You’re going to stick that baby with a needle?” My voice must have betrayed my initial shock and dismay. This was my week-old grandson we were discussing! I listened to the softspoken young man as he competently and calmly described the brief ceremony he was about to conduct. He assured me the needle would be carefully sterilized, and after a split-second pin prick to draw just one drop of blood, I would have the honor of placing anti-bacterial ointment and a band-aid on my new grandson’s tiny heel. I was not at all sure I could handle it. Then I reminded myself that my daughter and son-in-law as parents were even more emotionally involved than I; and they had chosen this rite to affirm their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Long before little Asher was born, his parents, Lyn and Alan, had decided that if they had a boy, they would have him circumcised on the eighth day, confirming him as the physical seed of Abraham. After his birth at a Jewish hospital, they were amazed and disappointed that the medical staff was unsympathetic to their desire for a traditional eighth-day Jewish bris. “Modern parents usually prefer to have it done here in the nursery just before mother and child are discharged,” they were advised. “Once he leaves here, you can’t bring him back to the newborn nursery. He’d have to go to the emergency room because we don’t have facilities for such a ritual.” Since the emergency room was hardly a fitting place for family and friends to gather for a religious ceremony, Lyn and Alan were faced with a problem. They knew that even though Judaism decrees that anyone born of a Jewish mother is a Jew, probably no mohel would perform a bris for the baby of Jewish believers in Jesus who were committed to raise their child in that same faith. They had two alternatives: They could try to find a doctor who would come to their house on the eighth day, a Sunday; or they would have the medical procedure performed by a doctor in the hospital nursery and plan a religious ceremony at home four days later. Since doctors in their area generally don’t make house calls, especially not on weekends, they settled for the hospital circumcision.
The new parents then made plans for the religious service and a small party at home, and they chose a close friend, also a Jewish believer in the Messiah, to perform the ceremony. From careful research at the Jewish library, this young man learned that at times it was permissable under extenuating circumstances to circumcise a child at a time other than on the eighth day. However, on the eighth day there must be a token shedding of blood as a sign of the covenant, thus the pricking of the infant’s heel.
At the appointed hour, family and friends gathered, and the ceremony began with songs and prayers of thanksgiving. Baby Asher slept on a colorful pillow on his proud grandfather’s lap, and I stood by with my tube of ointment and a band-aid. When the moment arrived, I winced as the officiant drew that small drop of blood, but the baby hardly stirred. During the service the young parents both affirmed their gratitude for this precious gift from God and their desire to raise him to know and honor the God of Israel. We all joined in prayers and expressions of gratitude that God had called our Father Abraham and had made a special covenant with him and his seed forever. And while we rejoiced that as Jews we were physically included in a special relationship to the God of
Abraham, we also acknowledged God’s command that we be related to him spiritually as well, through the New Covenant foretold by the prophet Jeremiah:
“‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant…This is the covenant I will make…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people…they will all know me…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'” (Jer. 31:31-34)
As I sat there at my grandson’s bris, I thanked God for that new covenant whereby all people, including those who are not physically related to Abraham, can have a special relationship with Abraham’s God. I thought of the One who spoke of that new covenant at His last Passover seder when He lifted the wine cup and said:
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:28)
He was the promised Messiah, who reconciles all men to God by the covenant in His own blood. He will come back to earth one day to rule on King David’s throne. Then God will complete His answer to this prayer from the sidbur, spoken at the end of a bris service:
“May the All-Merciful, regardful of the merit of them that are akin by the blood of the circumcision, send us his anointed (Messiah) walking in his integrity, to give good tidings and consolations to the people that is scattered and dispersed among the peoples.
May the All-Merciful send us the righteous priest, who remains withdrawn in concealment until a throne, bright as the sun, and radiant as the diamond, shall be prepared for him, the prophet who covered his face with his mantle and wrapped himself therein, with whom is God’s covenant of life and of peace.”
As I look back on the events of that important day in our family’s history, I remember my pain at seeing just one drop of that precious baby’s blood spilled. Then I recall with sadness and humility what it must have cost God, my heavenly Father, to allow the Messiah to bleed and die as the atonement for the sins of the whole world. I also remember and rejoice in God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3:
“…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Through the blood of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, God has made it possible for all people who accept His atonement to have forgiveness of sin and a new relatiohship with Him. Thus He has fulfilled His promise to Abraham.