“What are you doing?”
“What’s that for?”
The questions came from the two young daughters of Rabbi Moshe Lieblich and his wife Chana, directors of Chabad of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The little girls, wearing identical long white dresses and white bows in their bobbed dark brown hair, directed their questions to Rabbi Levi Heber of Brooklyn, NY, an Orthodox Jewish mohel who performed the circumcision or bris ceremony for their youngest brother on Tuesday (Sept. 10).
Pointing out the bandages and cup on a table, the rabbi patiently explained what the instruments were for and that the placard in Hebrew of Psalms 121 was a blessing for their tiny brother, born just 18 days before. He reminded them they would find out their brother’s name, the fifth child in their family, after the ceremony ended.
Heber, the director of the International Bris Association, said he’s gotten the nickname ‘The Mohel of the Carolinas’ because of his many trips to North Carolina and South Carolina to perform bris ceremonies for Jewish families.
It’s a business that “doesn’t have repeat customers, only repeat referrals,” he joked.
“Usually we like to have the bris at eight days old unless the infant was premature or there were complications. In this case, we needed to wait since the baby had jaundice,” Heber said later. “There’s great significance to the number eight. It signifies that the child is entering a covenant that is not limited by nature, that surpasses the natural world, and his connections to God are purer now.”
So the Lieblich family chose to have their son’s bris ceremony on his 18th day instead and also during the auspicious period of repentance and introspection called the Days of Awe leading up to Yom Kippur.
“I know it’s a special mitzvah (good deed) for him,” Chana Lieblich said, cradling her son. “I’m just hoping it’s a good start for him and that he will grow up to be a good person.”
Members of the Jewish community crowded into the Lieblich home, and the men joined in Hebrew prayers in a side living room.
Rabbi Lieblich’s family from New York weaved through the crowd with platters of food for a dinner on the lawn after the bris.
Chana Lieblich’s youngest sister carried around an open computer to broadcast the bris over Skype to their parents and extended family in France.
During the bris, Rabbi Lieblich’s mother gently placed his son on a white pillow in the mohel’s arms. Chana Lieblich watched patiently as her husband and the men of the Jewish community prayed and read passages over her son.
After the bris, the excited crowd hushed so the baby could hear his own name whispered in his ear for the first time.
Under the feast tent outside, Rabbi Lieblich explained the significance of the name his family chose for their third son – Sholom Dovber.
Their son was named after the fifth Chabad rebbe who “revolutionized the yeshiva world with a system of sending rabbis out to communities to establish synagogues,” the rabbi added. “So for us, when it came time to name our first boy born while we’ve been in Wilmington, we couldn’t think of a better name for him.”