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The Role of Ceremonies in the Socialization Process: the Case of Jewish Communities of Northern France and Germany in the Middle Ages / Le Rôle des cérémonies dans le processus de socialisation : le cas des communautés juives médiévales du nord de la France et d'Allemagne - article ; n°1 ; vol.95, pg 163-178

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1996 - Volume 95 - Numéro 1 - Pages 163-178
The paper attempts to measure the importance of ceremonies in the process of children's socialization as used in the Jewish communities of the Middle Ages. The cases under study are the ceremony of the circumcision and the ceremony during which the child is introduced into the world of studying. The first ritual is performed when the one-week old child is admitted into the Jewish community and the second one, when the child is between three and five years old is performed on the first day of studies, when he goes from his father's home to the synagogue. The paper examines the elements which make up these two rituals; it identifies the subjacent myths and the messages transmitted to the whole community through the ceremonies.
Cet article tente d'évaluer l'importance des cérémonies dans le processus de socialisation des enfants mis en oeuvre dans les communautés juives durant le Moyen Age. Les cas ici étudiés sont la cérémonie de la circoncision et la cérémonie introduisant l'enfant dans le monde des études. Le premier rituel s'effectue lorsque enfant parvenu à l'âge d'une semaine, est intégré à la communauté juive et le second, entre trois et cinq ans, s'effectue le premier jour d'étude lorsque l'enfant passe de la maison paternelle à la synagogue. Cet article tente d'examiner les éléments qui composent ces deux rituels, d'identifier les mythes sousjacents et de saisir les messages qui sont transmis à la communauté lors des cérémonies.
16 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.

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Simha Goldin
The Role of Ceremonies in the Socialization Process: the Case
of Jewish Communities of Northern France and Germany in the
Middle Ages / Le Rôle des cérémonies dans le processus de
socialisation : le cas des communautés juives médiévales du
nord de la France et d'Allemagne
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 95, 1996. pp. 163-178.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Goldin Simha. The Role of Ceremonies in the Socialization Process: the Case of Jewish Communities of Northern France and
Germany in the Middle Ages / Le Rôle des cérémonies dans le processus de socialisation : le cas des communautés juives
médiévales du nord de la France et d'Allemagne. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 95, 1996. pp. 163-178.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1996.1042
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/assr_0335-5985_1996_num_95_1_1042Resumen
El autor intenta valorar la importancia de las ceremonias en el proceso de socialización de los niños en
las comunidades judías durante la Edad Media. Se estudian dos casos : la circuncisión, y la ceremonia
que introduce el niño en el mundo de los estudios y le hace pasar del hogar paternal a la sinagoga. El
primer ritual se efectua cuando el niño tiene una semana, y el segundo entre tres y cinco años. El autor
analiza los elementos que componen los dos rituales, identifica los mitos subyacentes y los mensajes
dirigidos hacia la comunidad cuando las ceremonias.
Abstract
The paper attempts to measure the importance of ceremonies in the process of children's socialization
as used in the Jewish communities of the Middle Ages. The cases under study are the ceremony of the
circumcision and the ceremony during which the child is introduced into the world of studying. The first
ritual is performed when the one-week old child is admitted into the Jewish community and the second
one, when the child is between three and five years old is performed on the first day of studies, when he
goes from his father's home to the synagogue. The paper examines the elements which make up these
two rituals; it identifies the subjacent myths and the messages transmitted to the whole community
through the ceremonies.
