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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 ...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Good Questions to Ask ANY Mohel

You know you're having a boy. Or you're doing research just in case. What do you ask, to be sure you're getting the information you need to ascertain if the mohel you're speaking with is right for you.

For some of these questions, different answers are a matter of preference for you.

I feel the questions which relate to cleanliness and sterility should only have one acceptable answer... but that's only my opinion.

1. Do you wear sterile gloves while doing the bris?
2. How do you do metzitzah – by mouth or with a tube?
3. Do you use a hemostat to accomplish milah and priah at once? Or do you use your fingernail to do priah?
4. Do you use a clamp? If so, what kind? Why?
5. Do you mark the spot where you plan to make the incision?
6. What kind of knife do you use for the bris?
7. How do you sterilize your instruments?
8. What is your opinion about the pain the baby feels during the bris? Can anything be done to ease it?
9. Do you plan to see the baby before the day of the bris?
10. When is the last time the baby should eat before the bris?
11. How soon after the bris can my son eat?
12. Do you plan to make any follow-up visits in the days following the bris?
13. Do you ever need to do anything to my son, other than change his bandage, after the bris?
14. How long does the healing process take?
15. Do you have printed instructions for how to care for the bris?
16. Would you do a bris if one of the parents is not Jewish?
17. Do you offer a certificate?
18. Do you have a list of items that need to be prepared for the bris?
19. What is the wine for? Who drinks it?
20. What is your fee?
21. Do you double book brisses – will you be on time?

What Kind of Party?

The birth of a child is a joyous occasion. Boy or girl, people delight in a new baby, and the newness and freshness of life. The beauty and innocence of a baby is appreciated by all, and the new child brings an endless source of blessings from relatives, friends, and neighbors alike.

The First Celebration

Jews celebrate in all kinds of ways. For any birth, some people make a "kiddush" in shul on a Sabbath after the baby is born (sometimes weeks or months after the birth).

After the birth of a boy, some will have a celebration in the home on Friday night.

[Some have a similar celebration after the birth of a girl, but this is more likely due to an influence of the need for equality of the sexes in modern times. The truth is that any symbolic parties surrounding the birth of a baby boy relate to the fact the he will be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah thoughts shared, the spirituality brought to the celebrations are meant to serve as "protectors" for him, so his bris will be successful and without incident.

As a girl is thankfully not circumcised, these celebrations are not relevant and can happen at any time.]

The Bris Itself

As a bris is the fulfillment of a commandment, the meal associated with it is considered a "seudat mitzvah," a meal celebrating the commandment. Just as we prepare a festive meal for a wedding, for a bar or bat mitzvah, and for a siyum [read about the laws of a siyum from my friend Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross], it is customary to prepare a festive meal for a bris.

How Elaborate?

It's a matter of taste, size of guest list, and - of course - budget.

[It should go without saying, but just to be sure: in accordance with Jewish tradition and practice, all food at a bris should be kosher.]

**** Taste ****

If you are the all-out type (or if the baby's grandparents want to sponsor and that is their personality), then the party could be as big as a bar mitzvah or wedding. I have presided over brisses where the entire meal followed a "theme." Often enough there are generic "baby boy" themes - such as stuffed animals, balloons and lots of blue. I have also seen themes that include: a jungle, a sports team (the father was a big fan), a sports theme (athletic family), and ninjas (???).

While brisses more often take place in the morning and consist of bagels, eggs and other breakfast foods, it is not out-of-place to have a meat meal to celebrate the occasion. In the US, a meat meal will not usually go over well for breakfast, however, so those who prefer a meat meal will more often do a lunchtime bris or a dinner time bris. [All of these are fine, as long as the circumcision itself takes place during daylight hours.]

More on the extent of this in the "Budget" section below.

On the other hand, if you are the simple-type, and want to be classy but not over the top, providing bagels and spreads (cream cheeses, tuna fish, lox, etc), salads, with cakes and pastries and drinks is respectable.

