Saturday, August 1, 2015

Of promises.And covenants. And yes, circumcision.


Tonight, Marsha, Russ, Deacon James and I meet for Bible Study. We’re back in the chapel, while Dion is working on the FARMIGO food distribution. Tonight we’re into Genesis 17. Where God promises Abram that at 99 that he will be the father of multitudes, which he finds laughable. Though not as laughable as Sarai when she gets the news.  This is the covenant cutting with Abram, (b’rit) which requires as a sign the actual cutting of the foreskin of the penis. So we have to stop a minute and ask why. Marsha suggests that it was initially a public health issue that maybe got retrofitted in this way. It has remained to this day, though it has gone from standard medical practice to semi-controversial, you know, like with debates in Tikkun magazine and all.

I remember the b’rit of my 3 sons. The old rabbi who performed his free hand style with a cool and quick hand.  (This was after we had to get the hospital to take it off of our standard bill.) The hip baby books said if you wanted to get a circumcision, go natural, get a moel. The first was at a friend’s, the second in our apartment community room and the last at our house’s back yard. The first had 6 ministers and 3 rabbis. There was of course a degree of shock for the protestants on hand. My father, who’d always wanted a baptism, was more than content. Somehow this ceremony made the child and his name official. Today there are alternate naming ceremonies. But I still remember my brother-in-law John holding the babies at each bris.

It wasn’t just Abram. And not even just the Hebrews. It was everyone, slaves and all. (damn, not only am I a slave, but this too?) And these are adults. Abraham is 99 years old! Even Ishmael at 13. For this reason, Muslims have a special circumcision ceremony at that age. (Or earlier, varying by culture) I remember the street in Duisberg, Germany where in addition to being the Muslim bridal gown capital of Europe, there are shops selling little prince like outfits for boys for this special occasion. Anyways, it remains shrouded in mystery.

Abraham is promised ,the land of Canaan. Well what about the people who are already there? Even though this is a story told to justify what has already been done, what about the Canaanites? Abraham pleads for Ishmael, and he too, will father a great nation, but no covenant.

We enjoy the fact that Sarah’s question is whether she will have pleasure at her late age, the word implying dampness, wetness, the precondition for fertility, but the point is pleasure…Far from the Catholic tradition of sex for only procreation, the Jewish tradition has always recognized pleasure.

There’s also this whole run around with Abraham and Sarah as to whether she laughed or not. She says, NO, but Abraham knows she did. All that laughing (yitzhaking), which can also mean mocking or sexual activity, will name the child. Abram and Sarai are now Abraham and Sarah and a child is coming who will be named for laughing.

So what,we wonder? Marsha suggests well ,at least it’s never too late. Even when you think everything is barren and it’s all over, there’s still hope. I want to believe that. Sugarman, Rodriguez gets found, rediscovered. Old man Bebo, one of the creators of Cuban son, is found in a Sweden piano bar and starts a career again. Angelo Romano has his first real gallery show at age 80+. So, there’s till hope.

And always, we see an empire telling its own mythic story for its own reasons.

Once again, we walk out as the Antigona cast is ready to go on. Russ and I will head to the Gate for a recap.

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