Résumé
Cet article tente d'évaluer l'importance des cérémonies dans le processus de socialisation des enfants
mis en oeuvre dans les communautés juives durant le Moyen Age. Les cas ici étudiés sont la
cérémonie de la circoncision et la cérémonie introduisant l'enfant dans le monde des études. Le premier
rituel s'effectue lorsque enfant parvenu à l'âge d'une semaine, est intégré à la communauté juive et le
second, entre trois et cinq ans, s'effectue le premier jour d'étude lorsque l'enfant passe de la maison
paternelle à la synagogue. Cet article tente d'examiner les éléments qui composent ces deux rituels,
d'identifier les mythes sousjacents et de saisir les messages qui sont transmis à la communauté lors
des cérémonies.Arch de Sc soc des Rel. 1996 95 juillet-septembre 163-178
Simha GOLDIN
THE ROLE OF CEREMONIES
IN SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
THE CASE OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES
OF NORTHERN FRANCE AND GERMANY
IN THE MIDDLE AGES
DEFINITION OF THE PROBLEM
One of the primary goals of any group is to instill its principle values
or norms in new members This is achieved by means of the socialization
process Through it the group attempts to mold the personality and enables
its members to find their place in the existing social structure to assign tasks
to define proper behavior and to create the mechanism for internal social
control The socialization process may be divided into several stages In the
first stage the norm is established principally by continuous social pressure
imparted through education and ceremonies as well as by agents of sociali
zation such as parents members of the immediate family past and present
reference figures and myth The establishment of the norm is gradual pro
cess in other words the new member of the group gradually embraces the
norm as personal obligation The second stage is internalization when the
system of norms becomes part of the self image and the
latter no longer perceives the norm as law but as an integral part of himself
even when socialization agent is not present This process
allows the individual to find his place and establish personal relations with
other members of the group and with the group itself The third stage is iden
tification when the member has sense of belonging being part of the group
and feels certain group solidarity and commonality of values Not only
does the socialization process pass on the norms of desirable behavior but
it also establishes the sanctions the individual can expect if he does not behave
accordingly The process of norm internalization is flexible and is consistently
intertwind with the development of personal identity Thus as with the pro-
163 ARCHIVES DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS
cess of socialization it never ends The primary agents of socialization
are the parents and other members of the extended family or clan friends
teachers local leaders non-local leaders people who command the respect
of the individual or those close to him and of course exemplary figures
whether real or mythical It matters little whether these figures are real ima
ginary or mythical as long as they influence the individual The process may
take place anywhere at home in educational institutions and other group ins
titutions Various ceremonies which include symbols and unexplained mes
sages are also means by which the family and the group pass on the values
they believe in
The norms are presented in educational settings and in the ceremonies
attended by the individual during his lifetime In order to discover what mes
sages are embedded in the ceremonies and understand the non-explicit value
system encoded in them series of myths which embody these messages
must be described investigated and analyzed In this way we can achieve
better understanding of the forces wich the group exerts on the individual in
order to educate him and ensure that he remains within the group fold 2)
The entire socialization process must be analyzed in relation to the special
needs of the group being examined These needs determine the values which
the group seeks to inculcate In this essay will explore the Jewish commu
nities of Northern France and Germany between the years 1100-1350 C.E
The most important value for these Jewish groups was the issue of their sur
vival in their current form that is the preservation of their main traditional
characteristics They were Jewish minority living in Christian society
which openly and deliberately aspired to convert them to Christianity whether
by tempting them with the advantages of higher social and economic status
by using violent means or by applying theological pressure through the
Church which sought to de-legitimize Judaism and prove that the Jews had
forfeited their chosen people status in the eyes of God The Christians at
tempted to prove that the Jews were no longer safe in the divine shelter by
citing existing reality They pointed out that the Christians enjoyed success
and power while the Jews were cursed in Biblical terms they had no go
vernment and no centralization and they had been at the mercy of the Chris
tians for period far exceeding that of the First Exile
In my opinion the Jews of the period were frightened by the Christian
claims and therefore expended great deal of effort on education particu-
See PARSONS The Social System New York 1951 207-235 PARSONS F.B
ROBERT Family Socialization and Interaction Process London 1968 17-19 38-45 199-222
370-379 WATKINS Social Control London 1975 48-57 SHIBUTANI Society and Per
sonality N.J. 1961 471-566 SITES Control The Basis of Social Order New York 1973
48-57 INKELES Society Social Structure and Child Socialization in J.A CLAUSEN ed.