**** Size of Guest List ****

Who will be participating?

There is an old custom not to "invite" people to a bris due to the belief that the spirit of Elijah the prophet is in attendance. Were people to be invited and not come, this would seem as an affront to the prophet. But if they are merely informed that "the bris will take place at such and such time and place" they are not declining any invitation if they don't show up.

Regardless, people generally have a good idea of who will be there.

** A More Intimate Crowd **

If the bris will take place in a home, the rules of the home will usually trump all else. You do what is in your style. Your guests are usually family and really close friends, so whatever you choose to do will work just fine.

Some people order all the food on platters from a caterer. Others have family and friends pitch in. In either case, everyone participating knows you and loves you and are happy enough just to be there.

** In a synagogue - with drop-ins **

If a family has the bris right after the morning services (Shacharit) in a synagogue, there is always a chance that people who were not informed about the bris may come. A bris is considered a community celebration, and people are happy to stay to join in the festive occasion.

A bris in a synagogue is usually a bigger affair than at home anyway, but in some cases, the number of guests could end up being over 100 people. Knowing that you'll be feeding that many people (and in some cases, their children), it is important to think in advance of how much food is necessary to feed that many people, and then to consider how much of the food you are ordering is essential (the bagels), versus how much is excessive (the omelet stations and all of the hot food).

Of course, if you are writing a blank check to a caterer, none of this matters.

**** Budget ****

When doing a bris outside of one's home, a number of things need to be considered when budgeting for a bris:

* Rental cost of the space. This may even apply in a synagogue
* Caterer (in the case of some synagogues, you may not bring in any food: it all must come from the caterer)
* Additional people who may drop in
* dairy versus a meat meal
* Do you want to save costs by making some of the food, or having friends or relatives bring food? If so, you probably won't be having the bris in a synagogue.

Time of day may help change some factors. During the day, you'll have fewer drop-ins. But you might opt for a meat meal. Also, people who come might stay a while and may look for second helpings of food.

Some Final Suggestions

If money is no object, then make a party that is respectable, memorable for you, and which demonstrates your appreciation to God for having blessed you with a child.

If money is a concern, you may want to see if any relatives (ie. baby's grandparents) want to chip in something to the cause.

Consider different venues, not just because of cost but because of what works for you and your baby. If you don't want the baby leaving the house, have the bris at home.

If you have lots of "peripheral friends" who will celebrate because "everyone loves a bris," it is also possible to give them a respectable display of "food for the road" such as coffee and cakes, juices and fruit, while you have the celebratory meal with just closer friends and family in a different location, or after the 'uninvited' guests leave.

With a little foresight, everything will work out just fine. And with the help of those nearest and dearest to you, it will be as stress-free as possible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Different Types of Mohels

There are many excellent mohels in this country. There are many fine mohels as well.

In Israel these differences are marked by the title "Mohel Mumcheh" (מוהל מומחה) (expert) and the standard "Mohel Musmach" (מוהל מוסמך) (certified or ordained to be a mohel). The differences between them vary and depend upon certain qualifications such as advanced study and examination, and years and volume of experience.

Just to bring an example, on this list of about 120 certified mohels in the Jerusalem area, only 5 of them are "experts." It's kind of like going to the top doctor who is less accessible when just about any other doctor will do the same job for you.

Trifecta: Ceremony, Care (Results), Complications (a.k.a 'The Triple C')

These three components will help you determine the kind of mohel you want. Unless a mohel is right out of mohel school, any experienced mohel has done hundreds, if not thousands of procedures. So you need not worry about your son being horribly damaged. As a pediatric surgeon I know has said, "We fix more circumcisions done by OBGYNs than anything else. With mohels, we'll usually hesitate to do anything to their work because they generally do a really good job. The worst case scenario, if anything, is a slight cosmetic touch up. Which is extremely rare and usually unnecessary."

