The circumcision of a Jewish baby took place at Kochi after seven-and-a-half years. The community is only twenty strong now
Photo: Mordokkayi Safir holding his baby son as he listens to prayers said by rabbi Avive Mizrakhi
By Shevlin Sebastian
At 8.30 a.m., last Sunday, around twenty people of the Jewish community gathered at a hall on Marine Drive, Kochi for a ceremony. And it was the rarest one: the circumcision of a baby boy, Menahem Yohan Pallivathukkal. He is the second son of senior marketing professional Mordokkayi Safir and his wife Sarah.
A Jewish rabbi Avive Mizrakhi from Jerusalem officiated as the mohel (the person who performs the circumcision). As Safir, who wore a kippah cap, held Yohan, encased in a blue blanket, in his arms, Avive read out prayers from the Torah.
Following the half-hour ceremony, Safir and Sarah, as well as their relatives, went to the City Hospital. There, following the administration of a numbing cream, the foreskin of Yohan's penis was cut by doctors. It was now that Yohan had officially become a Jew.
This event took place on the eighth day after the birth. “The reason why it is on this day, is because a verse in the Torah commands us to do so,” says Josephai Abraham (Sam), the president of the Association of Kochi Jews. The verse goes like this: 'And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised'.
Meanwhile, Safir's joy was tempered by the fact that both his parents had passed away a few years ago. “To be frank, I was not keen to go through with the circumcision because of the pain my son would have to undergo,” he says. “But it was Sarah's insistence that Yohan should be a Jew that made me go through with it.”
The couple returned to the hall at Marine Drive. They were greeted with loud claps and cheers. “It is a moment of great happiness when a baby becomes a Jew,” says Sam. “There are so few of us in the city now.” It was at this moment that Safir put a drop of grape wine in Yohan's mouth (this is symbolic of the blood which the Jews shed when they left Egypt and entered Israel after wandering 40 years in the desert).
Meanwhile, drinks flowed and snacks were consumed. Several Hebrew songs were sung loudly. And everybody had a good time.
Interestingly, the last circumcision that took place in Kerala was of Safir's eldest son, Menahim Ryan. “That was seven-and-a-half years ago,” he says, with a smile.
(The New Indian Express, Kerala editions)