Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Bris" for a boy, "Brisitse" for a girl

In 2009, AHEYM interviewed a small group of people in Tul'chyn, Ukraine: Pesia Kolodienko, Nisen Kolodienko, Aleksandr Kolodienko, Yenta Tolkovitz, and Khaye Katsman. In this clip, the three women of the group discuss different customs associated with the birth of a child -- the bris (brit milah) for a boy, and the brisitse (bris, with a feminine suffix) for a girl. 

Khaye talks about her son's bris, at which a Rabbi performed the circumcision and refreshments were served. Then Pesia describes a brisitse, where children were given special spice-cakes. In the midst of this discussion, Yenta mentions a krishme-leyenen, a term that literally means "reading the Kriyat-Sh'ma", a prayer that must be recited every evening before bed. Traditionally, krishme-leyenen referred to the custom of boys coming to the parents' house in the days leading up to the bris to recite this prayer as a means of keeping the baby safe. Over time, however, the term came to symbolize any number of customs associated with the bris; in this case, it seems that Yenta uses the term to refer to the "rocking the cradle" custom, which Pesia then describes.

In "rocking the cradle", which Pesia associates with the brisitse ceremony, the baby is temporarily removed from the cradle, and a cat is put in its place. The cradle is then filled with candy and other sweets, and as the cradle is rocked, the sweets fall out, and the invited children must catch them. This custom is also intended to bring good luck to the baby.

--Asya Vaisman

1 comment:

  1. My favorit Pesia Kolodenko! Thank you for this fragment!