Taking his lead, let's look to other criteria, because just about any mohel you will hear about is probably a fine, good, or excellent mohel whom you can trust your son's care to. A pediatrician I consulted with many times (particularly to determine if the bris needs to be delayed due to the baby's health) told me that many brisses he sees (in his neighborhood in NY there are many mohels so he saw the gamut of "results") look awful in the first few days, but they usually heal quite nicely and end up looking fine. [Before I moved to Florida, he called me to say how much he'd miss me and that I was the first mohel name he gave to clients who asked for a suggestion.]

  • Do you want a simple ceremony? A flashy ceremony?
  • Do you want the mohel to be the star of the show? Or do you want the baby to be the center of attention?
  • Do you want your family involved? Do you want the mohel to do everything?
  • Do you want to do the bris your way? The mohel's way? Guided by Jewish tradition? (These do not have to conflict)
  • Do you have customs based on your family's most ethnic point of origin (as in North Africa, Middle East, or Eastern Europe - not North America, Middle America, or the Eastern Seaboard)?
  • Do you want explanations of the ceremony? Significance explained, lessons taught, stories told?
  • Do you want bare bones, no talking except what is written in the prayer book?

Care (and Results)

My Pitch to You
I was trained by the government supervisor in Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Sasson. He is one of the five "experts" on the list mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry - the list is alphabetical (Hebrew), so he is actually on the bottom of the list, very easy to find.
I have performed hundreds of brisses in my eleven years as a mohel.
Many parents have called me to do a bris for them a second time (on a different son of theirs, of course). Some sets of grandparents have watched me circumcize three, four or even five of their grandsons. This may include babies from three (sets) of their own children.
I am not flashy, I am very respectful, and I guarantee the highest standards of sterility in the care of your son.
I recognize that every baby is different, not all babies have the same circumstance of anatomy - and underneath the foreskin there can be all sorts of hidden surprises which may often determine a different result. Not all brisses end up looking the same.
I have (thank God) never had a baby go to a doctor or hospital due to bleeding issues after a bris.
I have (thank God) never had a baby develop an infection as a result of the bris.
I view my role very seriously, and come to a bris with a sense of trepidation over the seriousness of the moment and the Jewish, traditional significance attached to the bris.
On an equal scale, I value the trust you put in me as a practitioner, to give your son the care he deserves for undergoing this procedure, in fulfillment of the commandment first given to Abraham and concretized by Moses on Mt. Sinai. (If not for these last reasons, I would never serve in this capacity.)
I hope your research brings you back to this site and look forward to talking with you when your son is born.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Beauty of a Bris

Why is a bris so special?

Aside from the obvious celebration of the arrival of a baby, a source of joy which is universal, the bris carries with it added significance which makes the Jewish experience of the baby's arrival unique.


Not only do they call and make a big "hoo-ha" over the baby's arrival, but they also gather together for a celebratory meal in which all have a chance to spend time, 'catch up,' and enjoy each other's company for a 'surprise' occasion. The 'surprise' is the bris which has only been planned for a week, as opposed to other family gatherings, such as for holidays, bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, which are planned months in advance.

Jewish Heritage

Bris is one of the most widely practiced observances across all spectrums of Judaism. For most Jews, whether they have personal reservations and concerns or not, the bris still takes place - the circumcision of the sons is almost a 'given.'

The significance of the bris in Jewish tradition is that it is the mark of the Covenant between Abraham and God, in which God promised to be the God of Abraham and his descendants, and many other blessings, if Abraham would bear this mark in himself and his children.

You can read more about the significance of bris in this article from My Jewish Learning Dot Com.

Not Just a Circumcision

Bris is a circumcision, but it is not only a circumcision. In fact, according to Jewish law, if a baby were to be circumcised before the required eighth day, the "bris" is not valid and a ceremonial drawing of a minimal amount of blood - hatafat dam brit - is required in order to change the circumcision into a valid bris. [See the last section of this article]

[See this monograph on hatafat dam brit from Dr. Sam Kunin. With graphics!]

