Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recent articles about Bris and Circumcision

I have a Facebook page to which I keep an intermittent commentary about some of my brisses, as well as a social commentary about bris milah and circumcision, when the topic is written about for newspapers and websites. Seems there's no end to this conversation.

Anyway, here are some of the articles I've posted recently on Facebook.

With the comments I shared about them in Bold

Poor writing and odd reporting, but this is something I have heard anecdotally from the touch-up people (pediatric urologists and pediatric surgeons) for a long time. 
And to the title I will add the word "Reputable" - as in "Performed by a Reputable Mohel." Carrying the title doesn't make a person perfect and not subject to human frailties.
[I am humored by the photo, which shows a "forbidden" Mogen clamp, something "supposedly" no mohels in Israel use.]


We're doing this anyway. But here are different sides to the circumcision debate. 

A horrific article in the Forward. 
Every excuse the mohel gives comets from the vilest, most bigoted place. And it ignores the reality that this is AT MOST a custom that really has NO PLACE in the 21st century. 
Do metzitzah with a gauze-stuffed tube/pipette and quit legitimizing your irrational and WRONG behavior under the guise of tradition. Inauthentic Judaism at its finest turning people away.

************************************,7340,L-4504242,00.html - 'Intactivists' protest against circumcision in Washington

Oy vey

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Husband

I have written several notes to the father about what is expected of him before and during the bris.
Here is one about the things the father needs to do, and one about whether/when/if the father opts to make the incision himself. Now I venture out of mohel role for a moment, as I talk to you as a friend and a father, who was a husband before being a father, and more than likely before becoming your friend.

Dear Husband,
Congratulations on the birth of your new son! I am sure this is a moment you have been waiting for - for a long time. You have a boy, a son who will carry your name, to whom you can teach everything you want, from sports, to interests, to Torah, to the great upbringing you will undoubtedly provide for him.

But this is not a letter to you, the father. This is a letter to you, the husband.

Look at the woman who just gave birth to this child. Remember that for nine months she endured a pregnancy and all that goes with it. Whether she loved her pregnancy or hated it, whether she had cravings or did not, whether she was more beautiful than ever or pregnancy did things to her (ie morning sickness, bloating, etc) you could have never imagined, whether she got pregnant easily or it was an ordeal (which you both went through), remember that she went through all of this for YOU.

You have a mitzvah to have a child. She does not. She may WANT to have a child, but it is her choice. She becomes the vessel through which you fulfill your obligation to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."

Conception takes a second. Pregnancy is a long ordeal. Your job is simple. Hers is much harder.

And remember who will more likely experience more sleepless nights (especially if she is nursing)? Who is likely to be more involved in the raising of your son?

Please don't think I am accusing any father of shirking his responsibilities as a father. 

But don't forget your responsibility as a husband. Appreciate your wife, the mother of your child. Love her. Cherish her. Honor her. Respect her. Be patient with her.

Birth is a stressful time. The bris could be a very stressful time. It requires a different kind of resilience to make it through this time period with no regrets.

I am so happy to report that I have seen incredible acts of kindness and chesed and concern and care displayed between husband and wife and vice versa in the days when I am present in the home, shortly after the birth (before bris), at the bris, and certainly after the bris.

At the same time (and this is why I write to you, husband of Amazing Woman), I have seen too many people get into regrettable arguments (in my presence!) over what are usually (in my opinion) the silliest of things - about the honors for the bris, who will be involved, etc; about who will change the diaper, who will get the diapers or the wipes, whose turn it is, etc; over who contributes more to this marriage...

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! And I'll add an "oy vey" for good measure! Even if you need to have the fights, please PLEASE have them AFTER I leave. 

But I wonder if it is even necessary, dear husband. Because you should be looking for EVERY opportunity to give your wife a break, to not have to make her climb stairs, to not have her run around looking for things, to not have to change every diaper. And if she is forgetful or if she gets impatient, or if things don't go exactly your way, let it go. The only pass I'll give you is if the baby is exclusively nursing (a move I applaud and encourage, for the baby's sake - as long as Mommy can handle it), you don't have to feed him.

Remember why you got into this in the first place - marriage, baby, the whole megillah. The baby should enhance your love, admiration, respect for and appreciation of one another. He should not bring about unnecessary stress and tension between you.

As to how you deal with your in-laws? For that you're on your own. :)

I care about your dear and precious wife who has done more for you in the last week months of your lives than you could ever do for her. God bless her. And you should too.

All the best
Avi Billet

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Inauthenticity of "Authenticity"

A mohel in NY called me recently because he was watching a bris on YouTube at which I was the mohel, and he had a comment about the timing of my putting on my gloves. His observation was duly noted, but I had to inform him that I wear two pairs of gloves, the top one protecting the lower pair in the moments leading up to the bris.

I find it much easier and quicker to take off a pair of gloves, rather than put them on, at the moment I am ready to begin.

Apparently my back was 'facing' the camera. He rewatched it and was able to discern, by the sound and the pause, that what I said was accurate. A few minutes later, he texted me that he "got it," and we shared a few tidbits about the trade.

Please understand - I was so appreciative of the phone call! Because here is a mohel who understands that sterility is no joke, and the appearance of sterility must meet with a reality of sterility.

So this was a breath of fresh air. Because the truth is, there is a world of mohels and their legitimizers who believe that the way that Abraham circumcised, and the way our ancestors in Europe circumcised, is the only authentic way to do it.

