Pregnant with my first baby, I wanted the gender to remain a mystery until birth day. Truthfully, I wanted a girl for the clothing (tights, tiaras, tutu’s!) and a boy for the bris (party, presents, pastries!). My water broke, contractions began, and before I knew it, “It’s a boy!” reverberated from the doctor and nurses and husband in the delivery room. Ari was born on a Friday at 4:22pm and Shabbat was scheduled to begin at 5:30pm. Time was of the essence, and I wanted to book a mohel before sundown. My OB-GYN Dr. Todd Shapiro moonlights as a mohel, and I was determined to have him perform Ari’s snip.
8 days later, I got my hair blown out and squeezed into a pre-pregnancy dress, and we made our way to my father-in-law’s home in Newton for the bris. I was excited to see friends and family and welcome my baby into the Jewish community. Having worked in Boston’s Jewish community for almost ten years, I felt embraced by colleagues, clergy, and communal leaders who came to share in the simcha. And yes, there were presents (lots of gifts = lots of thank you notes) and there were pastries (I think we still have them in the freezer), but the ritual circumcision turned out to be so much more than just a party.
In April of 2009, my mother-in-law Vivian passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was a vivacious woman with a strong sense of self and an even stronger commitment to her family. She loved and lived for her children and grandchildren and I know my husband will forever wish that she was alive for the birth of our baby. She passed away in her home in Newton, surrounded by her family. Hundreds of family friends visited the shiva house to pay respect and honor her life. The bris would be the first time all of these people would come together again. My husband and I were honored to name our son after her and we chose the Hebrew name Chaim (Hebrew for “to life!”) to remember Vivian, which has the same tranlation in Latin. How fitting that we were celebrating life, a new life and a mother’s life, at the same time and in the same home which had now seen both intense sadness and immense spirit. It truly epitomized the circle of life.
On this 8th day, I was so greatly moved as I witnessed a family, a community, and a home, sharing both a metamorphical rebirth and blessing an actual birth. I will forever remember the overwhelming feeling of love and pride after Dr. Shapiro performed the bris and the crowd joined together in a very lively “Schechiyanu” which, not surprisingly, means “who has given us life.”
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