[The significance of blood at a bris will be discussed in a different post because it is beyond the scope of this one]

Timeless message

The bris is timeless and it is one component of what has set the Jewish people apart from the rest of the world for thousands of years. While many others might circumcise their children, the significance the Jewish people have attached to the "mark in the flesh" unique to our historical and national experience as a people.

With God's help, we will continue to observe this ritual with joy as we continue to bear witness to God's presence in this world and in our lives.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When to Call the Mohel

When is the best time to call a mohel to book his services?
[Calling to interview or to inquire about techniques, in other words, to do your research before your baby is born is a different story. That is called being smart.]

Simply put - call to book the mohel as soon as possible after the baby is born. If you have parents, call them first to tell them about their new grandson. Then call the mohel.

There is one father for whom I have done brisses on two of his sons - after his wife gives birth he calls me before he calls his parents. And definitely before he calls his wife's parents. :)

The reason you can call after the baby is born is because we are accustomed to working on a short term basis - that is the nature of this line of work. As one colleague put it, "I never really know more than a week at a time if I will ever work again."

Old Wives Tales

The sonogram put all the old-wives tales of "how to tell what gender the baby is" out of business:

* the way the mother is carrying

* which foot she steps with first

* if she turns to the left

* if she has an aversion to chicken

Here are some links: # One # Two # Three

I need not bore you with more. Google it for yourself.

Mistake #1

One excited father saw me once in the supermarket. Let's say it was November. He said to me, "Rabbi Billet! Be prepared! We may have a bris coming up."

Not knowing until then that his wife was pregnant, I said, "O wow! Great! I hope you have a healthy baby. When is your wife due?"

"Middle of June!"

This is too early.

And they had a girl.

Mistake #2

The phone rings. I pick up. "Hello?"

"Hi Rabbi. This is ____. My wife and I just came back from the sonogram. Yup yup yup! It's a boy!"

"O that's great! The baby is well? All signs are good?"

"Yes," says Dad to Be. "So the baby is expected around four months from now. Will you be around?"

I usually don't know what I'm doing next week, let alone four months from now.

"I really wish you and your wife the best of luck. I think I may be around, but let's try this. When the baby comes, give me a call and I think I'll be able to give you more definite plans."

Still too early.

Mistake #3

"Hi Rabbi. I'm calling because I have a scheduled c-section on ____ 23rd. Are you available a week later."
Hmmmm. That is over a month away.

"Well," I answer, "No one seems to have called me yet for that date, so there is a chance..."

"Pencil it in your calendar, will ya?"

"What if you go into labor before then?" I postulate.

"Then we'll switch it."

Now why didn't I think of that?

"OK. Great! Best of luck with the delivery, c-section, surgery, recovery. I hope your baby is well and healthy. Please call me after the baby is born to remind me!"

Still a little early.

More Like It

"Hi Rabbi! Mazal Tov! It's a boy!"

"Who is this?"

"This is your unmarried sister."

It really is my sister.

"Very funny."

Oy does that girl have a sense of humor.

More to the point

"Hi Rabbi! Mazal Tov! It's a boy!"

"Who is this?"

"This is ____. I got your name from [pick one:] your ad / my brother-in-law / my sister-in-law / my in-laws / my rabbi / my friend / my great aunt and uncle / word on the street / your mohel colleague who is unavailable that day."

"Wonderful. How are you? [Or how is your wife?]"

"We are well. Mother and baby are well. Baby was born at _____ and we're looking to have the bris next week."

Book it.

The One Major Concern and Reason to Avoid Pre-Booking

"Hi Rabbi. My wife just gave birth... She's doing well, but there's a problem with the baby."

or, a few days after the birth,

"Something came up and the baby is in the NICU."

All kinds of things can happen that can cause a bris to be delayed. They are less common than your run of the mill healthy delivery and normal baby, but not so out of sight that everyone is immune. They can happen to anyone and any baby.


