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November 25, 2015 / 13 Kislev, 5776
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You’re On Your Own


This week we deal with questions from people who, one way or another, are on their own.  And as usual, we don’t really help them.


Dear Mordechai,

I’m making a bris for my son, who has no name yet.  Do I have to give a speech or anything?

Aral Sifasayim

Dear Aral,

Probably.  In general, people expect you to speak at a bris, although they’d prefer you start after they leave.  You can actually get away with not speaking at all if you postpone it long enough, unless it’s a weekend bris.  Then people will just hang around.

And in fact, you allow for people to leave early.  Brissim are the only simchos where you actually leave a box of pre-cut silver foil near the food so people can wrap things up as they run.  “I don’t care if you eat at my simcha,” is your basic message.  “I just don’t want leftovers.”  Though this is a relatively new thing.  For years, people were sneaking out of brissim with a bagel wrapped in a blue napkin.

There’s no other simcha where this is a normal thing to do.  Even at weddings, where people have to get home to their kids, they never have the option of wrapping up their main dish before the chosson and kallah come out.  If you want your chicken cutlet, you have to dance for it.

But what are you going to do?  People need to leave.  They only put in a quick appearance at the bris so that in twenty years from now, at this kid’s l’chaim, they can come over to him, in front of the kallah, and say, “I was at your bris.”  That’s not awkward.  There’s no good response to that.  The conversation just ends, with the three of you standing there.

But the people who are sticking around expect you to speak.  Although that’s kind of unfair, considering you had 8 days to prepare for this thing on no sleep with a brand new baby in the house, and most of that time was spent either having humorous kitchen incidents while your wife was in the hospital, or trying to hammer out a name.  So most speeches are about the politics of why you picked that particular name.  Though you don’t really go into the politics.  You go into the positive qualities of the person you named the boy after, so that it’s really more of a hesped.

Like if you gave your child two names – that of your grandfather and your wife’s grandfather – you’re going to say that the reason you did this was that each of them had great qualities, rather than that you spent an entire week arguing about which one to name it after, each of you expressing real concern over what your respective mothers would say if you used the other name, and you had a deadline, so you decided to go with both, and hoped you wouldn’t run out of names before your last kid.

But you might as well speak about the name, because it’s all you’ve been thinking about for eight days, and everyone wants to know, “Why that name, of all the names out there?”  Unless you have a lot of boys.

Of course, aside from your relatives, who already know why you picked the name, everyone else is just trying to make conversation.  Do you know why everyone you know has the name they have?  Nobody’s actually cares anymore once they leave the bris.  I’ve met thousands of people in my life, and I’ve never said to myself, “Where does this guy’s name come from?  His grandfather, or his great-grandfather?”  Unless he has a highly-uncommon name, like Yisro.  Then I want to know.

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