The Strangest Dream


The little man in the photo above is Zeke, the new son of my friends Tom Zakim and Jill Foley. He’s sleeping. When he awakens, he’ll turn to his mother as if to say: “Man, I just had the strangest dream. It was like some ninja was chopping my dick off.” And he won’t be far from wrong.

Zeke was just circumcised in a Jewish ritual called a “bris”. The moyhel performing the snip-snip – a tiny Asian woman, dressed entirely in black – moved with such deft speed, the whole thing was over before Zeke could gasp or the rest of us in attendance could shy away in sympathetic reaction.

I turns out, Zeke was in good hands. Dr. Jing is a plastic surgeon; and her co-moyhel husband, who did all the talking at the ceremony, is a urologist.

Before the bris, Jing telephoned to ask Jill’s “Hebrew name.” Jill, who is not Jewish, didn’t know she had one. And anyway, wondered Tom, why is a mohel named Jing so concerned with Hebrew names?

It reminded me of the joke about the Jewish businessman from New York who finds himself in Hong Kong during Yom Kippur. He asks the concierge at his hotel if, by any chance, there is a synagogue in Hong Kong; and to his surprise, there is one. He follows the directions down winding alleyways until, sure enough, he finds it. The congregation is entirely Chinese, as is the rabbi; and the service is conducted in a mixture of Hebrew and Cantonese languages. Afterward, the man approaches the rabbi to say that it was the most beautiful Yom Kippur service he had ever attended. The rabbi, looking surprised, exclaims: “You are Jewish? Funny, you don’t look Jewish!”

This, in turn, reminds me of a joke which is a favorite of Tom’s brother, Eric: What do they eat in China? Food.

But we digress.

I had never been to a bris before. My own tree-trimming was done by a surgeon at the U.S. Army hospital in Munich, where I was born. The advice I had always heard: “Go to the bris, just don’t look.” Why attend if you intend to miss all the action? “For the food.”

Zeke, of course, missed the post-chop feast. He was too busy snoozing; and, anyway, solid food is not yet on his menu. I suppose he had other reasons to show up. Circumcision not only turns the penis into a lean, clean, sex-machine; epidemiologists now tell us that it greatly reduces the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

The debate around circumcising infants generally centers on the ethics of informed consent. Is it any more fair to carve a kid’s penis without asking than it would be to tattoo a “mom”-inscribed, arrow-pierced heart on his ass? Maybe not. But it took me exactly one bris to be glad-as-hell that my parents did not delay this not-altogether-comfortable-looking procedure so that I could experience it in the full awareness of consenting adulthood.

1 Response to “The Strangest Dream”

  1. 1 mbjesq 14 November 2010 at 4:29 pm

    A San Francisco foreskin activist now wants to put a circumcision ban on the November 2011 ballot there.

    I stand by the final sentence of the above post and note of the growing body of epidemiology on the subject; but I would never advocate or prescribe what someone should or should not do with their own equipment — or their son’s.


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