The Bris Party

What To Do, What To Do?

Since our son’s bris was to fall on the first day of Succos, we called a posek to ask how we should deal with the fact that our not-yet-frum relatives would most likely be making the trip to attend the bris on Yom Tov.

His first suggestion: Stage a mock bris. Even though I was trained as an actor, I did not think that even Sir Lawrence Oliver could have pulled that one off. I deferred and requested another suggestion.

His next idea: Do it without telling them where it would be. I wasn’t sure if he was serious so I asked if he was. He was. I once again deferred and begged for another idea.

Then a pause…”I got it!” he said. This is what you do. And he suggested the brilliant idea of making a bris party.

What’s a bris party? I have no idea. Never heard of one. And as far as I can tell, even though we made one, I still don’t think they really even exist. But nonetheless, this is what we did.

We told our relatives the actual circumcision would be on Yom Tov, however, we were going to make the simcha (the bris party) on Sunday, chol hamoed. This way, all of our friends and relatives could be in attendance.

I waited on the other end of the phone for my mother’s disapproval of this plan. Instead what she said was “That’s a wonderful idea!”

“What? She bought it?” I thought to myself. But indeed she did, and not only that, she went on to hire a caterer to make the bris party, fully kosher I might add, in the Succah, on Sunday chol hamoed for roughly one hundred people. Chasdei Hashem!

What To Say, What To Say?

I asked my Rabbi if he would say a few words in the Succah to the assembled mass. He talked briefly regarding the Clouds of Glory and how they relate to the succah, and everyone, religious and not-yet-religious alike felt warm and fuzzy about being Jewish.

It was now my turn to speak. I read the sheet my wife typed up making sure to thank everyone for coming and for sharing in our simcha. Then, I went on to make a siyum.

I thought that since it was just a bris party and not an actual seudas mitzvah (mitzvah meal) that my siyum would kill two birds with one stone. Now, not only was I including not-yet-frum friends and relatives in our simcha, but because of my siyum it was also a seudas mitzvah! What could be better?

Apparently, judging from some of the comments I received after the bris party from some of the frum attendees, much, indeed, was left to be desired as a result of my siyum.

“It was great until it got a little religious there at the end.” one person commented.

“Why the siyum?” asked another. “What was the point?” “It made the bris party a bonafied seudas mitzvah” was my reply. But my FFB friend was not impressed and mussared me regarding my hidden agenda to frumafy those not-yet-observant in attendance.

Was he correct? Was it a bad call on my part? Was I being just another crazy BT, like he said?

Personally, I’m glad I made a siyum at my son’s bris party. I thought it made a nice beginning for him. I guess some people didn’t quite see it the same way.

17 comments on “The Bris Party

  1. I was there, it was beautiful. The comment about being too religious was foolish.

    In kiruv it is important to keep in mind the following.

    “Don’t bend down to pick up.” In other words, when one stoops down to the level of the person who needs the kiruv, it could be dangerous to the person doing the kiruv.

    You could have spoken about the world series, to keep them interested, but you did the right thing. Maybe you lit a spark in them? I myself sat next to secular Jews and they seemed to like what you said.

    TORAH TORAH TORAH always wins.

  2. Michoel

    I think the lone Bochur was referring to Bar-mitzvahs and not this particular party.


  3. To back up just a bit – while your expectation of your mom’s reaction made sense to me, her actual response made MORE sense.

    MY dad recently opted out of my son’s upsherinish (he came to the brisin, both weekdays) because it wasn’t something he could understand as a simcha – haircut? big deal – and he didn’t see the point of coming “just to be seen” to not get to spend quality time with the kids.

    So he promised an “extra” trip when he wouldn’t have to share his grandchildren with everyone else.

    And for my daughter, we made a seudah (simchas bas) on a convenient Sunday instead of a kiddush Shabbos morning to avoid the issues.

    I’m assuming you made a smaller seudah for the bris itself? The solution sounds ideal (excpt for the new mommy who would probably rather just collapse?). Kudos to the Rav who thought it up – and to you for turning down the other ideas until he thought up a good one!

  4. Michoel,
    Thank you for your comment. That is exactly the point. It was a nice party, but without the siyum it was just a party, with it, it became a mitzvah.

  5. Lone,
    His point is that without the siyum, it would not have been a true simcha al pi din. So there is no problem of ain m’arvin… Kapiche?

  6. ein me’arvin simcha b’simcha. Generations of really frum Jews have managed to be religous w/o having siyums at simchas.

  7. Thanks for all of the great comments so far!

    Before making the siyum I explained, very briefly, what I was about to do.

    The truth is, what I said could have been construed as somewhat religious. I said that we are lucky to have the torah because you could read it and find out what G-d wants from you, and having such a direct line to G-d makes us very fortunate. But I didn’t indict anyone for not being frum.

    Then I made the siyum and said that a mamzer talmid chachim comes before an am ha’aretz kohen gadol. Everyone at one of the not-yet-frum tables looked at one of the men there and said “see, there’s hope for you yet!” I think they got a kick out of it.

    Immediately afterwards, I didn’t feel like I had overstepped any major boundaries with what I said.

    It was only after the one guy (FFB) made a comment, and then the other guy (FFB) questioned my intent in making the siyum and told me “the rabbi made everyone feel great about being Jewish and then you came along and told them, in so many words, that they aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

    I didn’t see it the same way and I debated this point with him all of Yom Tov.

    I told the Rav that I had intentions to make a siyum, b/c then it would become a seudas mitzvah. He said it was a good idea. And yes, the rugalah was indeed delicious.

    I hope you are right, and I believe that those who were there did feel that I was sincere. Those who commented did so privately.

    My family all said it was lovely.


  8. My son made a siyum mishnayos at his bar mitzvah party. Granted, almost everyone there was frum, but my non-frum parents were in attendance as well. They didn’t understand much, but they came away with the definate sense that their grandson had accomplished something important, and they had nachas.

  9. Also,

    Since you mentioned in an earlier post that your family tells it like it is, what was their response. Maybe your friends were overreacting.

    Also, your mother deserves a lot of credit for rolling with the bris party idea and, all the more so, for footing the bill for a kosher caterer. (Did I mention that the rugalach were great?)

  10. Sounds like a nice idea to me. Hopefully all in attendance caught a glimpse of your sincerity and why you value this lifestyle. Hopefully the guests who complained to you did so privately, as they are also examples to the not-yet-frum and have to realize their responsibility as well. Mazel Tov on your son’s bris and you and your family should celebrate many more siyumim together.

  11. I remember coming to the party but had to leave early to teach a class. The party was great and everyone, frum and non-frum alike, seemed to be enjoying. I guess I was lucky enough to have left before it got ugly, lol.

    Two questions:

    1. Why didn’t you think that the Rabbi’s warm and fuzzy speech wasn’t enough?

    2. Did you ask the posek who came up with the bris party idea what he thought about the siyum idea?

    BTW, the rugalach were excellent!

  12. On a serious note, did you tell an interesting story during the siyum or did you try to read the text and make a whole drash? How long was it? For me, the general rule at these things, I’ve found, is if you feel you have to say something, only tell a story (and preferably from personal experience; not e.g. about a tzaddik necessarily). But best of all is to invite your father or some close relative to speak on the subject. Chances are that will do more for kiruv than even the most brilliant oratory performance one can muster.

  13. Aryeh, I think the siyum idea was fine. It was when you started telling them they were going to burn in hell that things got a little awkward. ;-)

Comments are closed.