No Mohel, No Brit: the child is nearly a month old and still has no name
All borders are closed and many Jewish communities around the world find themselves without a mohel, as not every country has one. Rabbi Zvi Herberger’s son – almost a month old – is still waiting to be named. He has yet to be circumcised, and there is no end in sight.
Kobi Nachshoni | Ynet | April 1, 2020
The son of Rabbi Zvi Herberger, the rabbi of the Oslo community, is nearly one month old. Although fathers are commanded to circumcise their sons when they are eight days old – a commandment which almost all Jews follow – the rabbi’s son has still not been circumcised, and there is no end in sight.
In Norway, as in many countries, the borders have been hermetically sealed, leaving many Jews without the most basic religious services. “No one can go in or out of Norway,” says the rabbi, who is an emissary of Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary program to Norway’s capital, Oslo. “Whoever is not Norwegian cannot enter the country – and there is no mohel here.”
The son of the rabbi and his wife has still not been named – as the circumcision ceremony cannot take place. “We are forced to wait and wait and pray that the Corona pandemic ends soon, making it possible to re-open the borders.”
The Jews of Norway usually receive circumcision services from a mohel who is living in Sweden this year. “But the question is if he can return to Sweden. If he can, then we have hope. If not, we will have to wait weeks, if not months.”
Rabbi Herberger says, “There are countries that do not have a mohel, and have many Jews. Here the Jewish community numbers 700 members and there are another few hundred Jews who live a more or less Jewish life – possibly traditional – who are not members of the community. There are almost a thousand additional Jews who are almost completely assimilated, yet sometimes they also want to circumcise their sons. So we are not the only ones suffering from this situation. Small communities do not have a mohel, and right now they cannot bring one in.”
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president and director of the Ohr Torah Stone institutes, including the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary program, says he receives many reports from the hundreds of emissaries posted in communities around the world who encounter this issue. He says, “Some countries do not have a mohel, and in others people are forbidden to leave their homes due to the restrictions, or find themselves in quarantine, because of the pandemic. This is preventing Jews from fulfilling this commandment which is so basic and important.”
“Halachically, this is one of the most important commandments in Judaism, and it can be postponed only in life-threatening situations, which is what we are currently experiencing.” Rabbi Brander explained. “We are instructing our 300 emissaries, who are active in over 50 countries, that they must first and foremost maintain their physical and mental health, and that of their congregants. They are continuing their dedicated Torah work while strictly observing the life-preserving guidelines. With God’s help we will all get through this, and will be able to quickly go back to our religious lifestyles and routines.”