Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ahron Cohen part 2 - The Bris

One fine morning 83 years ago, a Gypsy traveler visited Szarkonoszvary. Like most Hungarian Gypsies, he made his less than honest living working with metal - using tools that he purloined from honest blacksmiths in neighboring villages. He knew that in Szarkonoszvary there was little money, but he also knew that the hamlet was even more lacking in brainpower.

So, he walked into the home of Velvel and Shana Byla Cohen, who were celebrating the birth of their firstborn baby boy, and offered them a wondrous thing that the villagers had never seen before. It was a claw hammer, rusty and with a termite infested handle, and the traveler offered it for the low price of one copper crown.

"Shana Byla, gib a kik! Look from dis tink! We can use the part that's sticking out to hit him so we won't have to drop our precious yingele on the floor like Tatte did to me, and we can use the anderer end as a moihel messer! Di vaist vus Lipa der moihel lost his knife AGAIN!"

"Oy, Velvel, such a chochom I married! Yes, mir darf koifen der zach! How much he is wantink for it, the tzigane?"

"Eyne copper kroin!"

"One second, I'll run to the vyber shul and steal a kroin from the pushka!"

"Far vus? You think I am ever turnink over one shtickl copper from inzerer Reb Mayer Baal Haness pishka to der Reb Mayer Baal Haness? Nem fin inzerer!"

So Rebbetzin Cohen removed a copper crown from the family's Rabbi Mayer Baal Haness pushka (never mind that her husband was the official collector for Koilel Shoimrei Hamikve d'Kupas Rabbeyni Mayer Baal Hagelt to which the pushka belonged) and handed it to the gypsy, who then ran fast after he dropped the termite ridden tool on the Cohen's table.

Seven days later, it was time for the baby's bris and his head cracking ceremony, in which he would be inducted (or perhaps indicted) into the Congregation of Israel, but in a way that only Szarkonoszvary (which some say meant not "Village of Yellow Dung," but was rather a corruption of the phrase "Sakonos Nefashois") would ever recognize.

Lipa the mohel sharpened the insides and edges of the claw of the hammer, and dipped it in a mixture of schmaltz and slivovitz in order to make his work safer and easier. Years later, when this boy was threatened with "another bris," he would actually dare the threatener to go ahead with his plans, because his bris was completely possul, and the results were less than professional.

For this boy was named Ahron, a perfect name for someone whose family had pretended to be Cohanim for four generations now.

And the second part of the ceremony was conducted by Velvel Cohen, whose own skull cracking ceremony had left him with brain damage (meant to prevent him from joining the Haskalah) that in turn weakened his upper limbs.

So, instead of dropping little Ahron on his soft head as his father had done to him at the age of 8 days, Velvel Cohen impotently picked up the hammer and gave his baby son a series of weak, short whacks on the left side of his tiny head. The results were an utter disaster, as Velvel Cohen, ignorant of physiology as he was of everything else in life except tzedoko scams, had not injured the parts of the brain that control intellect or motor functions.

Instead, Velvel Cohen created a monster, as he damaged the part of his son's brain which controls emotions and logic. And as we will see in the next installment, Ahron Cohen would grow up mentally astute by Szarkonoszvary and later Neturei Kreedmoor standards, but his behavior and social interactions were completely and utterly devoid of humanity.

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