Location: Bri’a (Creation) reception hall
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Time: 1:30 P.M.
In the neighborhood: A large commercial complex outside Modi’in in central Israel. In countless outdoor and half-empty parking lots, windshields - peppered with freshly fallen leaves - reflect a perfectly still overcast sky. On one end of the lot, an African worker is painting a fence white, his shirt shifting in the autumnal breeze.
Venue: Walking in, a large, modern and lavish hall is opened up, situated below street level and accented by white chandeliers and gray, polished-concrete floors. Lines of square dining tables, set in all-white and decorated with candelabras, take up one half of the room, with the other serving as a reception area.
Simcha: Matan and Nave Slovik’s Brit Milah
Number of guests: Around 100
Family history: Matan and Nave were a late - and very welcome - addition to the Slovik home, born to a religious-Zionist couple: Gil, 40, a journalist who started his own commercial content firm; and Ayala, 39, a children’s speech-language pathologist. They join big sisters Maya, 10, and Smadar, 7.
While it was long the couple’s dream to expand their small clan, making babies isn’t always as easy as it may seem. But Gil and Ayala never gave up hope on providing their daughters with that oh-so-cherished commodity: a little brother or sister to feed and pick on (Gil: “They’ve been raising their dolls for years”).
So, following years of hope, hard work and the odd fertility treatment, the Sloviks finally got their wish – only double the order. And how does the double load sit with the family? Gil: “You could say that we’re happy and tired. Maybe even very happy and very tired.”
Rites: Guests begin trickling into the lit hall, with most of the women sporting a variety of head-cover styles, and the men in a somewhat less varied array of woven kippas, held in place with pins that sparkle iridescently in the overhead party lights. A minority of secular Jews wander around in small groups.
Situated at the middle of the room - and at the center of attention - a solid-looking Elijah’s chair awaits with two wicker baskets, one at each side.
After a short prayer break, which leaves the secular minority to mingle near what remains of the finger food, the ceremony begins as the mohel leads the crowd in singing. Over to the side, two men debate the possibility of a European ban on circumcision and the proposition that Israeli embassies could then provide a venue for the ceremony throughout the continent (“It’s a nice idea”).
The mohel then names two family members who are to join Gil and his father Chaim, who are standing center stage. After seeing they have come empty-handed (“What? Where’s the baby?”), he sends them off to retrieve the package. Baby number one in place, Chaim sits down as godfather with the baby on his lap as the mohel goes about his business. One secular woman in attendance says “I can’t look at this” and walks away.
As the baby cries out, the religious women all around the room read from a prayer handed out during the ceremony (“May my prayer be included with the baby’s weeping”).
Once the baby calms down slightly, a blessing on the wine is said and the name proclaimed: “Nave” (“What a lovely name!” says a woman in the crowd).
While originally the two ceremonies were supposed to be separated by a short eating break (Gil: “It’s always better to perform two mitzvahs as separate instead of one big one”), the powers that be decide to take advantage of the already attentive crowd and proceed with baby number two, following a symbolic bout of singing to separate the events.
Announcing the second Brit ("For those who didn’t get it the first time, now we have the rerun,” says the mohel), different family members are sent to bring the baby. Gil is now joined by the second godfather - Ayala’s father, Meir.
The ceremony is repeated, along with a prayer reading during the baby’s crying, and the second name is unveiled: Matan, sending a happy murmur through the crowd. The mohel concludes by saying that the next rerun will be in a year or so, with laughter all around. Ayala just smiles.
After some food come the speeches, including a salutation for Gil’s 40th birthday, which happened to take place on the same day (“Wow, so many people came for my birthday!” Gil jokes).
Music: Easy-listening reception music and liturgical singing.
Food: Reception fare aka A Trip Around the World: Mexican (tortillas), American (mini-hamburgers), Moroccan (fried dumplings and couscous), Japanese (Sushi, including ornamental Samurai swords). Tableside: Salads, with mains of spring chicken, beef and tilapia fillet.
Drink: Lemonade, wine, soft drinks and a lot of Corona beer, one of Gil’s happy clients and whose beach-centric campaign provided interesting dilemmas (Gil: “Can you imagine me, with my kippa, having to decide which picture of bikini-wearing girls to post on Facebook?”).
Word in the ear: Gil, during his speech: "We walked in the desert of fertility for seven years until we reached our Nave [Hebrew for oasis]. Matan [Hebrew for gift] was our second present.”
In my spiritual doggy bag: Struggles, as protracted as difficult as they are, result in an equal, perhaps greater sense of joy.
Random quote: The mohel, holding one of the twins prior to the ceremony, asking Ayala to switch twins with him: “OK, time for a prisoner exchange.”
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