As soon as possible after your baby is born is the right time to call.

Sometimes a heads up, particularly if you've interviewed the mohel or have been in contact or have a personal relationship, "We're heading to the hospital / birthing center" is helpful in case there is a drawn out labor.

Babies more often come when they want than when we may want. So - chin up! The bris will be when it will be, and you don't have to worry about making the call until you are done with the difficult part of labor and delivery.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mohel in Hollywood (Florida), will travel too

There's a nice ring to being a mohel in Hollywood.

There are a couple of mohels I know of who carry the moniker "Mohel to the Stars." One is in California, and the other is in New York.

But I live in Hollywood, FLORIDA, and other than everyone else's children, the only stars I see on a regular basis are the ones visible in the clear night sky. Which you can't see in New York (I lived there many years) or in smog-filled LA (I'm told). Maybe you can in LA. I don't know.

Though I'm based in Hollywood and don't do too many celebrity brisses, I am ready to travel. Other than the brisses I've done in Florida, I've done brisses in farther places (for an East Coaster) such as Seattle, WA, Omaha, NE, many places in NY, NJ, PA, and CT, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. Not to mention the number I've done in Israel.

It's always exciting, always new, always an honor and privilege to serve, and to meet parents going through the birth and bris of their son, so soon after his arrival. It is also amazing to watch, no matter how old or young the parents, no matter how experienced as parents or inexperienced, how the arrival of a new baby (boy or girl) is remarkably a similar experience for all. Joy, elation, disbelief, appreciation for the miracles of God, hope for the future, and anticipation of the rocky yet joyous road ahead.

I've done the brisses of many "first child"s, many "first son"s (after one or more daughters), as well as many siblings (parents who called me again), and, in a few cases, the third or fourth or fifth or sixth son in a family. Some families come from different cities, and some families are looking for a different experience than what they've had in the past.

I look forward to participating in your son's bris when the time comes, and hope you will have a similarly rewarding experience with me, as I know I will have with you.

Even though I don't carry a card which reads "mohel to the stars."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mohel, Moyel, Moyl, Moyle, Moil, Moiel?

What is the proper way to pronounce the profession of the person who circumcises Jewish boys?

It really depends on what your background is.

The Hebrew term for circumcision is מילה (Milah) - pronounced "me-la."

One who does Milah is called a מוהל (Mohel) - pronounced "moe-hell"

Those who speak Yiddish as a first language will typically take the long "o" sound, and turn it into a classically Jewish sound of "oy." For them, a "mohel" is now pronounced "moy-ill" because the soft "h" is dropped in the process.

Since most American Jews stem from European ancestry, where Yiddish was the first language, the term "Moyel" became popular and it stuck.

In his classic book about Judaism, "This is My God," author Herman Wouk wrote (1950s) that most Jews today need only go back four or five generations to discover observant Jews. In 2009 2010, I suppose that would translate to seven or eight generations. Through it all, assimilation, integration, emergence of different types of Jewish experiences, one thing has pretty much remained a constant: bris milah a.k.a. circumcision.

And so the Yiddish name for Mohel ("Moyel") has remained popular as well, because that's the way "it's always" been pronounced.

So whether you call us circumcisers "mohel"s or "moyel"s or something else, we look forward to answering the call and taking care of your son and your family's needs.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Multiple Babies

It is a tremendous privilege to be asked to be the mohel for any and every bris.

It is an even bigger privilege when there is more than one baby - such as twins or triplets.

Believe it or not, the last five sets of twins I've dealt with have been boy and girl twins; obviously they were only single brisses.

But I've had my share of twin boy brisses, and, even less common, two sets of triplet boy brisses.

"How do you do it?" people ask. Simple! Have multiple sets of instruments! Now the event is no longer a set of triplets, but it is three brisses in succession. No less an incredible feat, but less stressful for the mohel who has three babies to concern himself with in either case.

