I had been trying to think of a way to show my gratitude to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for my recovery from cancer.
Thanking him in tefillah I felt wasn’t enough , I wanted to do something tangible to help His people so I decided to set up a gemach – well two actually – one for chuppot with all the accessories that are necessary for a hopefully trouble free chuppah and one for Bris Milas.
Whenever we have had a bris in the family we have always had to go in search of a special bris cushion that the baby is traditionally laid on as he is brought by the kvatters to the mohel. It isn’t a halacha and of course you can have a bris without one, but it is a nice minhag and makes for attractive photos.
By now most of our children have more than one son so all that is needed is the big cushion. But I wondered what about all those for whom this is their first bris and maybe even their first baby.
Many people have the custom not to buy any baby products before the birth itself and when you are blessed with a son there is the extra stress of getting ready for the bris as well as buying all the baby paraphernalia.
So I decided to make a full everything-you-need bris package in my gemach. As well as the attractive embroidered cushion I bought a white newborn size outfit for the baby, some cloth diapers (the mohel always asks for these) and each time I include some disposable diapers, a disposable one-time changing mat, diaper cream, a pacifier, a tallit (you’d be surprised how many people forget to bring one) and I photocopied the tefillos for the bris onto 30 cards and laminated them.
Because not everyone is able to return the kit immediately after the bris, and often some of the items need washing, I always leave a few days in between bookings.
One day someone picked up the kit and asked if it was OK to take it out of town for the bris. I said it was no problem at all assuming that the person who picked it up would return it when they returned home. They did indeed return the kit on the evening after the bris, very grateful for all the items inside – but without the baby outfit.
“The mother felt bad returning a dirty outfit so she wanted to wash it herself and she’ll send it back soon.”
I tried to keep the smile on my face when I said “Oh that’s not necessary. Part of the service is that I wash the outfit . But I need it back as someone else wants to use it in a few days.”
“Oh I’m sure they’ll send it back very soon,” they said and thanked me again and left.
But they didn’t return it. I didn’t even know who the parents of the baby were and in any case I wouldn’t have felt comfortable bothering a new mother.
Listen, I told myself, this is a gemach remember. You’ve no right feeling annoyed otherwise you’re ruining all your good intentions.
So I did the most sensible thing – I went out and bought another white newborn baby outfit.
Now the stress was over. I was ready for the next bris.
A few days later the newly washed baby outfit from the previous bris was returned.
Two weeks later I had another call. “I hear you have a bris gemach. My daughter just gave birth to twin boys and b’ezras Hashem both of the boys will have their bris on time. I know you have a special pillow which they’ll be able to share…but I need two outfits. Can you tell me where I can get them?”
I couldn’t help smiling to myself.
“No problem,” I said.