Rabbi Gansburg and Brit Yosef Yitzchak,
Where do I begin? As you can ascertain from my brothers letter, my upbringing was “interesting” to say the least, as far as my heritage. I only knew that I WAS Jewish and that is all. Not 1 fact more. I was raised with non-denominational Christian views and beliefs, but for the past 25 or so years (a long time) I have felt that something was missing within my relationship to G-d.
I would be lying if I said that I had not felt Him in my life from time to time, although not as much as I was so desperately seeking.
I always wondered what it meant to “Put G-d first” in your life, as so many pastors had preached. So many questions arose throughout my life that didn’t make any sense. Most notably in the few months leading up to my Bris (and after my brothers concern for my observances) I wondered why Christian pastors could eat pork, (and do other things as well) and teach others that it was ok to eat pork, when it was so clearly written in the Bible.
Then I began to wonder how I had missed it as well. (Among other things)
I wasn’t sure what my brother was doing with what I called “that Jewish thing”, but as his observances and wisdom about them increased, so did my desire to hear about them and learn more. I trust my brother with my life, and believe him to be the most intelligent person I have ever met, and maybe one of the smartest people on the planet. In short, if he tells me that something is important, then it is. As my knowledge of Judaism grew, so did my loathing for Christian beliefs and teachings that seem to contradict scripture without basis. About a year ago my wife and I changed our eating habits to a Kosher diet, Much to the dismay of people in our congregation, including the Pastor.
When my brother told me of his plans for a bris, he said it half jokingly so I never took him that serious, although I thought he was crazy just for thinking about it. I was always told of “Circumcision of the Heart” and that seemed good enough for me.
I was ignorant to all things Jewish.
He asked me to be at his bris in Miami Beach on Sunday. I said that it would be difficult to make it because my wife and I were in the middle of packing up our condo, and painting in preparation for moving into our new home in Brandon. The more I thought about it and the more I spoke to my mother about it, I realized how important it was FOR MY BROTHER that I attend. So we left in the morning, and drove to Miami from Key West.
NOW TO THE BRIS….
I wanted to be there for my brother, and also to “observe” the procedure, so I elected to stay in the surgery suite with him, although he was so relaxed and almost giddy about the whole thing that he needed no such support. (I, on the other hand was a different story, but I will get to that in a few minutes.) Being a bit squeamish I had to leave the room a few times, but Rabbi Gansburg checked on me every time to make sure I was okay. I thought the whole thing was a bit weird to say the least. Rabbi Gansburg even mentioned to me that they could “do me” next to which I thought “HECK NO”!!!!! Besides, “I had some heavy lifting to do while I was moving in 4 days, so I couldn’t possibly have a surgery”, or so I told myself!
After my brother was done the attention turned to me. I have to say that I was conflicted in my thoughts of what to do. On one hand I had found the same sort of anti-circumcision propaganda on the internet as my brother had, and most of which had shown terrible pictures of mutilated penises combined with stories of erectile dysfunction, pain and impotence. On the other hand I believed that G-d had more for me and as my brother put it “All G-d’s plans for your life are on hold until you make this covenant with him”, also Rabbi Gansburg’s kind way and urgency that this was the most important of all mitzvot. He assured me that if I wanted to do this in a week, then he would come for me, “Nothing will stop us” as he put it, but “NO TIME IS BETTER THAN RIGHT NOW.” I didn’t know what to do.
I closed my eyes.
I started to think about my life. I thought of everything that I had tried to do on my own. I recalled a failed attempt as an actor after an expensive move out to Los Angeles. I remembered a failed business and the resounding debt that had incurred. I thought of my new internet business, and the lack of sales despite a great idea. I thought about failed relationships and a separation from my family and from G-d.
I recalled a lot of hard work coupled with great ideas and mixed with Faith that all turned out to be failures, from a both a monetary and relationship standpoint.
Rabbi Gansburg told me that the foreskin was a blockage to His people and that in it’s removal came a closeness and a covenant with Hashem.
When I opened my eyes I saw G-d’s people before me, ready to do G-d’s work. I became very emotional and started crying. I am not sure what happened to me, but something “happened” to me. I was coming around. If there was definitely a block in my life, then I wanted it gone.
That’s when Rabbi Gansburg dropped the bomb….
He said that if I wanted to go ahead with Bris Milah, then he would provide painters for my condo, and movers for my move, so that I could rest afterwards.
Why would someone offer that? Why indeed. It was THAT important. I decided to go ahead.
From there on the rest of the day is kind of a blur for me, like a very surreal dream. I do remember Rabbi Gansburg and my brother at my side the whole time, praying for me and holding my hand. Like 2 angels sent to comfort me. But unbeknownst to me there were many more angels in Miami beach that day.
At the moment of the cut I became extremely emotional and started to weep. I prayed for a closer relationship with Hashem, protection for my wife and family and success in my future ventures in life. (Prayers that seem very selfish to me now in retrospect, but that’s what came out)
Throughout the whole procedure I felt no pain whatsoever, which still doesn’t make too much sense to me. There was some irritation over the next few weeks and erections were painful but that was only for a few days and only happened at night. The swelling was considerable, and my brother and I laughed and made jokes about it for about a month. It is still an inside joke between us.
Mentally: My life has changed. I have changed. I am more clear and calm in my head. I think first and react second. I feel less of the “evil inclination”. And think less morally wrong sexual thoughts. As my brother put it, “I feel less of a pervert”. My relationship with my family has gotten closer, and I feel especially closer to my brother, with whom I have fought terribly with my whole life. The latter being one of the greatest blessings that I could have ever imagined. Subsequently, my wife and her sister have become closer at the same time.
Physically: All of my allergies are gone. This was the first thing that I noticed after the procedure. I have grown up a slave to my asthma and terrible allergies. Always taking medication and pills just to make it through the day. I rubbed my nose and scratched my throat constantly. I was allergic to everything; including animals which was rough being that I am an animal lover and enjoy having many pets. My mother said that the spiritual root of asthma and allergies is fear. It can be said that I lived down my fears that day on that table. I kicked satan in his teeth and it wasn’t expected.
Spiritually: I am gaining a sense for who and what I am, and what is expected of me from G-d. I know how I should be living, and how I should be thinking. I am being as observant as I can be, and increasing my observances as I learn about them and what they are. I want to be pleasing to G-d and for the first time in my life, I can see the path.
I can not say Thank You enough to Rabbi Gansburg, Heller, and everyone else involved, including Dr. Cohen and Dr. Salzhauer. You are all the caliber of people that I will strive to be in my life. I wish I could repay you for what you have given to me with more than this letter. I hope that you will call on me if you ever are in need of anything. I am here for you. May G-d continue to richly bless your lives as he has blessed mine through you and your acts.
(Yonasan ben leah bas Dovid)