Socialization and Boston 1968 73-129 BANDURA Social-Learning Theory of
Identificatory Processes in D.A GOSLIN ed. Handbook of Theory and Research
Chicago 1969 213-262
The study of ceremonies and their significance has been extensively discussed in various
research In my opinion it is possible to use most of the methods developed by anthropologists
in our century and draw historical conclusions from them will use these tools in the section
in which investigate ceremonies See two methodological essays on the subject BURGUIERE
anthropologie historique in LE GOFF ed et al. La Nouvelle Histoire Paris 1978 37-97
N.Z DAVIS Les Conteurs de Montaillou Annales E.S.C. 34 1979 61-73 I.-G MARCUS
Rituals Childhood Yale 1996
164 CEREMONIES IN THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
larly in the areas under attack by the Christian establishment In the Jewish
group the socialization process had to be effective because the threat of forced
conversion to Christianity was daily reality Norms had to be internalized
to such an extent that the group could be assured of successfully combating
the arguments of the out-group and attaining an extremely high degree of
identification in order to overcome the economic temptations The test of the
process would come when the out-group forced the in-group to choose be
tween abandoning their own values and adopting those of the out-group or
death Other Jewish groups had also dealt with threats of conversion either
by persuasion or force but among the Jews of Northern France and Germany
in the 12th and 13th centuries beginning with the crisis of the First Crusade
and ending with the expulsion from France and then Germany) the signs of
the struggle can clearly be discerned
II CEREMONIES
Not only explicit education is at work in the socialization process but
also or perhaps primarily hidden forces operate fo facilitate the internaliza-
tion of the values learned on the explicit level The degree of identification
achieved is so high that it can actually be measured by certain modes of
behavior In order to investigate these processes will explore two significant
ceremonies in the life and describe how these ceremonies acted to
encourage certain types of behavior
The ceremony is dramatic presentation performed by the mem
bers whose essence is the recreation of certain behavior connected to the
collective memory of the group The members who participate in the presen
tation are also acted upon and their participation enables them to internalize
this experience Furthermore the ceremony has dual purpose first the col
lective helps consolidate the group and sets it off from the out-
group Second the elements of the myth embedded in the ceremony are
implanted as behavioral messages which obligate the group In short cere
monies are one of the principle methods by which the attains the in-
ternalization of values which in turn leads to identification Because this essay
investigates the relations between the group and the individual and the effect
of the socialization process on the individual it is necessary to analyze the
essential elements of the ceremony in order to understand the characteristics
underlying the myths that make up the ceremonies and in order to determine
whether or not the ceremonies have the power to lead the individual to behave
.. for you rebelled and sinned against Him and your anger has never cooled
against you since He thought to do well by you for you did evil before Him so He forgot
you and no longer desires you for you were stiff-necked people and He has separated Himself
from you and enlightened us and taken us for His inheritance. Where are your promises how
can you be saved? A.M HABERMANN Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Zarefat Heb] Jerusalem 1946
27-28 used the English translation ElDELBERG The Jews and the Crusaders Madison
1977
165 DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS ARCHIVES
according to the established group norms have chosen the Covenant
of Circumcision Brit Milah and the Introduction into Education as rep
resentative ceremonies since they are particularly useful for introducing in
dividuals into the group framework
2.1 Circumcision
2.1.1 Meaning and Performance
The Covenant of Circumcision Brit Milah is ceremony in which the
group receives new member and it seeks to present the group as cohesive
and integrated entity Because the new member does not have significant
degree of understanding at this point in his life he is represented by his family
On the other hand when he begins to attain some measure of understanding
at the age of three or five the ceremony of Introduction into Education is
held for him
The Brit Milah ceremony includes principles secondary characters and
an audience The audience is not an assembly of spectators in the modern
sense but rather community the people who constitute the quorum
