by Gerard Sarnat (Portola Valley CA)
“Every first-born male among your children, you must redeem.”
— Exodus 13:13
Redemption’s a primitive mitzvah commanded in
the Old Testament to occur on my grandkid’s 30th day
when a Kohen from the priestly patrilineal tree of
Aaron is handed 5 silver shekels by the boy’s father.
While our alternating amused and distraught daughter
nurses off in a dark corner, ultra-orthodox little girls
clothed from head to toe wrap garlic + sugar cubes
in gold lamé lace bags that their subjugated mother
hangs for kenahorah-poo-poo-poo knock on wood
good luck to shoo away devils — after which she checks
that the fancy sheitel covers her wifely shaved skull.
Compared to the newborn’s bris with the mohel
hacking off the infant’s foreskin, this ain’t nothin’.
But having successfully bit my tongue, all said & done
till the next one, these rituals reinforce why I’m an atheist.
Gerard Sarnat has spent time as a physician and social justice protestor in jails, built and staffed clinics for the marginalized, and spent decades working for Middle East peace. His work, which has appeared in over seventy magazines, including Gargoyle, Lowestoft Chronicle, and The American Journal of Poetry, has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
For more information about Gerard Sarnat, visit his website: GerardSarnat.com.