Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hatafat Dam Brit

First and foremost, I want to provide the disclaimer that I promise not to use this blog to talk too terribly much about religion in any of its forms for any extended period of time. I have touched on our exploration of Judaism a few times in the past, and will doubtlessly do so again when occasion and content call for it. This is not a blog about religion, and I don't want to make my readers uncomfortable (or worse, lose any) due to too much conversation about topics that may not interest them. However, Judaism has become important to us, and Jewish matters will continue to pop up from time to time.

With that said, today we will be discussing The Covenant of Circumcision (Sorry!).

Jewish males must be circumcised within eight days of birth. Non-Jewish males who wish to convert to Judaism must also undergo circumcision (Eep!).

Fortunately, TJ and I were born into a century in which most American baby boys underwent circumcision as a health measure immediately following birth (Whew!).

However...medical circumcision is not the same as brit milah, which is performed with the intention of entering the covenant of Israel. And so the rabbis invented hatafat dam brit, the extracting of a ceremonial drop of blood know. The procedure is billed as quick, painless, and necessary if one wishes to be recognized by all branches of Judaism.

Our conversion is scheduled for completion on November 4th, and today was the only day the mohel could meet with us. The only problem was that he lives in Baltimore and his schedule for the day was full. So we offered to meet him at his apartment early this morning.

You know, we have been wanting to go to Baltimore for months, and had assumed that once we finally got there, it would be for the purposes of taking a John Waters tour or something. Hmm. Maybe next time.

During the 1.5 hour car ride to Baltimore, my mind kept flashing from one horrible thought to the next. We don't know this guy from Adam. What if he kills us and throws us in a ditch? What if I'm just a big weenie and can't go through with it? Does he properly sterilize his equipment? What if he decrees that I wasn't circumcised enough...and he needs to take a bit more off the top (Gah!)?

By the time we arrived at the rabbi's home, I would say that I had done a decent job of both working myself up into a nervous fit AND hiding it from TJ. We were welcomed warmly and ascended the narrow flight of stairs leading up to the mohel's self-proclaimed bachelor pad. The family portrait on the wall seemed to indicate that he had not been a bachelor for very long. The decor indicated a recent move, which TJ confirmed later. I've often wondered about the personal lives of religious leaders, yet this was the first time I'd found myself inside one's home. I was fascinated.

Thoughts of the rabbi's personal life evaporated when he opened up his tool box and withdrew a small white linen cloth, upon which he laid a gauze bandage, a tube of Neosporin, and a pair of the tiniest, rustiest scissors I have ever seen. I almost passed out on the spot. Trying to maintain my composure, I glanced at TJ, who looked just as nervous as I was. What the HELL were we going to do?

God does exist, people. I state this as fact, because the scissors were only there to cut the gauze in half. The drop of blood was extracted by a teeny tiny needle that miraculously appeared out of nowhere and caused no pain. I wonder if mohelim always presents the scissors first, giddily hoping to freak out the clientele? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

There is not much pomp and circumstance involved here. He fills out a document certifying completion of the ritual, performs the ritual, says a brief prayer, and sends you on your way. The entire process had quite the assembly line feel to it. All told, we were in and out within 15 minutes, with another couple waiting on the living room sofa to go through the same process.

Fortunately, they arrived after the snip, as the entire process occurred in the dining room.


  1. Fascinating. I want to comment, but I just don't know what to say.

  2. Think on it and get back to me in the morning. lol

  3. Hi Aaron, I ran across your blog while searching on the net about other men who've had the Hatafat Dam Brit. My Hatafat Dam Brit is scheduled for August 10 and my conversion is complete on Aug 31, 2011.

    I started reading more about you and was amazed at all the similarities. I live in Austin, Texas, and I noticed you are from Central Texas. I am a Texas A&M grad, and you are, too. My name is Aaron, as is your's. I'm a gay man with a long-term partner, and you are, as well.

    Anyway, I just wanted to connect with you since I ran across your blog randomly and can relate to you.

    You ever get back to Central Texas?

  4. Hi, thanks for reading! I do make it back to Central Texas once in a blue moon to visit my family. The next scheduled stop is November 2012, and a jaunt to Austin is very likely, as I have friends from high school/college there. If you'd like to connect via Facebook, send me a link to your page on here, and I'll add you. Don't worry...I won't publish the link. lol.

  5. Hey just curious, how much did it cost, if you don't mind me asking. Trying to budget...

  6. Sorry...neither of us can remember. I wan to say it was no more than a couple hundred...but it's totally a number pulled out of the air. :-(