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Welcome to -  the most comprehensive and up to date mohel blog on the internet . My name is Avi Billet, and I am so ...

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Bris in Quarantine

It's now been over a month since many of us have gone into full scale social-distancing and limited quarantines. I am sure many of us have seen that weddings are still taking place, albeit significantly scaled down, and usually in a backyard.

Naturally, babies are still being born, and each Jewish boy still needs to have his bris!

While in the past people have contacted me in advance of the birth asking if I'll be around in a few months, now the only questions I'm getting are, "Have you been infected?" "Who are you hanging around?" "Are you sick?" and "Will you do the bris wearing a mask?"

Thank God, I have not been sick at all. I'm mostly hanging around my family. And I will happily do the bris with a mask if people are insistent (though the mask does prevent metzitzah in most forms).

To be perfectly honest, I've done many brisses with the kinds of crowds I'm seeing these days. Sometimes people live far from Jewish friends, or they simply want to keep things very private. So the territory of working with just the parents and baby present is not new for me. 

What is new is having a lot of people participating through a screen on ZOOM or Facebook.

And I am loving it - for the baby, for the parents, and yes - for me too.

Why? Mainly because I think the best place to have a bris is at home. The baby doesn't have to go anywhere, he can nap afterwards in his bassinet / crib (not in a carseat), and his parents can give him full, undivided attention (as they are often unable to do when they're hosting a bris). 

Yes, of course they're saving money on renting a space, on all the food (or catering), and much of the heartache (not that this is a bad thing) that naturally comes from throwing a party. But there's a certain blessing that comes with sharing the simcha online, and then shutting off the screen and just being with most immediate family, new parents, baby, and baby's older siblings (if the baby is not the first child).

They also don't have to think about kibbudim, but I did read Rav Herschel Schachter's thought on participating in a bris via Zoom: in which he wrote "If a grandfather is participating in the bris milah of his grandson via Zoom, it is permissible for him to name the baby. However, he should not recite the bracha of “asher kidash yedid m’beten” via Zoom."

That is fascinating!

I personally enjoy not having to rush from room to room, not having to worry about forgetting something in one place, to track down the pillows and kiddush cups that may have been left in one room, and most importantly, being able to give the baby full attention in the presence of his parents. Additionally, since there aren't distractions, we can all focus when discussing the baby's "post bris care."

This is the first part of the letter I am sending to parents these days:
Dear Parents
              Mazal Tov, and congratulations on the birth of your new son! 

               I am very excited to join you at this very special time, and honored to serve in the role as mohel for the coming bris. I look forward to doing all I can to help make this event meaningful and special to you, and to giving your son the best care possible.  
                Because of the current social distancing protocols, this bris is going to be different from others you've experienced, but hopefully, for your immediate family, it will be most memorable. 

                You don't need to think about all the kibbudim and people you will be honoring. But you will have the chance to relax immediately after you turn off the Zoom (or whatever platform you use to connect with relatives and friends) immediately after the bris is over. In the brisses I've done during this time period, I've found this to be an unexpected blessing for some parents. When all this is over, your family and friends will meet your son in person and watch him grow. In the immediate minutes and hours after the bris, he'll be with the people he needs most. The two of you!

               This link will provide you with links to most of the information you need. Some of it is less relevant in the very private affair we'll be conducting. I gave you the basic information any way, though I imagine we'll play much by ear based on the realities we'll have that day.

As always, it is my honor to be brought into a family's inner most circle at this time. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Naming the Baby When His Bris is To Be Delayed a LONG Time

See more on this topic regarding specifically choosing to name the baby before the bris - during the first week of the baby's life. This article is about if the baby's bris has to be delayed for an extended period of time, either because of a medical condition or an anatomical condition which translates to a need for surgery, which will take place when the baby is at least 6 months or older, when a surgeon will be performing a reconstructive surgery on a condition developed in utero which should not be touched by a mohel.

In his book "Otzar HaBris" Yossele Weisberg writes the following (6:2:3):

* When the bris will not take place on time for whatever reason, there are those who say the baby should be named when his father is called to the Torah (e.g. for an aliyah), and it is good for this to take place after the baby's eighth day. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

High Fiving the Sandak

I have never done this before. But today, before the baby was on the sandak's lap, I let out a whoop and gave the sandak a high-five.

Here's the background.

Before the baby gets put on the sandak's lap, and after the baby is on his lap, I speak with him briefly, giving him instructions for how he is to hold the baby, etc.

When his legs are in the position they will remain in for the circumcision (remember, baby will be on a pillow which will be resting on sandak's lap), often with at least one pillow on his lap, I typically ask the sandak, "Are you comfortable?"

It's both a serious question, and the set up for an old Henny Youngman punchline you'll find at the end below the line.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

In the Merit of Milah...

דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות דברים פרק ל
מי "יעלה "לנו "השמימה. הרי מילה בראשי תיבות רמז שבזכות מילה עלה משה לשמי' לקבל התורה"

Daat Zekenim on the recent Torah portion
Who (Mi) Will Go Up (iYaleh) For Us (Lanu) To The Heavens (HaShamayma)
Milah is the acronym of those words, to hint to us that in the merit of circumcision, Moshe went up the mountain to receive the Torah!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Bris During the Ten Days of Repentance

The book "Otzar HaBris" (Yossele Weisberg) has a section of halakhot surrounding what is done differently on noted days of the Jewish calendar.

