entitled “Cutting Out the Bris” relates how “some Jewish parents, aghast at what they see as unnecessary infliction of pain or even mutilation, are retreating from the ancient ritual.”
Sadly, the article goes on to comment on the spiritual state of our brethren in the United States: “Only 19 percent of American Jews said that observing Jewish law was an essential part of what being Jewish means. In contrast, 42 percent said “having a good sense of humor” was essential.”
Last week began the Nine Days- the saddest period on our communal, national calendar. This past Friday night, the Salomon family of Nevi Tzuf- who are my cousins- were preparing for a Shalom Zachor; the traditional Simcha held the Friday night prior to the Bris Milah.
The Simcha was transformed into a house of mourning as the grandfather his son and his daughter were butchered to death by an Arab who feels Jews have no right to live in Eretz Yisroel.
The news on both sides of the Atlantic is sad.
Here American Jews- who enjoy freedom and opportunity- are consciously opting out of having a Bris. And in Israel, Jews who just want the freedom to live as Jews in their country are murdered.
There is one more difference- as one thing is certain- the Bris for the little Salomon boy whose family members were killed Friday night will take place on the eighth day of his life.
No one would think of any other option.
What though will be with our American brethren?
How many Jewish children born in this country will not have the opportunity to join the covenantal community of Jews?