On Sunday morning, May 21 (Rosh Chodesh Sivan), Orthodox Jewish political media personality Ben Shapiro and his wife, Dr. Mor Shapiro, welcomed their new son into the world. The day after Shavuos, they celebrated Lev-Zion Asher’s bris at the Boca Raton Jewish Center (Rabbi Gibber’s shul). Guests were treated to a grand seudas mitzvah in the social hall, which was adorned with blue and “Baby Shapiro” themed décor and featured a huge selection of hot and cold dishes.
Mor entered the room holding the baby, who was then passed down to a long line of family members who brought him to the front of the room. The mohel, Rabbi Goren, offered an explanation of the ceremony, inflected with humor. He handed Ben the knife who then handed it back to the mohel in order to make him the shliach. “You want to make sure my hand is steady,” quipped the mohel. “Essentially, you give me power of attorney,” he joked to Ben, who is a lawyer. It was noted that the bris ceremony is an auspicious time to daven to Hashem for whatever you need. Ben’s father, David, then announced the baby’s name, Lev-Zion Asher ben Binyamin Aharon. Father and son wrote a book together in 2017, entitled Say It’s So: Papa, Dad, Me, and 2005 White Sox, on their love of the Chicago White Sox, which has been passed down from generation to generation; now there is a new member of the family to join that tradition.
After the ceremony, the crowd broke out into “mazel tovs” and wished the Shapiro family well. Interestingly, in 2019, Twitter user The Sassiest Semite (@LittleMissLiss) tweeted that she had been to dozens of brissim and that while she disagreed with Ben Shapiro on the issues, ritual circumcision was not barbaric as Democratic presidential and New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang seemed to imply. Rather, it is a religious ritual and it’s not OK to use it as an anti-Semitic trope.
Throughout the ceremony, Rabbi Toledano (Mor’s father) blessed guests who went up to him for a bracha. I then went to wish Ben mazel tov; he was very menschlich and had no airs about him. When I offered him a small cash present for the baby, he declined and said I should give it to tzedakah; I then said he should give it to tzedakah which he readily did.
During his remarks, Ben noted that he and Mor were privileged to be part of the warm Boca Raton community. They have only been living there for a few years, yet he feels like they have been there a long time – not because the people are tiring, he joked, but because they are so friendly. Ben thanked Rabbi Goren, Dr. Friedman, who oversaw the bris, and Rabbi Gibber and Boca Raton Synagogue’s Rabbi Goldberg, both of whom he considers friends and spiritual mentors.
Ben shared that he and Mor had bounced around different names, but they seemed to have become more Israeli and more Tzioni over time. Mor knew she wanted the name Lev, from Pirkei Avos Chapter 2, mishna 13, in which Rabbi Elazar says that the right path for a person to cling to is to have a “lev tov,” a good heart. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai states there that this is the best answer because it includes all the answers given by the other rabbis in this mishna. Having a good heart is the most important attribute of all.
When Mor had broached the subject of naming their son Lev, Ben wanted to know lev of what, as the word is used many different times in Tanach to mean different things. They agreed to Lev Zion, heart of Zion. Ben stated that his family is proudly Zionistic; as Zev Jabotinsky said, Zionism is moral and just, and we must do what is moral and just despite who agrees with it or not. Zion, he noted, also means Yerushalayim and the Jewish people, and represents our hope. He quoted Yeshayahu (52:1), “Awaken, awaken, put on your strength, O Zion; put on the garments of your beauty, Jerusalem the Holy City, for no longer shall the uncircumcised or the unclean continue to enter you.” Additionally, the lyrics of Hatikvah include our two-thousand-year-old hope to “be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Yerushalayim.”
The Shapiros decided to write Lev-Zion with a dash in the middle, making it one name. Given this strong name, Mor wanted to balance it out with something sweet. (“If you’ve met our kids, you need to balance out the strong with something sweet,” laughed Ben.) Thus, Asher. Lev-Zion Asher means “the heart of Zion is joy.”
Appropriate to the timing of the bris right after Shavuos, Ben cited the covenant of destiny which Rav Soloveitchik states was made on Har Sinai. Today, said Ben, we celebrate his son’s joining what the Rav calls the covenant of fate which began with Avraham Avinu as well as the covenant of destiny we renew on Shavuos. A bris is like Shavuos, Ben suggested, adding a new link in the chain tying us back to Har Sinai and forward to the coming of Moshiach. “How will Moshiach come about?” he said. “It will come about because we continue to bless our children just as we did with my son this morning.”