which symbolizes the group itself This community is part of the larger
community and is active and involved throughout The ceremony takes place
in the most public institution the synagogue opposite the Holy
Ark and it is an integral part of the prayer service
The transition from the initial group the family to the wider group the
community is enacted in public and symbolic manner The mother carries
the child from the home At the same time the group conducts the prayer
service Standing with the community the father steps forward to receive
the child from his hands outside the synagogue The transfer from
See the works of F.W YOUNG Initiation Ceremonies ross-Cultural Study of Status
Dramatization Indianapolis 1965 V.U TURNER The Forest of Symbols Ithaca 1967 1-59
151-280 The Ritual Process Chicago 1969 94-166 DOUGLAS Implicit Meanings London
1975 9-26 153-172
The Brit Milah ceremony as one of the most important ceremonies in Jewish society
has been documented in its most minute detail In the Middle Ages descriptions of the ceremony
appear in various forms First we find halakhic descriptions touching the manner of performance
of the ceremony itself Second there are variety of treatments of the Brit Milah in the context
of other halakhic questions brit held on the Sabbath Holiday or fast day the blessings said
at vrit children who cannot undergo the ceremony at the age of eight days and the like
Third we find books for professional circumcisers mohalim in which all issues concerning
the Brit Milah and attendant ceremonies are treated My principle source is book of this third
category Memory of the Covenant of the Ancients which was written by Jacob HAGOZER
The Cutter] professional mohel whose family traditionally practiced that profession The
principle sources for Brit Milah circumcision are Tractate Shabbat ch 19 R ELIEZER
concerning circumcision 130a-137b Genesis Rabbah 46:4-9 Mahzar Vitry Hurwitz ed
Jerusalem 1963 616-628 ELEAZAR OF WORMS Sefer ha-Roqeah repr Jerusalem 1967 107-
113 Isaac MOSES OF VIENNA Sefer Or Zhitomir 1862 2:49-53 nos 96-107
Abraham AZRIEL Sefer Arugat HaBosem Hebrew] ed E.E Urbach 1963 3:148-
204 no 69 Jacob HAGOZER Zikhron Brit Le Rishonim Hebrew] Berlin-Krakau 1892
166 IN THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS CEREMONIES
the mother to the father takes place outside and it is the father who carries
the child into the group and brings him inside The father takes on both his
own role and that of the child He carries him inside brings him to the group
answers in his name and says the blessing Firstly the group receives the
child from the family inside the synagogue then it stands and says blessing
and finally it begins to conduct the ceremony of acceptance The importance
of these transitional actions can be seen in the sources
The wife of the man bringing his child into the covenant carries him in
glory to the synagogue and carries him to the entrance of the synagogue The
man comes towards her from the synagogue receives the child from her and brings
him inside The community stands before him and says blessed be he who
My emphasis S.G. 6)
2.7.2 Basic Myths
Naming
In the myth of the Brit Milah ceremony the heroes are Abraham and Isaac
Abraham the central figure was the first to be told to circumcise himself
and his descendants In the medieval ceremony Isaac accompanies Abraham
and is described as the first infant circumcised at the age of eight days In
the Middle Ages ancient midrash narrative was used to give the figure of
Abraham symbolic and contemporary emphasis For exemple the child is
named at the time of the circumcision since Abram was given the name on the day of his Similarly the festive meal held
on the occasion of is symbolic of actions in his
time 7)
The Binding of Isaac
Another motif which was particularly emphasized in the Middle Ages is
the connection between the circumcision performed by Abraham and the Bin
ding of Isaac midrash from the Talmud concerning the preferred time for
the performance of the ceremony the first thing after waking in the mor
ning was intentionally used to make the connection The explanation for
the time is strange and it involves both the ceremony of circumcision per
formed by Abraham the binding of his son The medieval source connects
and Abraham circumcised his son Isaac Genesis 21 with what is said
at the Binding of Isaac And Abraham rose early in the morning and sad
dled. and bound his son Genesis 22 This is the basis of the de
duction that circumcision should be performed upon waking in the morning
See in the sources referred to above particularly Jacob HAGOZER
Genesis Rabbah 12/8 And why is the child given name only on the day of the
circumcision Because Abraham was only called Abraham from the time of his circumcision
See the discussion of this midrash in Arugat HaBosem 3/150 Likewise Abraham held great
