What is the plural for bris? Whatever it is, I have been to many. But none compare to my BFF’s big fat Canadian bris.
My BFF lives in a small windswept Canadian city with a tight-knit Jewish community. It is small enough that there is no local mohel, so when a baby boy is born they have to fly in a non-yokel mohel. Because of this, the time of the bris is determined by Air Canada’s flight schedule. If the plane lands at 7:00 a.m., you will have a 9:00 a.m. bris, and if it lands at 3:00 p.m., you’re not the only one getting the shaft because you’ve got a 6:00 PM bris on your hands.
An explanation is in order. The time of the bris dictates what type of food must be served. A 9:00 a.m. bris means you can get away with serving bagels, lox, fruit salad, and pastries. But at a 6:00 p.m. bris, dinner must be served. Problem is, although it is a Jewish tradition that the whole community is welcome to a bris, no one takes this literally except in small-town Canada!
I thought it would be really cool if I, the sophisticated New Yorker, brought something yummy and kosher from the center of all yumminess and kosherness. When I offered to bring a couple of babkas from the famous Zabar’s in New York, my friend laughed uncontrollably. She appreciated the gesture, but she said three babkas would be bupkes. “How many people could possible show up?” I asked. “You’ll see.”
I flew in for the simcha (celebration) and was honored to be there. Apparently, so were several hundred other people. No kidding. Over 400 people showed up! They brought their kids, no matter if they had two or 10. Free dinner, folks! It is expensive to feed a large family, so dinner at the shul is a bargain for the low, low price of an $18 gift! My friend’s husband is active in the synagogue and everyone knows them, so it’s possible some people didn’t come just for the food. But judging by the way people were binge eating, I’m guessing that genuine well wishers were outnumbered by penny-pinchers, freeloaders, and starving yeshiva bochers.
Nonetheless, the guests did leave quite the mountain of gifts. Just look at the picture. It took us two days before we even mustered the courage to tackle the pile. And, God bless my BFF, she got thank you cards out to everyone in a timely manner. You know how I feel about thank you cards. I marvel at how she did it.
Oy, and the cost?!? It would have been cheaper to fly the whole family to a Club Med for the bris, I imagine. Which is probably what I would have done in her shoes. But my friend and her husband are committed to their community, and they take the good with the bad. After all, they can now feel guilt-free at another family’s bris when they eat like animals at the trough.
I recently wrote an article about how we only discover the depths of our commitments when they are tested by adversity. I admire my friend tremendously for her commitment to her Jewish community, which she proved by planning the bris, entertaining legions of people, and writing hundreds of thank-you cards all within two weeks of giving birth. Two weeks after giving birth, I was still in my PJs trying to figure out how to eat and take a shower between marathon boobing sessions.
I can only pray that someday I find the strength to expand my circle of commitment past my immediate family and friends to include my community as well. Thank God for good friends who set the bar high and show me the way.