With respect to a bris during the Aseres Y'mei Teshuvah, he shares the following insights:

1. If the father of the baby, the sandak for the bris, or the mohel are present at a Shacharis, tachanun will be skipped. However, "Avinu Malkeinu" - an additional prayer recited between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, will be recited. 

2. Those who have the custom to fast during the 10 days may eat at the "seudat mitzvah" of the bris, and they do not need to do/say hatarat neder for their custom to fast. The exception would be if the person specifically made a vow at Mincha the previous day - not knowing he would be at a bris - for that vow, hatarat neder would be necessary.

Next up will be a bris on Yom Kippur

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bris on Tzom Gedaliah

The book "Otzar HaBris" (Yossele Weisberg) has a section of halakhot surrounding what is done differently on noted days of the Jewish calendar.

With respect to a bris on Tzom Gedaliah, he shares the following insights:

1. The prayers are the same for the fast day - saying Selichos and Viduy.
2. However, Tachanun is not recited during Shacharis (it is recited as part of Selichos)
3. We say Kel Erekh Apayim and Lamnatzeach
4. When we say the blessing on the wine, we give some of it to the baby to drink.
5. If the fast day is pushed off to Sunday (because the 3rd of Tishrei fell on Shabbos), then the mohel, sandak or baby's father may drink, as none of them (the "baalet bris") are required to fast
6. Some have the custom to give the baby the name "Gedaliah," while others felt this should not be done.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bris on Rosh Hashana

The book "Otzar HaBris" (Yossele Weisberg) has a section of halakhot surrounding what is done differently on noted days of the Jewish calendar.

With respect to a bris on  Rosh Hashana, he shares the following insights:

1. If the bris will be taking place in the synagogue, the Rosh Hashana bris should ideally take place after Torah reading, before Shofar blowing. It should certainly not take place at the end of Tefillah.
2. If the bris will be in a home, it could take place after prayer services are over. If the home is close to the synagogue, and there's a way for the bris to take place at the proper time (see #1) without causing a delay in the services, then it should be done. (If there is an appeal or the rabbi's sermon, and the mohel can work quickly to not miss shofar blowing, then I suppose this is possible - but there shouldn't be a mass exodus - only those needed for the ceremony)
3. If it is the Sabbath, since there will not be Shofar blowing, the bris will take place after the Torah is returned to the Ark, before the Chazzan for Mussaf begins his prayer before Mussaf. (Some say it should take place at the same time as it would during a weekday Rosh Hashana day, after Torah reading and before Ashrei)
4. If the bris will cause the mohel to miss Shofar blowing, some say it is OK for him to miss out on Shofar blowing for the sake of the mitzvah of bris. Others say this only applies to a father who is also a trained mohel. Otherwise, the mohel should not be missing out on hearing the Shofar.
5. There is a custom to give the name Yitzchak to a child who is either circumcised on Rosh Hashana or who is born on Rosh Hashana.
6. Some say to not make a celebratory Bris meal on Rosh Hashana. (In the footnote he mentions a concern that such a celebration might take away from the more serious nature of the day)
7. Those who fast on Rosh Hashana (not a common practice) - both opinions exist regarding whether to eat. You may not eat, while some are lenient saying you may eat (welcome to Judaism!)
8. A child who is born at dusk a week before either the first or second day of Rosh Hashana will eb circumcised the day after Rosh Hashana (on Tzom Gedaliah). Of course if that day is Shabbos, the bris will be pushed off (as will be Tzom Gedaliah) to Sunday.

Next up, a bris on Tzom Gedaliah

Monday, September 16, 2019

Bris on Erev Rosh Hashana

The book "Otzar HaBris" (Yossele Weisberg) has a section of halakhot surrounding what is done differently on noted days of the Jewish calendar.

With respect to a bris on the day before Rosh Hashana, he shares the following insight - which is essentially the same as the first rule he shared regarding a Rosh Chodesh bris. 

Those who have the custom to fast on Erev Rosh Hashana may participate in the Bris celebratory meal.

Next up, a bris on Rosh Hashana.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Bris on Rosh Chodesh

The book "Otzar HaBris" (Yossele Weisberg) has a section of halakhot surrounding what is done differently on noted days of the Jewish calendar.

With respect to Rosh Chodesh, he shares two points:

1. Someone who fasts on Erev Rosh Chodesh (the day before Rosh Chodesh, sometimes called Yom Kippur Katan) may eat at a Bris meal, according to some opinions.

2. At the meal for a bris which takes place on Rosh Chodesh, an additional food item should be added to the menu, specifically in honor of Rosh Chodesh.

Next up, a bris on Erev Rosh Hashana.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mother v Father : Wife v Husband

It does not happen often, but every now and then the parents of the baby have very different ideas as to what they want their baby's circumcision to look like. And no, I am not talking about the actual aesthetics of how things will turn out and look post-op.

I'm referring to the setting of the bris. Without getting into specifics of what men v women want (because there is honestly no set rule here), let's just give a few examples where different visions can reach very different conclusions.

One wants to make a big party and invite lots of people
One wants to keep things modest. Very modest.

One wants to bring special attention to the mitzvah at hand
One couldn't care less about the mitzvah

One believes circumcision is the right thing to do for religious reasons
One believes circumcision is an important medical procedure