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April 4, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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April 4, 2003

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PAGE 36 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 4, By Jerome So olovsky MADRID (JTA)--It was truly a historic find. About 15 years ago, archi- vists examining several yellowed volumes of notarial records in the city of Girona in northeast- ern Spain began suspecting that the covers were lined with pre- cious historical documents. They carefully picked apart the volumes and found a multi- tude of Hebrew manuscripts embedded in the covers, includ- ing business records and other contracts between Jews, and even a fragment from the To- rah. Researchers now suspect that another 162 books dating from the 15th and 16th centuries might also contain an unprec- edented treasure ofJudaica, and believe that all the manuscripts can be recovered with the latest technology. They are drawing may upplansforanambitiousproject erty and what kind of trades left behind by the Jews of the to open all of the books, they were in," she said. medium-sized city, located be- The documents could shed TheunopenedvolumescouldtweenBarceionaandtheFrench lightonathrivingmedievalJew- contain manuscripts that shed border. ish community that is believed light on the origins of Kabbalah Girona had a Jewish pres- to have been a center ofJewish itself, sheadded, ence since at least the ninth mystical learning. "It would really be a dream, century and was the birthplace While nothing is certain un- because sources of that kind of Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, til the delicate covers are disas- from that time are very rare. also known as Nachmanides or sembled, the Girona historical That would really make us feel the Ramban. archives could contain the big- proud," said Hosta, who also is The community of at least gesttrove of medieval Hebrew oneoftheleadersofaneffortto 700 Jews began to suffer PO- manuscripts ever found in Eu- recover the Jewish heritage of groms in 1331. Most chose rope. - Girona and other Spanish cit- martyrdom when anti-Jewish 'q'hearchivesareverypotent ies. riots fired up by anti-Semitic sources of information on the However, she added a note of preacherssweptacrossSpainin JewsofGirona,"saidAnsumpeio caution: "It's also possible we 1391. HostaoftheCentroBonastruc might find lots of plain filler By 1492, when King Borta, amuseumofJewishhis- paper." Israeli scholar Yoel Ferdinand and Queen Isabella toryinGirona.BonastrucBorta Rappel has told Israeli media decreedtheexpulsionofSpain's is the name of the mystical that the volumes could contain Jews, only around 100 Jews still scholar Nachmanides in the hitherto unseen pages of lived in Girona. The last syna- Catalan language. Kabbalah or writings ofgogue and the remaining prop- 'q'here'samultitudeofinfor- Nachmanides, a finding that he erty owned by Jews then were marion on the daily life of the said would be "tremendously sold to the municipal notary. Jews, on who got married to significant."TheGironamanu- Several years ago, research- whom, who boughtwhatprop- scriptsarebelievedtohavebeen ers at the Provincial Historical Archive began to suspect that ing tables and road something of interest was lin- Soler said extracting ing the covers of 165 yellowed manuscripts from the notarial tomes, ing 162 volumes would be~ Thesuspicionsarosebecause long and painstaking the covers looked like they con- The fragments are tained filler paper, archivist fragile, and are glued to Santi Soler said. binding. Even Butresearchersalsoremem- removal, a human touch t bered that several times before enough to make in Spanish historical libraries, grate. Hebrew documents had been Hosta said found embedded inside book under way to raise covers, the project, '~Ve knew that a treasure have estimated could cost might exist inside these covers lions of dollars. because itwas common in those days to pad book covers with the money to come from papers that weren't seen as hav- ing any use," Soler said. Indeed, the practice was part projects that cast a glimpse~ of the general spiritofthetimes, the country's when sacred Jewish objectswere However, desecrated without qualms, wheels of bureaucracy Museums today display tomb- slowly." An exhibition stones stolen from Jewish cem- eteries that were used as wash- planned for later this year. By George Robinson NEWTON, Mass. (JTA)-- Congratulations, it's aboy! Now you have eight days to plan a brit milah. Actually, this is not as hard as it sounds. The mohel you choose will tell you almost everything you need to know. Today you can even find one over the Internet - indeed, you can learn enough about planning a brit from the Web sites of various mohalim that by the time your research is done you'll be ready to every- thing but the actual cutting. The brit milah is held on the eighth day of the baby's life, and is frequently held in the morn- ing. The Jewish day begins in the evening of the previous day. For example, if your son was born late Tuesday night, his brit will be scheduled for the Wednesday of the following week. A brit milah is one of those rare Jewish life cycle rituals that can, in fact, on occasion, must, be performed on a Shabbat or festival, evenYom Kippur, eight days is eight days. However, if the brit milah needs to be post- poned because of the baby's health, the re.scheduled event cannot take place on a Shabbat or festival. If it cannot happen on the eighth day, the timing is no longer considered suffi- ciently imperative to risk the violations of traditional Shabbat practices that could potentially be involved. The mohel will examine the baby to certify that he is healthy enough to undergo the proce- dure (unless a doctor has de- cided he is not). If he isn't, itwill be postponed to a later date. As