celebration on the day of weaning and they expounded on the 5+3 numeric values of
Heh and Gimmel equalling he circumcised meaning on the eighth day From this we learn
that. on the day after the circumcision the father of the boy celebrates and feasts
167 DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS ARCHIVES
In this way the myth of the Brit Milah ceremony became permanently inter
woven with the story of the Binding of Isaac 8)
While the connection between circumcision and the Binding of Isaac had
already been made in earlier times well-known piyyut poem by Rabbenu
Gershom Light of the Exile opens with the words Remember unto us the
covenant of Abraham and the Binding of Isaac 9) by the Middle Ages this
connection had become part of the myth If circumcision was performed
on Rosh HaShanah the ceremony would begin after the reading of the addi
tional passage from the Prophets and before the blowing of the Shofar
hom which symbolically replaces the Binding of Isaac in the service
Isaac of Vienna author of Or Zarua explains the reason for this So that
the commandment of the covenant of the circumcision may be close to the
blowing of the Shofar and so that the Holy One blessed be He might re
member Abraham and the Binding of Isaac clear proof is that at the be
ginning we say Remember the covenant of Abraham and the Binding of Isaac
unto his descendants this day Blessed be You Who remembers the
and afterwards we say the prayer of shofarot plur for shofar and then we
end who hears the shofaro Jacob HaGozer makes the connection even
more concrete He points out that when circumcision takes place on fast
day the piyyut Remember the Covenant is said because the blood of the
circumcision of the child being circumcised should be counted for us as the
blood of the Covenant of Abraham who was the first to observe the command
ment of circumcision 10)
The Blood of the Covenant
Another motif emphasized in the myth of the Brit is the motif of blood
called the blood of the covenant Concerning the covenant God made with
Abraham it is saidi and madest covenant with him Nehemiah
and Exodus 24 behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath
made with all these words
The final words of the blessing over the covenant Blessed be you. who
establishes the covenant are understood to emphasize that the blood of the
circumcision is the mark of the covenant which God made with Abraham
The motif of the blood is repeated in the ceremony when the mohel circum-
ciser quotes Ezekiel And when passed by thee and saw thee wallowing
in thy blood said unto thee in thy blood live yea said unto thee in
thy blood live Ezekiel 16
The myth also makes innovative use of Midrashic material The Midrash
says In virtue of two bloods the Jews left Egypt the blood of the covenant
and the blood of the Paschal sacrifice The medieval myth however included
three bloods the blood of the Paschal sacrifice the blood of circumcision
Yoma 28b Pesahim
The poem is in Arugat HaBosem 3:453-459 See GOLDSCHMIDT Collections of Tra
ditions from the 13th Century Hebrew Kiryat Sefer 1951 280-283 discussing the fact that
the poem appears earlier
10 Or Zarua 2:96 Jacob HAGOZER 70 123
168 CEREMONIES IN THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
and the blood of the Binding of Isaac The three motifs of blood originated
in myths concerning the singularity of the Jewish people in relation to their
environment As the blood of the Paschal sacrifice in Egypt marked the houses
of the Jews distinguished them from their surroundings and made possible
their protection from the Destroyer so the blood of the Brit Milah would
distinguish the Jews of the Middle Ages from their surroundings and protect
them This idea which derived from the power of myth became symbolic
act The cloth used to clean the blood of the circumcision was hung on the
lintel of the Synagogue during the Brit Milah ceremony to show likewise
sign in the name of the Covenant to publicize the trial of the commandment
as it is said shall be token of covenant betwixt Me and The use
of this passage is particularly noteworthy since it was declared to Abraham
Genesis 17 11 as promise the of circumcision which he was
commanded to perform would be the symbol of the connection between God
and the seed of Abraham
Along with these two myths the Binding of Isaac which in the Biblical
version does not mention blood becomes one of the motifs of the circumcision
ceremony The myth of Isaac bound and bleeding on the altar became my
thical motif which was passed on through the Brit Milah ceremony 11 In
the Middle Ages Isaac who was the first child circumcised on the eighth
day by his father Abraham who was the first person to be circumcised is
introduced into the myth of the Brit Milah through the motif of the blood
of the covenant and becomes the hero of the myth of the Brit Milah cere
mony and sometimes even overshadows Abraham himself
