Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Basic Information - All You Need to Know Consolidated

I get many phone inquiries months in advance of births. Sometimes the baby is a boy, and sometimes the parents don’t know yet. (Obviously those who know they are having girls don’t call!)

I am always happy to discuss all matters in advance of the bris. But for ease of reference, here is all the information you need (some of these links are at the top of the page as well). Of course, any topic you'd like to research more can be found in the Topical Index.
                
Here are the supplies you need for the bris, and for the aftercare.
                
Here are the honors you need to think about and assign for the bris ceremony
                
Here is a summary of what a classic bris ceremony looks like.     
                
                
                
Here is an explanation of how things will look like in the few days and weeks following the bris.
                
Here is a long term care reminder for some babies, and another for babies who gather much baby fat over the next several months. 


Friday, December 26, 2014

Another Metzitzah Tale Gone Bad

See here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/jewish-baby-contracted-herpes-bris-article-1.2055911

This story has a happier ending, as it seems the baby has been treated and will be OK.

But the beginning of the story is not so happy, because this baby should have never needed this kind of treatment.

A bris done under sterile conditions - with metzitzah being accomplished via sterile tube - does not produce an infection.

Properly sterilized instruments, sterile gloves, a sterile metzitzah tube, sterile bandages + the correct amount of skin being removed = job well done, quick healing time, healthy baby.

End of story.

Mouth on baby and whatever other ingredient which removes another step of sterility = good chance of infection.

I am not ashamed to be a mohel. But I am ashamed to share in a profession in which practices that can lead to this result (herpes infection on a newborn) are maintained by fellow practitioners, and desired by an ignorant herd who do not think for themselves and demand otherwise from their mohels.

Many non-observant Jews ask me "What is your policy on metzitzah?" (here it is)

This should be the FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION ALL NEW PARENTS ASK. And if the mohel puts his mouth directly on the baby, IT IS TIME TO CALL A DIFFERENT MOHEL WHO PRACTICES OTHERWISE.

We need to put these guys out of business, or force them to change their ways.

No baby need ever be put at risk, even the slightest risk, beyond the risk of the circumcision itself, which is commanded to us in our Torah. But metzitzah is not a commandment. And this method should be banned by rabbis, community leaders, parents, and mohels. NO MORE EXCUSES.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Bris is on a Fast Day (Tosafos insights)

In a much larger Talmudic discussion (Eruvin 40b) that involves the question of whether one must eat/drink after saying a blessing (instead of having someone else, such as a child drink), as well as the propriety of giving alcohol to children, Tosafos record two stories, which are instructive as to how people conduct themselves with reference to eating and drinking on a fast day.

I share because when there is a bris on a fast day (10th of Tevet, referenced below, is coming up), this information is instructive.

תוספות מסכת עירובין דף מ עמוד ב 
ומעשה היה בחופה בעשרה בטבת נתנו הכוס לתינוק לשתות [ומעשה היה בברית מילה ברבינו יעקב בר יקר שחל עשרה באב בא' בשבת והוא היה אב"ד וצוה להתפלל מנחה גדולה ורחצו ואכלו מפני שי"ט שלהן היה כדכתיב שש אנכי כו' והאי דלא מברכינן שהחיינו משום צערא דינוקא תוס' שאנ"ץ].

"It happened that there was a wedding on the 10th of Tevet (a fast day), and they gave the cup (of wine) to a child to drink (the word "Tinok" means baby - but sometimes refers to a child)."
"It happened that there was a bris with Rabbi Yaakov bar Yakar which fell on the 10th of Av which fell on Sunday (meaning it was the day they were observing the 9th of Av fast, pushed to Sunday). He was the Head of the Rabbinic Court. He instructed everyone to pray the early Mincha, and then to wash and eat, for it was a Yom Tov for them, as it says, 'I rejoice at the fulfillment of Your word...'
And the reason we do not say "Shehechiyanu" at a bris is because of the pain the child experiences."
When we say a blessing over wine on a fast day, we have the custom to give the wine to the child - which at a bris is the baby. This may or may not be the source for our giving wine to the baby at every bris anyway.

But the points we take from these tales for bris practices on fast days are the following:
1. The easiest person to give to drink on a fast day is the baby
2. A fast day which is pushed off, even a fast day as important as 9 Av, is a day when participants at the bris may eat. While this is not a common practice, it is mostly due to lack of awareness of the rules.
3. A baby does feel pain at a bris. This is not something we celebrate through the recitation of Shehechiyanu. [This is a confirmation that this mitzvah is one of the rare mitzvos in the Torah that has pain associated with it (the other being fasting on Yom Kippur). This is why numbing the baby is advocated, while some argue that the speed in which we operate serves as its own numbing.]


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

News Monitor: the circumcision debate

This debate has been ongoing for many decades, with medical views going back and forth on the subject of "to circ or not to circ." This is the latest installment (text embedded below).

As always, this is irrelevant to the Jewish people on account of it merely being a footnote to why we do what we do.

But the STD concern is real.

See also this article and newsreel from today.com

Monday, December 1, 2014

Yer Lookin Quite Good Yerself

Because we live in an increasingly depressing world, there are things that I must do and that I cannot do in order to maintain that my interest in this field (bris milah) is solely for the mitzvah - helping parents fulfill their biblically mandated requirement to have their sons circumcised to bear the mark of the Covenant.

