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Morah Yehudis Fishman
Morah Yehudis Fishman

Post Script to Reflections on Brit Milah

Morah Yehudis Fishman

As many of these readers know, I was quite shook up by the negativity expressed in the Brit Milah film and panel held this year on the last day of Sukot. I walked away startled at how far some Jews have come from appreciating one of the cornerstones of Jewish identity and connection to G-d and each other. But last week, like Esther in the Purim story, I received a wink from Above that all was not lost and that Hashgacha Pratit, otherwise known as Divine Providence, was alive and well in Boulder Colorado.

The wink came from a Brit Milah celebration last Friday, Shushan Purim. A beautiful boy was born to a prominent Boulder Jewish family, the Berlins and to the grandparents Rich and Karyn Schad, a family who I had been privileged to teach for many years. I brought a scroll of Megilat Esther with me, not to read, since Purim was just over, but to illustrate a remarkable teaching from the scroll, which I will summarize briefly:

In the story there is a curious set of verses. After Haman’s sons had already been hung, Esther asks the king to hang the ten sons ‘tomorrow.’ Another anomaly in the megilah is that when listing the names of the sons, some letters are written in a smaller than normal size- a Zayin, Tav, and Shin, and one letter, a vav, is enlarged.

The sages could not make much sense of these unusual features till recent times. However, during the Nuremberg trials in 1946, ten Nazis were hung, the last of who was Julius Streicher, the editor of the rabid anti-Semitic magazine, Der Sturmer. As he was being led to the gallows, he cried out, ‘Purimfest, 1946.’ This was to say the least a cryptic remark, since the hanging took place- get this!- on Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot.

Thus to many the mystery of the letters as well as Esther’s prophetic request took on a new meaning. Esther, who is called the last of the seven great Prophetesses of Biblical times, could have been referring to the Nazis, the modern day descendants of Haman. And the letters? The shape of the Vav symbolized the gallows, while the three small letters numerically add up to 707, the Hebrew year corresponding to 1946!

Furthermore, in the megilah itself there is a reference to Brit milah: On the verse, the Jews had light, happiness, joy and honor, (the same phrase we recite during Havdalah) the sages say that light refers to Torah, happiness refers to holidays, and joy, sasson, refers to Brit milah, and honor to Tefilin.

So here I was attending a most joyous Brit milah of a baby who literally glowed with holy radiance and tranquility (even right after the circumcision) on Shushan (same Hebrew letters as Sasson, the word for joy) Purim!

To add to the power of the ‘wink’, the attending Mohel was Dr. Shelly Ciner from Denver, the mohel who was hoping to come up and participate in the panel, but could not because of a death in his family. The Berlins had contacted another Mohel for the Brit, but the other one was unavailable and so Dr. Ciner- who could not come to the panel on Hoshanna Rabbah, now shows up at this Brit on Shushan Purim!

This event for me was a true healing from the apprehension I felt on Hoshana Rabba. I wondered if Brit Milah in particular and Judaism in general, might be an ‘endangered’ species here in Boulder. I’m sure G-d responded to my fears. Two weeks ago a new baby Jewish boy named Noach Moshe arrived in Boulder, and to me at least, this has made all the difference. I pray that sooner than later, there will be in Boulder a thriving Jewish day school for this baby to attend and grow in Torah and positive Jewish values, and like his namesakes, Noach and Moshe, that he grow up to be a source of light and salvation for the entire world.

About Morah Yehudis Fishman

Morah Yehudis Fishman
I have been teaching Torah and Chassidic writings for over forty years to students of all ages and backgrounds, both on the East Coast and the Midwest. I have been a director of several Jewish organizations in Santa Fe and Colorado. My articles and poetry on a wide variety of Jewish topics have been printed in many publications, and also are available online.

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One comment

  1. Your teaching is fascinating, edifying, uplifting, and full of joy, as always. Thanks for sharing and for the kindness of sending me a link to get here.