Whether they are against the use of the pipette for metzitzah, a hemostat for efficiency, a shield for protection of the glans (shudder!), gloves for sterility, or the highest standards of sterility that could be maintained outside of the Operating Room (because heaven forfend the bris koidesh should be viewed as surgery in any way - this is not a medical procedure! This is a mitzvah!), their vision of "maintaining authenticity" makes a mockery of medical advances, germ theories, and safety precautions that should be standard fare for every mohel who "operates" (yes, operates) on any child.

The truth is that the only authentic bris is the one that presents no inherent possibility of danger to the baby, beyond what the Torah obligates - that the foreskin be removed accompanied by the blood of the circumcision. Pain should be minimal, bleeding should be minimal, and risk of infection or damage should be NONEXISTENT.

This is authentic. This is living up to the tradition and covenant of Avraham Avinu.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Life and Times

Being a mohel is not a full-time occupation of mine. Sure, there are times I wish it could be. But between there being many mohels here in South Florida and whatever factors, it is not the reality now. Which is fine. Every mohel has very busy weeks with between 5 and 10 brisses, and every mohel has the occasional lull with 0 brisses in a week.

Thank God, I have other things going on in life, so my mohel blogging has taken a small hit, and I apologize to those who have found this blog helpful, that I haven't been updating.

And yet, those who have taken the time to search the blog have given me wonderful feedback, in person and through email, about how much they appreciated what has been "published" thus far. And for that I am grateful.

Here is to a busy but good life! In which there is much more diversity than brisses. And in which there is more to life than blogging. :)

Always grateful to those who put their trust and baby's bris needs to my hands.

Shalom - peace and nachas to you and your families.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Busy Weekend

Three brisses this weekend - in Boynton Beach, Coconut Creek and Miami Beach.

That about sums up South Florida Jewry for you.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sterilize and Reuse or Disposable?

I was recently asked how I sterilize my equipment (autoclave, except for the scalpel blades which are used once and discarded - AB), and if I was open to the parents buying their own set of instruments for the bris for one time use to be disposed of afterwards?

Answer: I am open to it - by all means! As long as it is an expense the parents want to bear.

There are different companies outside of the USA who specialize in providing such merchandise/ equipment. It works in Europe. But I don't know how popular such an approach would be in this country.

Most people want to pay an all inclusive honorarium (however that is calculated) to a mohel, and don't want to bother with added expenses.

Of course, if a mohel wants to open such a possibility to parents, I suppose parents who want to could go the route of buying these things themselves.

Here are a couple of kits I found online. If you are interested - good luck with your purchase! [This one is clearly marketed to mohels... but give a call!]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

News Monitor: Israel and Europe has a number of articles on the role Europe is taking in the modern circumcision debate.

Here is the latest.

Shas, Yesh Atid MKs unite in fighting European anti-circumcision measure
12/10/2013 13:11
In a rare case of cooperation, Knesset members from both factions to head to Paris to battle resolution.
Baby undergoes circumcision Photo: REUTERS
In a rare case of cooperation between Shas and Yesh Atid, MKs headed to the Council of Europe’s Presidium in Paris Tuesday evening to continue battling anti-circumcision measures on the continent.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) led the delegation, which includes MKs Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) and Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid), to fight a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE ) resolution protecting children’s rights to their bodies. The measure – proposed by German MP Marlene Ruprecht and passed on October 1 – could be understood as banning ritual male circumcision for children, along with female circumcision, tattoos and body piercing for those under 18.

The initiative is non-binding, but member states take PACE votes seriously. The Knesset has made significant efforts to collect signatures from European parliamentarians on a counter- resolution it seeks to pass in April, reaching 102 signatures as opposed to 77 MPs who voted for the anti-circumcision measure.
The Rivlin-led delegation will meet with leaders of four of the Council of Europe’s five factions to convince them to put the Knesset’s counter-resolution on the PACE agenda for either late January or April. The Presidium, which consists of faction chairpeople, will set the agenda for those two meetings on December 15.
According to Rivlin, the anti-circumcision measure “is not a legitimate decision, and it is a joint goal of Jews, Muslims and anyone who believes in freedom of religion and conscience to cancel it.”
Rivlin, Vaknin and Hoffman plan to meet with party leaders and members of the Council of Europe’s Presidium and present them with the 102 signatures from PACE members, aiming to show that the original measure was passed unfairly when only a small number of MPs were present.
The Likud Beytenu MK expressed concern that parliaments in Europe would adopt the resolution and expand it to other religious customs, such as kosher slaughter, which is illegal in several European states.
“We want to make it clear to the Europeans that even if it’s legitimate for them to intervene in diplomatic or regional issues, it is not legitimate for them to be involved in Judaism and freedom of religion,” Rivlin added.
In their meetings with European MPs, MKs used research by the American Pediatric Association touting the health benefits of circumcision – including halving the risk of contracting HIV through intercourse – to show that the procedure is not a danger to children. They also cited studies by ethicists showing that it is not an ethical issue for a parent to circumcise a boy for his future benefit, even if he does not have a say in the matter.
In addition, last month, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a peer-reviewed study by researchers at the University of Sydney proving circumcision does not reduce sexual pleasure.
Rivlin, Vaknin and Hoffman will also attend a meeting of PACE ’s Diplomatic Committee on the status of the Palestinian delegation, which was declared a “partner for democracy” two years ago. In addition, they will meet with French MPs and members of the Jewish community in Paris.