Although early in his career as a Mohel, Rabbi Michael Rovinsky had already performed many brissim on New Americans, as the Russian immigrants were called back in the 80’s and 90’s. Therefore, he expected the bris scheduled for early that cold winter morning in 1990 in Dallas, Texas to be no different than all the others he had performed. However, what he was about to experience would change his relationship with G-d forever.
When he arrived at the doctor’s office, Alex* was already there, eagerly awaiting his turn for his Bris. Alex had just arrived in America 3 weeks before and literally all he knew about Judaism was that a Jew needs have a bris and since he was a Jew he must have a bris. After having an interpreter explain the significance and history behind the mitzvah of Bris Milah and what to expect during the proceedure, Rabbi Rovinsky began to perform the bris. He set up the instruments and as he lifted the knife, Alex, in broken English yelled, “stop”. Suspecting that the numbing medicine had not fully worked, Rabbi Rovinsky asked, “baleet” (the word for pain in Russian). Alex shook his head and said, in a broken English, “No!, Me be like Abraham, me do cut!” Not sure he heard correctly, Rabbi Rovinsky asked Alex to repeat himself. To which Alex made it very clear that he wanted to perform the bris on himself.
Not believing he was really witnessing what was transpiring, he gave Alex the izmal (bris knife), helped him with his very first bracha, “Baruch….asher kiddishanu bmitzvosav vtzeevanu al hamila” and watched as Alex proceeded to give himself a Bris Milah.
After applying the necessary bandaging, Rabbi Rovinsky went out to his car and cried at the amazing display of mesiras Nefesh (self sacrifice and commitment) of a young man who wanted nothing more than to enter into the covenant of his people with Hashem
The question we all must ask ourselves is, “Have we learned the lesson from Alex”? He grew up in Russia knowing nothing about Torah and where the practice of Judaism was punishable with a sentence to Siberia or worse . We, thank G-d, live in a country where we are free to take advantage of so many opportunities to learn Torah, perform mitzovs and live as Jews. Do we take advantage of those opportunities? Do we strive to connect with G-d the same way Alex?