Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To Tell Over That HaShem is Just: A Story of a Brit Milah

It is good to thank HaShem and to sing praises to Your Exulted Name, to tell of Your kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness in the nights. So begins the ninety-second psalm, A Song for Shabbat. Tradition teaches us that it was composed by Adam HaRishon, the first man. On the first day of his life, the sixth day of creation, he received a wife, ate from the Tree of Knowledge, and was banished from the Garden of Eden. And then it was the seventh day, a day of rest. The sun went down, it grew dark, and Adam was afraid. He thought the world was ending because of his sin. Lo and behold, the sun rose again in the morning and Adam understood that HaShem is faithful in the night and with kindness makes the sun rise anew each morning.
Five years ago my third grandchild, Elkana Yedidya, was born with many medical complications. He could not have a brit milah until after a series of surgeries. He had his first surgery when he was one day old. He stayed in the intensive care unit and only his parents and grandparents were allowed to visit him.  Nine days after his birth we received word that my father was going into emergency surgery in America. Cancer was discovered and he was given two months to live. My father agreed to spend them with us in Shilo and those two months stretched into eleven. His first weeks, though, were very difficult. He was recovering from surgery, the long flight to Israel, and the devastating news. I felt torn, needing to be in two places at once. One day, as we were driving home from my grandson in the hospital, my husband recited the beginning verses of the ninety-second psalm.

“It’s like your father is in the nighttime of his life and needs HaShem’s faithfulness,” he explained. “Elkana is in the morning and he needs lots of kindness.”
It was a very apt explanation and, although it brought tears to my eyes, it also gave me comfort. My father died with the love of his family surrounding him. I feel certain that HaShem was with him.
At ten weeks, Elkana was finally released from the hospital. We celebrated by my father taking all of us out for dinner. Still, there were many complications.  He would need a series of operations to be able to eliminate his waste properly. Due to respiratory problem his parents had to resuscitate him more than once and he was also prone to pneumonia. I lost track of the number of hospital stays he had.
In spite of all this, he had the most charming smile and he grew into a friendly, cheerful little boy. He loved going to nursery school, wearing a big kepah, and could not wait to wear tzitzit. Finally, when he was in kindergarten the date was set for the final surgery of the long series. It was scheduled for the thirteenth of Shvat, February sixth. While in the operating room he would have his brit milah.
The days leading up to that date were tense. Elkana had fever. Would he be well enough to have surgery or would it have to be postponed?  Thankfully, he was well and able to be wheeled into the operating room early that morning. He was practically dancing with excitement knowing that soon he would have his brit milah.

We left him and went to our normal corner in the waiting room. We prayed. We ate. We talked softly. We tried not to look at our watches too often. Elkana had been in surgery a little over an hour when the nurse called my daughter and son-in-law to come into the operating room for the brit milah. My daughter gave her father a gift of love and sent him in her place. She and I remained in the waiting room and cried. It was hard to believe that after five years Elkana was finally able to enter the covenant of Avraham.
Most of the time a brit milah is done with a lot of fanfare and excitement. Relatives and friends gather together in a holiday spirit. There is the suspense of learning what the baby’s name will be. Various honors are given out. A lavish meal is prepared. Five years ago we knew that when the day finally arrived for Elkana to have his brit milah there would be none of that.
Inside the operating room my husband and son-in-law stood at the side.  Elkana was completely covered except for the place of the brit. There were three doctors, one of them a mohel, and several nurses. The mohel said the blessings and made the cut. The whole operating room staff answered “amen” to the three blessings, and wished my son-in-law and husband “mazel tov”. Although it was so different from a normal brit milah, it was no less meaningful. Several hours later Elkana’s ninth surgery was over.   
At one time most mothers stayed in the hospital for at least a week after giving birth. Therefore hospitals in Israel have a brit room or hall. The one in Hadassah Ein Kerem is now used mostly for classes and conferences.  However, when the operation was finished we were told that we could use the room at four o’clock that afternoon.
A makeshift meal was put together. Several of Elkana’s uncles and a couple of friends joined us. We were a few short for a minyan but that is not a problem in Israel.  Four men came in as my son-in-law finished saying the set of blessing for a brit milah that were begun in the operating room.
Elkana is home from the hospital and we pray that he will never have to return. There are no guarantees in life, though. We do not know if he will grow out of his tendency to pneumonia.  We wonder how the memory of all the surgeries will affect him when he is older. Sometimes when I start worrying I remind myself of the last verse of the ninety-second psalm.
To tell over that HaShem is just, He is my rock and He does no wrong.
May Elkana Yedidya and all those in need have a full and speedy recovery.
To read an article about Elkana's surgery in America go to
brit milah: circumcision ceremony
kepah: skullcap
tzitzit: four-cornered garment with special strings which are knotted according to the Torah
mohel: the trained man who performs the brit milah according to Jewish law
mazel tov: literally good luck, figuratively congratulations
minyan: quorum of ten


Batya said...

Five years of prayers, B"H!

Ester said...

We are so grateful to everyone who prayed for Elkana!

Galia Berry said...

Having followed his progress for the past 5 years, this moved me to tears. May he go and grow from strength to strength, and always be a source of nachat to your entire family!

Ellen P. said...

So happy that Elkana finally was well enough to have a brit milah....and that his surgeries are now over. He is a wonderful child, with great parents who have helped him to live a normal life! He and you all are so blessed.