This is why, as much as I want to share before and after photos so parents can know what to expect, I am resigned to explain it in words, leaving photos out.

This is why my care for most children ends one or two days after the bris, when things are healing nicely and I know that as long as post bris care follows my instructions, everything will be fine.

I have a colleague who likes to offer the change the baby's diaper if he bumps into the parents weeks down the road - it's his way of checking his handiwork to assure that all is healing as it should.

I am not so bold, and I don't ask parents for such opportunities. However, every now and then a parent will have a question or wants me to assure that all is good (especially if we left things as "let's keep in touch to see how things heal") and I get a chance to see how things have healed.  This happened twice this week, and I am happy to report wonderful healing processes.

It is always flattering to see such beautiful results from one's handiwork.  I hope they all turn out this way.

God bless!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Minhagei Worms, Germany (2 of 2)

The first installment is the previous posting. Here are a few more gems from the book "Minhagei Vorms."

1. Rabbenu Tam would be sure to stand during Torah reading and during a bris. The reason for standing during the bris was the same verse from Melachim II 23:3 - that the people stood at the covenant. The reason why the person saying the bracha needs to be standing is because of a comparison from the word לכם to the word לכם that we learn from ספירת העומר. Just as by the counting of the Omer the Torah tells us וספרתם לכם, the Torah tells us regarding the bris, המול לכם כל זכר. Just as we stand for counting the Omer, we stand for the bris. 

2. When there is a bris associated with שחרית we have a custom not to say עלינו until after the bris is over (most shuls today finish davening and then repeat עלינו, but that may be because many mothers bring their babies to the bris a little later than the end of davening (and some mohels have the bad habit of coming late*), and it takes a few minutes from baby's arrival before the bris begins). Why is עלינו not recited until after the bris is over? Because we say in עלינו the following phrase: "שלא עשנו כגויי הארצות" - that He did not make us like the nations of the land. When the child is uncircumcised, he is like the nations of the land. When he is circumcised, we can mark his entry into the mark of the covenant by including him in the missive that we are different from them. 

* I pride myself on coming on time, and not double booking, in order to be sensitive to everyone's schedule. 

3. Why is there a custom to have a party for a bris? There is a gemara that says that "all mitzvos that the Jews accepted with joy they still fulfill with joy" (i.e. with a party), and the classic example is bris milah. 
Furthermore, we are told that Avraham made a big part ביום הגמל את יצחק, Another way to read that is that Avraham made a big party ביום ה+ג מל את יצחק. On day (5+3=8) Avraham מל (circumcized) Yitzchak. And that's when he made the big party - at Yitzchak's bris!

4, We have the custom to say that just as the child entered the covenant so should he enter
"Torah, Huppah, and Maasim Tovim" - learning about (and living based on ) the Torah; the marital canopy; and a life of good deeds. In the footnote on this pronouncement, the author writes "I've been asked many times why Huppah precedes good deeds. Why can't it be the other way around? And I don't really have a good answer."

But I (AB) have a good answer. Simply put, one who does good deeds before marriage knows that a volunteer may step away at any time. But one who is married, in a committed relationship, cannot just go when things are rough. It is true that "chesed begins at home" and a life of good deeds truly begins AFTER marriage, when a person should do good deeds because it makes the other person's life easier and better. It isn't voluntary in the way one can just walk away when one is done. It is a commitment that one sticks with no matter what (again, in a lasting relationship) that outweighs any sense of "I'm volunteering and can walk away whenever I like."

Some of these vignettes are really fantastic. I hope you enjoy them as I have.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Minhagei Worms, Germany (1 of 2)

Over the weekend I picked up a book which discusses the customs of the Jewish community of "Vermaiza" - Worms, Germany. While much of the customs of the Jews of Worms are for the Ages, the book had some interesting insights about some aspects of Bris Milah, and the customs associated with the ancient ritual.

1. The reason we don't say Tachanun - since Eliyahu the Prophet will be in attendance at the bris, all rejoice over his arrival and Tachanun is cancelled.

2. The reason why we still say Lamnatzeach is because of the pain of the child. Targum Yonatan defines the phrase "יענך ה' ביום צרה" (That God should answer you on a day of pain) as "God should accept your cries on the day of circumcision." Obviously, this is an appropriate thing to say on the day of a bris. (Though it too is cancelled if there is a groom in the synagogue).

3. We say "ברוך הבא" at a bris, either because we are welcoming the 8 day old (הבא has the gematria (numerical value) of 8 in 5+2+1). Or because it is a greeting to Eliyahu the Prophet (as someone once pointed out to me, הבא is an acronym for - הנה בא אליהו.)

4. The mitzvah of Bris Milah has two components - Milah (removal of foreskin) and Priah (removal of mucosal membrane) (note - no mention of metzitzah as being essential...), based on the verse in Yehoshua (5:2) "Return and circumcise the children of Israel a second time." The word שנית (a second time) has the same numerical value (760) as פריעת, which is a reference to the second component of the circumcision. When the child is circumcised, people should be standing, based on the verse "ויעמוד כל העם בברית" (Melachim II 23:3) - that the people stood for the covenant.

We'll have more in the next installment from this wonderful book.