Changing the Myth Binding Becomes Sacrifice
Changes in the emphasis of myth or the development of new emphases
are very important processes These processes can be discerned in the signi
ficance assigned to Biblical and Midrashic passages read during the ceremony
which define the meaning of the myth In the ceremony the main blessing is
Blessed are You God who sanctified the Beloved from his conception
and placed Law upon his family and marked his descendants with the mark
of the holy covenant... 12 Usually the central figure of the Beloved is
understood to be Jacob 13) however in the myth which crystallized in the
Middle Ages the central figure was Isaac 14 The infant being circumcised
11 Jacob HAGOZER 94 114 Exodus Rabbah 19:3 On the connection between Brit Milah
and the performance of sacrifices see SPERBER The Traditions of Israel Hebrew] part 2:91-2
12 Shabbat 137b
13 The Arukh 326 upon Malachi 1/2 The commentary attributed to SHERIRA GAON
in the Gaonim area and also in Jacob HAGOZER 89
14 See RASHI on Tractate Shabbat 137b starting who sanctified from conception
The commentary of the Tosaphists Hadar Zekenim commentary of Asher on Genesis 17:19
starting was circumcised Jacob HAGOZER 88-9 extensively Mahzor Vitry 623 501 Most
significantly in Tosaphot Shabbat 137b starting the beloved greatly expanded in Menahot
53b starting an only son Moses of COUCY Sefer Mizvot Gadol Venice 1807 aseh 135b
no 28 the commentary of the author of the Turim on Genesis 17 is similar to the opinion in
Jacob HAGOZER ibid Arugat Habosem 3:152-3
169 ARCHIVES DE SCIENCES SOCIALES DES RELIGIONS
is very clearly compared to Isaac Even the medical advice to bind the
legs after the circumcision in order to prevent him from aggravating
his wounds is also interpreted metaphorically the legs are bound.
as reference to the binding of Isaac our father 15 From the start the
myth of Isaac in the ceremony is connected to the Binding of Isaac
It is very significant that in the Medieval myth Isaac is conceived as
the archetype of those being circumcised and that he was invested with ad
ditional values during the Brit Milah ceremony According to the myths of
the period Isaac is the hero of the because he was the holy one
sacrificed on the altar In other words status in the ceremony does
not derive from the fact that he was the first infant to undergo circumcision
but from the fact that he had been brought as sacrifice The more complex
meaning of this myth will be discussed further below but here it is important
to emphasize that new myth was created on the basis of the sacrifice theme
In medieval sources connection has been established between Isaac
the Temple service and the Binding of Isaac The myth questions why Scrip
ture needed Isaac as the first of the circumcised Isaac was the first son born
of circumcised father and the first to be circumcised at the age of eight
days In this way he was deemed fit to become sacrifice on the altar since
sacrifice must be at least eight days old before it can be brought to the
altar Leviticus 22 27 In other words the idea of bringing an animal or
bird sacrifice to the Temple changes and in the process the sacrifice becomes
humain being Isaac Circumcision is not requirement for person brin
ging an animal sacrifice but it is required for someone bringing human
sacrifice It is not the animal sacrifice an ox or sheep or goat which
must be eight days old but rather the human one An ancient midrash is used
to create the connection between the sacrifices brought to the Temple and the
Brit Milah This Midrash says that eight days was fixed as the age of cir
cumcision and the minimum age for sacrifice because during the period of
eight days there must be sabbath day It also describes the connection be
tween the two norms of circumcision and sacrifice In the Middle Ages the
use of this and other Midrashic materials produced typical symbol of the
identity between the infant being circumcised and the sacrifice In the myth
of the ceremony Isaac symbolizes the eternal promise connecting God to His
people the seed of Isaac) and also the synthesis between the infant being
cirumcised and the sacrifice made to God Abraham circumcised himself and
then prepared himself to bring sacrifice Isaac Isaac is circumcised at the
age of eight days the minimal age of sacrifice Abraham binds his son the
symbol of Jew bringing sacrifice and all of this is reflected in the Brit
Milah ceremony
The of Brit Milah in the Middle Ages symbolizes the Temple
worship and the circumcised child symbolizes the sacrifice The community
the father and the mohel symbolize those who bring the sacrifice and the
onlookers filling the hall are the community The description of the medieval
ceremony speaks for itself Since the time is time of prayer and good
will because he sacrificed his blood at the time of the daily morning sacrifice
15 Jacob HAGOZER 117
170