Brissin are one of the most chilled simchas, for everyone involved except probably the baby. And maybe the mohel. (And probably the sandak.)
There’s a lot less pressure than with most simchas. With weddings, your entire life before that, everyone keeps asking, “So when are you going to start dating?” “So when are you getting engaged?” And even after you get engaged, it’s like, “So do you have a wedding date yet?”
But with brissin, at most they’re bothering you for eight days. Also, they’re usually not. It’s either a given, or there’s a medical situation where everyone understands that they will not help the situation by continuously asking.
I like going to family brissin, because they’re so casual. You show up, and you’re astonished to see other people you know. It’s a nice surprise. (“Oh, I forgot that he’s my sister’s uncle too!”)
And it’s not just other relatives. You’re at your sibling’s shul, and you’re surprised, like, “Hey, it’s all those people that I met that time that I came here for Shabbos!”
To be fair, you don’t have to be there. Because it’s the morning, and people have work, if you don’t make it to someone’s bris, no one holds it against you. If you leave early, no one holds it against you. In fact, the minhag is to not even invite anyone to a bris, because the halacha is that if you’re invited, you’re obligated to come, and we don’t want to obligate anyone. Though I don’t know why this bothers us. It’s not like if you’re invited to your sibling’s wedding, you’re not obligated to come.
But the fact that you can’t invite people also means you don’t have to print invitations! Which is great, because I know when it came to our sons’ bar mitzvah invitations, I wasn’t allowed to pick anything out myself—I had to have my wife come in with me and look at font types and paper stock and all the different variations of white—and when it comes to the week after you have a baby, your wife’s availability for this kind of thing is limited.
Another stress of making other simchas that is taken away at a bris is the stress of giving out kibbudim. At a wedding, there are a specific number of kibbudim, and you have to distribute them evenly among your family, the other side’s family, your rabbis, and the other side’s rabbis. And this is impossible, because, for example, there are seven brachos. That’s a prime number. And if someone doesn’t show up, you have to redo the whole list on the spot, during the wedding, and somehow communicate that to the chosson’s friend who’s going to call out the kibbudim and who doesn’t know what any of these people look like. But with a bris, besides making sure the two grandfathers are included, you can give out as few or as many kibbudim as you like. If the people you expected don’t show up, you can give most of the kibbudim to the same two people, and if more people show up, you can literally make up kibbudim. And that way you can make your guests feel important, like, “I’m the guy who takes the baby off the chair and gives him to the guy who passes him to the guy who holds the baby while the other person is naming him!”
“Nice. I held the bottle during the kriyas shem.”
As it turns out, holding the baby for various lengths of time is a kibud. At least at a bris. This might have come from an effort to avoid a situation where the mother has to come into the empty shul afterward to retrieve the baby from the kisei after all the men forget about him and run downstairs for bagels.
“So where’s the baby?”
And she finds him all alone on his pillow, quietly sucking on a napkin.
The constant passing, I think, comes from the ancient minhag that a man can’t hold a baby for more than a minute.
So everyone’s passing the baby around on the pillow, and by the way there is no seatbelt on that thing. The secret, I have found, is to just tilt the pillow toward your body, and then when you pass it to the next person, tilt the pillow the other way and watch the baby roll over to the other guy’s chest before you let go. By the time the mohel gets him, he’s like, “Why is the baby on his stomach?”
“And where’s his sock?”
There is even a specific person who is mechubad with somehow getting the baby out of the ladies’ section.
“Me? Um… Can’t they just throw him down?”
“You’re going to throw him back up at the end? How many tries will that take?”
In fact, in a lot of ways, a bris is a good beginner’s simcha to make not long after you get married. Even food expectations are not that high, because everyone knows you’ve only had a week to put this together, and you did just have a baby. You weren’t even sure until two days ago that the bris would be today. And also because it’s the morning.
Another great thing about brissin is that when you show up to a vort, you’re always immediately wondering, “OK, so which one’s the chosson?” At a bris, you’re never like, “Which one’s the baby?”
There are other great things about brissin that we’re going to have to talk about in next week’s article. I would have prepared more for this week, but I wasn’t even sure you’d show up.
Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].