Circumcising The Dead

NY Times/Vivienne Flesher

If you haven’t already read this piece in the Health section of 
The New York Times
, you should. A surgeon-slash-mohel writes about what it was like to circumcise a three-day-old baby just an hour after he died. A couple going through a seemingly normal pregnancy gave birth to a very sick baby boy. After three days, even intense medical interventions couldn’t save him. They decided though that even though there was no Jewish law instructing them to do so, they wanted their son circumcised.

The hospital staff removed the baby from the ventilator, took out the intravenous lines, swaddled him and handed him to his parents. They were led to the hospital room, where they sat gently cradling their warm newborn son for just an hour as pink faded to gray.

Then, like a candle suddenly extinguished by a gust of wind, life left. A sad emptiness remained, as if the air were pierced by a pungent, thin plume of black smoke, rising and quickly dissipating. He was gone. No future, only a past.

And then the baby was handed to the mohel, who performed a traditional bris. Only the tears were a little different. And no bagels.

Deborah Kolben

Deborah Kolben is Editorial Director/Founding Editor of Kveller. She formerly covered education, crime, and real estate at the New York Daily News and The New York Sun before becoming  the city editor of The New York Sun and the managing editor of  the Village Voice.  She has also written for The New York TimesFinancial TimesThe Forward, and Jerusalem Report. She received a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and received an Arthur F. Burns fellowship to report in Germany. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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