13 May 2010

Omer 44: Good Game

Omer Day Forty-Four

Three men went to the mikveh today, each of them joining their fate with our people, new links in the chain of Tradition that goes back more than 3500 years.  Each of them participated in at least one course of study for more than a year; two of the three guys have been studying Judaism for more than three years.  Each is highly educated, considers himself a deep believer in God, and rather than Christianity, where they began (two Protestants, one Catholic) they found the most familiar and meaningful iteration of their reality of God in the language and rites of Judaism. 

One of the three was not born circumcised and so in an act of great valor and bravery, elected to have surgery a month ago with a urological surgeon who has also been certified by the Reform movement's training program for physicians to perform the rite of circumcision in the Jewish tradition.  No jokes about two for one deals, here, people.  Please.  The other two were circumcised in the hospital at birth and so they required, according to Tradition, "hatafat dam brit," meaning, a drop of blood taken from just below the head of the penis, where the original cut of the circumcision had been made.  As he usually does, the Mohel complimented the work of the surgeon from 30 odd years ago.  "He did a very good job," said the Mohel.  We all smiled politely.

The drop of blood was followed by immersion in the mikveh with the requisite blessings--again, what the structure of Tradition asks of us, though, as is well known, not accepted as a valid conversion by Orthodox authorities here and in Israel. 

But I'm telling you.  These guys are serious Jews.

Because of the relatively unusual nature of working with three young men in their thirties at around the same time and finding myself thinking alot about the fellowship of men and Jewish life and how often, the fellowship of men around Torah, Prayer, and Ritual are, to a degree, not expressed as they fully could be in many Reform communities, I elected to have their interviews be shared.  Ordinarily, three rabbis would assemble to interview each convert one-at-a-time before formally accepting them into the Covenant and then having them immerse in the Mikveh.  But today, I asked all three men to share their stories together and along with two other rabbis, we listened and talked about the commitments they made.  And at the end, we were practically a minyan.  It was powerful and though it "deprived" them of the chance to speak as individuals, it ended up having a very moving result of being communally covenantal, which from a Jewish perspective, is what the covenant is all about.

American Judaism too often stretches its internal integrity to the point of the unrecognizable by tailoring everything to the individual.  Today I saw a horizon before me as a rabbi that called upon us to approach the reality of God's covenant with Abraham and Sarah as a group, as a collective--as a People. 

I was thinking about the 44th day on the train on the way to the mikveh this morning and I kept thinking of the number 44 and which athletes wore it on the fronts and backs of their uniforms and then I thought about their uniforms and how they convey not the individual  but the team they play for.  It all seemed to come together.

Good game, men.


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