Hayim Leiter
Rabbi, mohel, misader kiddushin, beit din member
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Cry me a river

As I rocked the baby in my arms, he cried off and on. I tried every trick I knew but he wasn’t ready to sleep. And then the siren sounded
Photo: Yana Overchenko

“The Bris is going to be on Yom HaZikaron,” the mother told me when we initially spoke a month ago. Some families are in touch when the baby arrives, while others, like this one, prefer to have things organized more in advance. When the birth is a planned c-section, you’re afforded that luxury. I wished them a B’shaah Tovah (may it be in a good time) as I marked it in my calendar.

What’s the saying, ‘man plans and God laughs’?

Last week, the family informed me the baby was born naturally, a week early. “So, the Brit Milah will be on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day),” I pointed out. We scheduled the event early, so as not to coincide with the 10 a.m. siren, commemorating the six million who perished. “A 9 a.m. start should be plenty of time,” I said.

Once again, best-laid plans.

As if the heavens wanted to reflect the mood of the country, it rained all morning. With Passover being late this year, the persistence of winter weather in Israel is jarring. So much so that traffic into Jerusalem was unusually heavy. I was going to be late.

Knowing there was a cut-off time, I rushed to get set up upon arrival. The ceremony went off without a hitch. The voices of the congregation filled the sanctuary until the time came for the festive meal. There was only one problem — this baby was a crier. He cried the moment I took off his diaper. “It’s because he’s a gingy,” the mother remarked. I hadn’t even noticed he was a redhead. I guess that’s not my department.

While everyone was filing into the social hall, the mother was still struggling to calm her son down. I offered to hold him so the parents could explain the name in the last few minutes before the siren. They happily agreed, and I was glad to have a few minutes to hold him.

As I rocked him in my arms, the baby cried off and on. I tried every trick I knew but he wasn’t ready to sleep. And then the siren sounded. The two of us stood together, next to the bimah in one of the most prominent shuls in Jerusalem. And that’s when it hit me — he didn’t have to stop crying. He was free to cry all he wanted.

As the siren blasted, my mind flashed to the stories of Jews hiding in homes all over Europe as Nazi soldiers hunted them down. I remembered the tragic incidents of mothers accidentally suffocating their young so the rest of the family wouldn’t be discovered. That’s when I realized how lucky we are to have babies crying at Smachot all over the Jewish State and beyond.

With the baby finally asleep, I organized my tools with my free hand, and then headed to the social hall to join the meal. “Thank you so much,” the mother said as I passed her the sleeping baby. I relayed the intention I had during the siren because it was unlike any I’d had in years past. “That’s very powerful because he’s actually named after two Holocaust survivors,” she told me.

Like I said, God has a plan.

The Jewish people are amazing. We press on through all the hardships we face both past and present. Moments after I left the event, the silence of the past week was broken — rocket sirens blared in both the North and South. The hostage negotiations had broken down. Some are blaming it on Israel for ordering civilians to leave Rafah, while Egyptian news is citing Hamas’ attack on Kerem Shalom crossing.

Either way, it’s clear that the road ahead is going to be a difficult one. But so long as Smachot are being celebrated throughout the Jewish world, I have faith our enemies will never defeat us.

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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