The amazing thing is that like every bris and like every baby, the brisses never come out "exactly" the same. For that I guess even the mothers may be grateful because they have another method of identifying the difference in their newborns.

Quadruplets or quintuplets will be the highlight of my career, but I'm not waiting up nights for it to happen.

Though, come to think of it, the last day I spent with my mohel teacher in Israel (Rabbi Mordechai Sasson, the government supervisor of mohels in Israel), he had nine brisses. One of that day's brisses was a baby who was a quadruplet. They hired four mohels that day to give each a chance, rather than give them all to one mohel who really would have had a story to tell for the rest of his life.

While I attended one, I never presided over it. Yet.

All in good time.

Update: Twins bris early 2012  And Late 2012

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Mohel in South Florida

Before I became a "mohel in South Florida" I was a mohel in New York for ten years.

One of my mohel colleagues in Florida is Rabbi Howard Seif, whose father, Rabbi Abraham Seif was the mohel in South Florida for many many many years. The elder Rabbi Seif passed away last year, and his son has taken over his famous moniker "Seif the Knife."

It is an honor to have him as a colleague. He is a wonderful mentsch, and a person with whom it is easy to share stories, techniques and to discuss the "trade." As in any profession, it is important to continue to learn new things - and I learn from him as well.

I hope he feels the same way.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's All About the Baby

There is a time and place for everything, including a person's ego. More importantly, there is a time and place for the ego to be put in check. And that person is a mohel, and the time and place is when he is performing a bris.

It is such a tremendous privilege for a mohel to be invited to perform this sacred mitzvah. In a different post, we'll explore the ways the Talmud and Rabbinic texts speak of the greatness of this mitzvah.

But the day of the bris is about 3 people. The baby, and his parents.

A mohel is a hired gun. He is brought in because he has a skill the father (who is the one actually commanded to perform the circumcision) does not have, so he is there to represent the father in fulfillment of his obligation. He is brought in, first and foremost, to give the baby the best possible care.

He should treat the parents properly as well. He should talk to them on their level. He should open the door to answer their questions. He should get a sense of their needs and wants for the bris experience to be the best it can be for their baby, and for their family and friends who participate.

Does the mohel play an important role? Absolutely. But is his role in any way about what he gets out of it? Absolutely not.

Like everything else, this is a service industry. If the mohel does a nice job, takes good care of the baby, and leaves a good impression, I guarantee the family will recommend him to their friends and he will be called again to work again.

But when he makes the event about "his" performance, and "his" stagemanship, and "his" speech, he is going in the wrong direction.

Don't get me wrong - some people may want this in a mohel. That is your choice as parents. But the mohel should be a little more humble and a little less egotistical and self-centered.

After all, when it comes to the bris, the baby is the man of the hour.

No one else.

A Source for Metzitzah?

Traditionally, the bris has three components: Milah, Priah, Metzitzah.

Milah is the removal of the foreskin, also known as the prepuce, which is the outer layer of skin covering the glans - until the outer edge of the corona.

Priah is the removal of the mucous membrane which is directly under the foreskin, which also serves as a coating for the glans.

Metzitzah is the drawing of blood "from distant places."

Of the three, metzitzah is the most controversial nowadays, on a number of levels.

#1: What is it's purpose? For medical reasons, or as part of the oral tradition?
#2: Is it necessary in either case?
#3: How is it to be done?
#4: Who should do it?

There are those who do not do metzitzah at all, there are those who only do not do it on Shabbos or Yom Tov but do it on weekdays, there are those who do it at every bris.

Of those who do it, there are ultimately two approaches: A. putting the mouth directly on the wound (commonly known as "metzitzah b'feh" (MBP in blogosphere)), and B. using a tube to draw out the blood with the power of the mouth, but without any direct oral contact from mohel to baby.

I wrote on article on the subject of sterility in a bris which addresses this subject.

