Seven of the best

There are only 7 bris jokes. Every single bris you do, some wiseguy will wander over and try to ‘amuse’ you by telling you one of them. There’s the one about the guy with clocks in his window. The one about the sword fighting competition. The mohel who gives tips at the racetrack. The one… Oh what’s the use, there are only seven, you’ve probably heard them before, and if you haven’t, just go to any bris and hang around near the mohel.

What’s so funny

A bris is something like the stock market: the little guy gets cut and the big guys stand around and laugh. I’ve never seen the humour of the situation, if anything, shouldn’t people be crying in sympathy? Elective surgery is no joke and it would be a pretty poor excuse for a human who’d walk into a surgical ward and start a stand-up routine while the surgeon is operating

But that’s the point. A bris is not just a minor operation or routine surgical repair. The feeble attempts at humour you hear at every bris might be slightly risqué, but I believe they reflect an appreciation that we're here to celebrate a life-cycle event rather than a morbid mutilation of healthy tissue.

Be tamim

When the 99-year-old Avraham finally got around to circumcision, Hashem instructed him Walk before me and be tamim. The word tamim can be variously translated as ‘complete,’ ‘fulfilled,’ ‘perfect’ or ‘naïve.

Translating it as “complete’ presents obvious difficulties. Like it or not, there is less boy immediately post-bris than before. Far easier to read it as ‘fulfilled’ or ‘perfected’. To this day an incredible proportion of our tribe voluntarily choose to submit to the rite of passage. Bris is central to our self-image. A diamond appreciates in value in proportion with the quality of its cut and so do Jews.

Are we ‘naïve’?

It takes faith and submission to go through with the process. It’s neither logical nor natural to hand over an 8-day-old child to a man with a knife. We believe, we bris. No questions asked, no answers expected. As simple as that.

By setting aside all preconceived notions and suspending cynicism in a higher cause, we take the first step to a life of perfection. We join Avraham’s team and commit to his cause. It may seen foolhardy to the uninitiated, but as we welcome the new member into the tribe amid jokes, laughter, celebration and song, we demonstrate our pride and passion for our shared heritage and our serious determination to stay true to our religion and G‑d.