usual in matters of physical health, Judaism takes a cau- tious approach, and mohalim are generally more strict on this issue than doctors. Perhaps the first decision you have to make is where to hold the ceremony. There is ample precedent for havinga brit milah in the synagogue, in the context of daily morning services, if you so choose. The main argument against using the synagogue rather than your home is that it involves unnecessarily moving the baby around, which may be unsettling for a newborn (and moreworkforyou!).Ifyourhome is large enough, you may choose to host it there. The mohel can even do the circumcision in the hospitalon the eighth day, should there be health considerations that aren't serious enough to postpone the circumcision alto- gether but which would be helped by this setting. Findinga mohel isboth easier basis? How often doyou perform and more complicated than it brit milah? How many have you was, say, a century ago. Back performed overall? then, you would have used the What is your background local mohel without too much and training? In addition to be- thought. Today, your options ing a mohel, are you a rabbi, areconsiderablyexpanded,with physician, or nurse practitio- mohalim available from all the ner? Do you have a current major streams of Judaism, in- medicallicenseandboardcerti- cluding an ever-growing num- fication? In what medical spe- ber of doctors who are also cialty? Are you a member of a trained as mohalim. Your local national body representing rabbi and Jewish friends who mohalim? have had boys can recommend How do you sterilize your a mohei to you. The Internet instruments? Do you use anes- can alsojump-startyour search thesia? If so, what type do you with listings ofmohalim inyour recommend? area or nationally. The Reform what technique do you use movement has become much to perform the circumcision? more active in promoting brit Do you do a"prep" on the baby? milahasaritualobservanceand If so, what does it entail? maintains a directory of both Is the baby restrained on a male and female mohels who board during the ceremony? can perform the circumcision. (If appropriate:) Can you Given this wealth of choices, integrate the needs of an inter- it is important to know what faith couple? Are you comfort- questions to ask before you se- able with a role for both men lect a mohel, while you may and women in the ceremony? simply choose a qualified and what part can non-Jews play in skilled mohel on the basis of the event? Can you describe the recommendations(rnanypeople ceremony briefly? do), you may well want to ask What is your fee structure? him or her many of these ques- What is your usual territory? tions for your own knowledge. Would you consider traveling Some of the issues are self-evi- outside that area? dent, but not all: How many Do you have a list of refer- yearshaveyoubeenamohel?Do ences that I may contact? youdothisonafull-orpart-time Now that you've found a ]RAD]f'J[3[ON NEVE]t TASTED SO G 30]D. This Passover, whether you choose to celebrate with us or in the comfort of your own home, let Too Jay's do the preparation for your holiday meal. From all of us at Too Jay's, we wish you and yours a Good Pesach. Holiday E peaials 13risker Platter, Half Roasted Chicken or 13aked Salmon Filet, $13.95 Beef: Flankan or Roasted Cornish Game Hen With Hot With Matzo & Fruit Stuffing Horseradish Sauce and an Apricot Glaze. $16.95 All entreee inalude: Glass of Kosher Wine Matzo Ball Soup Gefilte Fish or Chopped Liver Potato Pancake and Carrot Tzimmes Macaroons/Coffee or Tea mohel, you also have someone who can answer many of your questions about preparing your house or synagogue for the brit milah. If you are planning to have many guests, the mohel may be able tosuggest a caterer, a photographer, and evena Jew- ish calligrapher who can do a certificate commemoratingthe event. Every mohel has hishaerown requirementsand guidelines for what happens during the cer- emony and it would be wise to be guided by them, but certain elements are standard. A minyan is customary but is not necessary for a brit milah. The mohel can, if need be, per- form the rite with only the pres- ence of the father and the sandek, the person (usually a grandparent) who holds the baby while the circumcision is performed. You may want to have the loose Jewish counter- part to godparents, who carry the baby in. Of course, you can invite as many or as few people as you want (although you won't have much time to contact them, so e-mail, phone calls, andword of mouth are usually the way to go). Traditionally, people are not technically "invited" to a bris, because attending is considered a mitzvah, but are simply noti- fied of the event and encour- aged to attend. The brit milah is a cause for celebration and should be treated that way. You may want to decorate the house or syna- gogue with flowers or candles. While you will probably want to provide a festive table of food for your guests (the meal after a brit milah is consideredaseudat mitzvah, a meal with sacred sta- tus), at a minimum you will need a loaf of challah or other bread (or two if it is Shabbat or a holiday), kosher wine, and a kiddush cup. You may want to provide kippot (head coverings) for those who wish towear them. Although the mohelwilL you more i the basics you will need washcloth and several table thatwon'twobble table for the mohel's ments, a pillow, other petroleum ointment (as instructed mohel), and infant its the room in which the taking place is well-lit. something thal completely pulled up waist and then lowered You should have a as well. feed the may help keep him cairn, I also means that he has The ceremon, any additions, takes minutes cedure, a blessing recitel Hebrew name. about the as is the case in the seudat mitzvah. guests may wish to baby, in reality he will eating or sleeping after I emony. 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