I was pretty excited for Nadler’s class today. Last class he said that today we would begin to cover early German Reform Judaism. The witticisms that I imagined ensuing from him were quite exciting. Though he is now a professor, in his previous life he was a Rabbi. As such, he still teaches like all Rabbis I know (Rabbi S. excepted) in that most of the time is spent on some tangent or anecdote or another. Due to this talmudically wandering stream-of-consciousness teaching style Nadler has, we barely finished covering the Napoleonic Sanhedrin this morning. When we got to Napoleon’s deal-breaker question about whether Jews can intermarry, a marvelous tangential story began, carrying us through to the end of class.
The progression through different topics went like this: Can Jews intermarry?–> Just like Catholics, no we cannot.–> Other similarities between Catholicism and Judaism. –> Irreversibility of a Catholic baptism is similar to the fact that Jews cannot cease to be Jews.–> One time….
One time many years ago when Nadler was a Rabbi in an orthodox community, it was discovered three days prior to a Bar Mitzvah that the young man in question’s mother had not been Jewish at the time of his birth. The caterer and florist had been paid. The sanctuary was reserved and Nadler was to be the Rabbi. The ball was rolling. As Nadler, ever punny, put it, once you’ve paid the caterer, you’re really loxed in. All this in mind, Nadler had to tell the parents that this 13-year-old boy would need an emergency circumcision. Luckily, he had already had one and the parents felt confident that this was enough.
Unfortunately, since he was not Jewish at the time of the circumcision, it was not valid. He would need to be checked to see if the medical circumcision had been as complete as that performed by a mohel would be. To check this, the penis needs to be erect. The parents were not pleased with how this was playing out. To ascertain all of this, three other Rabbis would also have to be present to examine the organ in question. The circumcision, they announced, was complete. Unfortunately, for this boy, he still needed an emergency conversion before the Bar Mitzvah. This means that a pinprick of blood would have to be taken from the penis since it was already circumcised.
As it turns out, this very small operation on the day before the Bar Mitzvah made for a very uncomfortable gait on the bimah.