FICTION: Destination Bris

By | Sep 03, 2013

“[Destination weddings] can cut down the costs . . . particularly in an economy when invitees may not be able to spare the cash for a flight to Jamaica, or even the drive to Florida.”

–“On Distant, but Economical, Weddings,” The New York Times

The high point of the destination bris I’d arranged for Sally Shviger was going to be the tossing of the foreskin. So that after the circumcision, at which Sally’s uncle, Reb Mordecai, officiated, Sally’s husband Leroy wrapped the tiny piece of precious child in white linen, stood with his back to a group of his single man-friends, and tossed it high over his shoulder.

At Sally’s wedding, Dawn Ginsbergh had caught the bouquet, and we were all rooting for Dawn’s boyfriend Heshy Farkas to make the catch so he’d have to pop the question. But as soon as the white linen missile was in the air, Leroy’s Aunt Molly’s dachshund, Totela,  got loose, twirled into the air like a circus dog, snatched the wrapped piece of Melvin in his mouth, and ran off with it.

Dawn began screaming that she just knew Heshy would find some way to avoid commitment. Aunt Molly’s husband Abe yelled that it was all Molly’s fault for bringing Totela, and while Sally berated Leroy for allowing Molly to bring the dog, he and Heshy chased around the room after Totela, who ran past the assembled guests into the kitchen, where a festive four course post-circumcision brunch was being prepared.

Reb Mordecai tried to calm people down by telling an old joke about not wanting to be paid—collecting tips was reward enough for him—at which point his wife Hannah cried out that they were ruined because hadn’t she warned him it was a mistake not to renew his liability insurance. Although Reb Mordecai is 91 years old and has been blind from birth, Sally assured me he had always had a special feel for his vocation, and having him preside would make the event personally sacred to her. In addition, having the event take place far away would cut down both on the number of attendees, and on large number of men Reb Mordecai had serviced, who, whenever they learned he was the mohel, would come to see him do what he himself could not see.

I’d arranged Sally and Leroy’s eco-friendly destination wedding in the Galapagos Islands two years ago, and only nine of her friends had come, so even with the cost of travel, and the caterer’s add-on transportation charges, Sally’s parents had saved a bundle compared to what even a simple “at-home” wedding would have cost. Only seven of Sally’s friends attended her destination baby shower, which we celebrated in Alaska’s Denali National Park, where we watched salmon climb their ladders on their way to spawn.

But what about the dog? Well, that was the question on everyone’s mind and lips.  But if the foreskin doesn’t exist, Leroy’s father—a philosophy professor at NYU—asked, did the bris really take place?  Reb Mordecai’s wife Hannah declared that for meat to be kosher, it had to be drained of all blood, but if a dog ate a foreskin, did the dog become un-kosher, and would her recently widowed sister-in-law Molly, who was kosher, be required to send Totela, the beloved companion of her golden years, into exile?  If I am not for Totela, Molly cried out, who will be?

Sally’s godfather, Harold “Tex” Gelbstein, who had traveled from Lubbock, Texas, for the occasion, lifted Melvin into the air and asked everyone to admire the handsome little varmint, who, having been given a ritual sip of wine during the ceremony, was fast asleep on his pillow of blue satin.

“My son Harvey, a true son-of-Texas, weighed in at 20 pounds when he was born,” Tex said. “But after the circumcision,” he added, “he only weighed ten pounds.”

Saying that where he came from most ethical issues turned out to have edible solutions, Tex put a spoonful of chopped liver on a piece of challah, lured Totela into the room with it, lassoed the dog, carried it back into the kitchen, and returned a minute later with a small piece of shredded linen he gave to Reb Mordecai, who declared that what had happened on this day certainly gave us much food for thought.

Athough I love planning weddings, baby showers, and other blessed observances, it’s even more fun to try out a special new event for friends the way I did for Sally and Leroy. But in case things don’t work out for them, or for Dawn and Heshy, or Abe and Molly, or Reb Mordecai and Hannah, I’m thinking of offering destination divorces, where husbands and wives, along with their children, nannies, lawyers, and accountants, take themselves to idyllic settings—with spas, snorkeling, sunset cruises, and trained entertainers to keep the children happy while supportive mediation sessions, friendly financial negotiations, and creative custody arrangements move toward joyful resolutions.

 Jay Neugeboren is author of 21 books.  His most recent novel is The American Sun & Wind Moving Picture Company.


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