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The following response came in from a distraught woman who relates her personal brit experience:
Dear Rabbi Klass,
After reading your columns on the topic of who should serve as sandak, I feel compelled to write to you. The memory of what should have been a sweet occasion sets me back emotionally every time I think about it. We lost our parents at a young age and I, being the oldest of five siblings and married only a few short years at the time, accepted upon myself, lovingly, the burden of caring for my younger siblings, in addition to my own baby daughter.
Fortunately, two of them were away in yeshiva (one in Eretz Yisrael and one here in the states in a dormitory yeshiva), though I hosted them when they would come home for the yamim tovim. My husband’s great investment of time, love, and care for children that were not his own was beyond compare.
When my youngest brother got married, we sat down with his future mother-in-law, a widow, and planned the wedding for which we agreed to pay for half of all incurred expenses. Soon we heard the great news that our brother and sister-in-law were going to be having a baby, and we were so excited. The young couple told us confidentially that if this child would be a boy, my husband would be the sandak.
As the months passed by, we awaited with anticipation the birth of a baby, with only one thing in mind: no matter whether it would be a boy or girl, it should be healthy. Imagine our joy when my brother called from the hospital and informed us that we were the aunt and uncle to a healthy boy! Again we sat down with our brother’s mother-in-law and made plans for the bris, the shul, the caterer, etc. My brother agreed to use the same mohel used by many in our family, including some of my siblings.
On the morning of the bris, my husband was at my brother’s side as the bris was about to begin. My brother then pointed to his wife’s family rabbi to sit and serve as sandak. My husband’s heart sank at that moment, but he said nothing. I was quite upset but kept my cool. Needless to say, our whole family was upset. Even my brother’s mother-in-law was surprised.
When we questioned them later on, they told us that the rabbi had told them that since neither parent has a father, it was only proper for him to serve as sandak.
I am mystified how we, who invested so much in this couple, could be simply discarded as though with the wash water by a rabbi. Am I wrong in how I am viewing this matter or is the rabbi?
A devoted older sister
I am very moved by your letter and numerous others that related similar experiences. Since you took the time to e-mail me about this matter, and since your letter reflects to some extent the experience of other readers, I feel it is important to include it in this discussion. I am at a loss to comfort you. I can only say that I sense that your love for the young child is not diminished, and time will serve to heal any wounds. I hope to conclude this discussion next week with a full response to your letter.
(To be continued)