Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 38: The first cut is the deepest

Monday 16th February 1959, 9.35 pm

After a lot of telephoning, the Briss [circumcision] took place this morning. Circumcision – practised by savages, we know, but it is ennobled by Jewish religion, the link with Abraham, the practice has been invested with holiness. Mr Winegarten performed the duties of Sandek very ably (must = Syndic I feel sure), Alf [Katz, my mother’s brother] handed the baby to the Mohel with admirable aplomb. I found myself near-blubbing when saying Hinneni muchan – I am here ready to perform the affirmative precept to circumcise my son. It had taken me forty-six years to get here…No more…”Let the father rejoice in him that  came forth from his loins and the mother be glad with the fruit of her womb.” Amen, amen. “And even as he entered the covenant, so may he enter into the Law, the nuptial canopy and good deeds.” Amen, amen. Hard to be an agnostic.

The ceremony could hardly be impressive, with only the four of us present, and the circumcision taking place in a small room at the hospital. But the service has the usual dramatic flair. Upon the arrival of the child who is to be initiated into the Covenant of Abraham, those present at the Ceremony rise and say:-

ברוך הבא [lit: blessed (is he) who comes, i.e; welcome]

A fine opening to life’s drama – but I have an awful suspicion I forgot to say it. Anyway, Chaim Feivish Yisroel Ben Yosef – Blessed be thy coming.

Sam [his brother] seemed a bit better to-day; I hope he’s on the mend. The recurrence of the fainting fits, from which he’d been spared for over three years, is worrying, but he’s going to see his doctor about it. I’m hopeful that with Lily to look after him and his nephew to give him a new interest in life, his health will improve. But he was never robust, and has had more than his share of trouble in his life.

Up early, fortunately, this morning and got two hours Sinai done [translating God’s Wilderness – Discoveries in Sinai] before the telephoning got under way.

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