Hayim Leiter
Rabbi, mohel, misader kiddushin, beit din member

A Brit for the ages

It was a long drive. That’s not a complaint, it’s just not the norm. Since I live in Jerusalem, I usually have Britot within an hour radius of my hometown. This one, however, was a good two hours away. 

I always have the same experience upon arrival in northern Israel: route one opens up, there are fewer buildings, you can see much farther, and I start to breathe more easily. This time was no exception. My departure left plenty of time for the trip and traffic wasn’t too bad. It felt like my first time out of my Coronavirus bubble.

My journey ended in a dirt parking lot, well ahead of time. When I finally discerned which was the event space, I realized it had been months since I had a Brit Milah like this. My reservations quickly dissipated and it felt more like a homecoming of sorts. But COVID would not be my only concern this time.

Since I only spoke to the mother over the phone, I knew very little about the family. When I walked in, I immediately noticed that the venue was dark, more of a bar or club atmosphere. That’s the life of a mohel, though — the environment is a mystery until you arrive. As I scanned the room I noticed it was a bit polarized — one half of the family was sitting on one side while the other was on the other side. I wondered if there was some sort of tension. 

But in addition to my perceived sense of angst, the father and mother were actually a mixed couple. She was Russian and the father was Ethiopian. Many families I’ve worked with have had tension between parents and in-laws. Since the room was starkly divided, I was concerned this was one of those cases.

The Brit Milah itself was nothing out of the ordinary. It was challenging to sing over the side conversations (especially with a mask and face shield on), but that was nothing new. While I was putting away my tools, I happened to catch an interaction that put all my fears at ease. The grandfather on the mother’s side turned to his Ethiopian son-in-law, hugged him with a huge, loving grin, and exclaimed, “My son!”

I’m fully aware, with what’s going on in the world, that a familial embrace at a Bris is a mere drop in the bucket. I know there are so many problems that need to be dealt with here in Israel, in America, and elsewhere. But this moment of affection gave me hope. It was like seeing a glimmer into our future; a future where we have a greater understanding and love for all our fellow human beings. 

I pray that the turmoil in America, which has sparked protests around the world, will help move our collective society toward a more empathetic tomorrow, a time where we will see many more embraces between people from all walks of life. 

God willing, may it be soon in our day. 

About the Author
Rav Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant, and member of a private Beit Din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization committed to protecting both our sacred ceremony of Brit Milah and the children who undergo it. He made Aliyah in 2009 and lives in Efrat with his wife and four children.
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