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My First Conversion

I never really did convince the Rabbi that I needed a real conversion, but I did have the support of the (Conservative Jewish) cantor, a few other friends, and my wife. So now all I needed was to "do the deed", so to speak. A real conversion requires three things for a man (two, as will be obvious, of a woman).

  • Acceptance of the mitzvos in front of a Bais Din (Jewish Tribunal)

  • Mikveh (Ritual Immersion)

  • Bris Mila (circumcision for the sake of being Jewish) or (if one is already circumcised) Hatafas Dam (literally, "a drop of blood"

We all decided that the acceptance of mitvos part was taken care of my by Bar Mitzvah. We only needed mikveh and hatafas dam. In case it wasn't obvious, by the way, not any drop of blood would do; it had to be blood from the same place it would come in case of a full circumcision. Of course, being as this was Salt Lake City we had neither mohel nor mikveh. But we did have a Jewish urologist who did all the circumcisions for bris mila, and he had a built into the ground hot tub. How much more convenient could it be?

So, on the agreed upon date, the cantor and I drove up to the urologist house. One little snag... we needed three jewish men for the bais din, and we only had the cantor and the urologist. No problem... someone remembered that there was a 16 year old teenage boy home from school and camp who could come over. So I got a towel and went into another room to get undressed. Now try to picture this next scene. I come up of the bathroom dressed only in a towel, figuring we are going straight to the hot tub to get this taken care of. Nope. The urologists family is there. His wife is making drinks for everyone. We are waiting for the teenage boy from down the street. They offered me a gin and tonic; I declined. I am trying to act as natural as possible standing there in only a towel while everyone has there drinks. I would love to say that they mercifully left me out of the conversation... but they didn't. Ok, finally the young man arrives and we can go finish up.

First, hatafas dam. He is a doctor, right? So he first has to give me a local anesthetic -- administered by needle (I would later reflect on the fact that he could have gotten a drop of blood with a needle that size in the first place... ow well...) Then he got out his scalpel. Problem was, after that shot, all the blood had run away to hide. So he had to cut a little deeper than he expected... just under the anesthetic, of course. Perfect, didn't hurt too badly (either time), and a nice clean incision. In fact, such a clean incision that it took a while to stop bleeding. Finally stopped bleeding, I shed the towel the rest of the way, and went into the hot tub to immerse. When I came up they told me to say "Sh'ma". I felt very holy. I have no idea what that poor teenage boy was thinking.

In any case, I had had my conversion and I was now really Jewish (Conservative, anyway). One more detail to take care of... getting married. Having gone from non-Jew to Jew, I now needed a Jewish marriage to my wife. Or, rather, a marriage as a Jew to my Jewish wife. The Rabbi did agree to participate in this ceremony. I wore my brown corduroy leisure suit, my wife wore a nice skirt and top and covered her hair... with a yarmulka. We got married in the little chapel in the Synagogue, our friends come over and had lunch. Life was good.


Josh said…
I didn't realize Hatafas Dam could be so funny. I've found it strange that everyone thinks a doctor always can do a better job with a circumcision then a mohel performing a bris. The difference being a few hundred years of training compared to a few thousand.

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