But for those who advocate the MBP (direct oral contact approach), I think I found a source for you. (And yes, this is tongue in cheek)

On the verse Devarim 30:19, the Sifsei Kohen (Shakh) writes [referring to 30:6]:
ו) וּמָל יְקֹוָק אֱלֹקֶיךָ אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְאֶת לְבַב זַרְעֶךָ לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְקֹוָק אֱלֹקֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ לְמַעַן חַיֶּיךָ
God will remove [lit. circumcise] the barriers from your hearts and from the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love God your Lord with all your heart and soul. Thus will you survive.


ומל ה', בא"ת ב"ש, פיך, לומר שעיקר המילה הפה, שישמור פיו מלדבר בו נבלה ומלאכול מאכלות אסורות, אז ומל ה' את לבבך ואת לבב זרעך, כפי המאכל כן יהיה הזרע זך, מילה בגימטריא פה
God will circumcise: The word ומל (and He circumcises), using At Ba'sh, transforms to פיך (your mouth), to say that the main component of Milah [in this case, metaphorical circumcision of the heart] is done with the mouth, namely that one should guard one's mouth from speaking dirty talk and from eating prohibited foods. Only then will God circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants (removethe barriers to penetrate a return to Him). As per the [pure] food, so too will your children be pure. Milah [מילה = 40+10+30+5] has the same numerical value as Peh [80+5 = פה].

I am sure some will take this to mean that milah must be done with the mouth.

Oy vey.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cleanliness and Efficiency

If you were to ask me what are the top criteria I think anyone should seek in any mohel, I would say to check two things: his cleanliness and his efficiency.

Each of these has different components, and I will try to be brief:


Cleanliness includes:
* The way he presents himself. If he looks polished, he is polished. If he looks like a slob, he probably is a slob.
* Maintaining a sterile field. It is very hard to maintain an absolutely sterile field in the public setting of a bris, but it is possible to do your best. Sterile drapes, gloves, bandages, and packaged instruments sterilized in an autoclave machine should all be standard.
* He should use a wastebasket for any packages, paper towels, diapers or used gauze pads he uses, to eliminate any mess which might turn people off.
* While there will be bleeding at a bris, he should keep it to a confined area, and be able to minimize any bleeding from straying beyond the immediate bris area

This leads into our second component...

* He should come on time and set his instruments in place in time for the designated hour.
* Everything he needs (diapers, wipes, receiving blankets, gauze, wine, kiddush cup, etc.) should be set up before the ceremony begins.
* The actual circumcision should take a minimal amount of time.
* Bandaging the baby should be a quick ordeal.
* Unless he has been asked to speak by the parents (often to explain the ceremony), he need not speak except: to "M.C." (if there is no other), to give the father and sandak quiet instructions, and to tell the father when he is to appoint the mohel his "shaliach" - messenger - to perform the mitzvah on his behalf.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Family and Friends Focused

Exciting and Emotionally Stressful

The birth of a baby is an extremely exciting time for a family.

It can also be stressful, and emotionally challenging.

* New Moms may be dealing with post-partum depression, nursing challenges, and the stresses that come with bringing a new baby home
* Every aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, neighbor, friend wants to know "what they can do to help."
* A boy baby translates to a bris to prepare for in a week. Sometimes there is a party Friday night as well.
* The phone calls don't stop, and sometimes all you (new mom and dad) want is a chance to enjoy the baby for yourselves and get some rest when you can.

Planning Ahead

Sometimes it is helpful - BEFORE baby comes - to think things out, to decide who will do what once baby arrives.

In particular, when you know the baby is a boy and more family will be coming to visit and more expediently, it is important to have a plan of who will be playing what roles in that very intense first week.

YOU should decide whose parents (husband or wife) will stay in your home, who will do the cooking, who will be doing the cleaning. Getting help does a lot to relieve the stress of all that is going on. Whether it be a baby nurse or cleaning help, strategize beforehand what fits into your budget, or if your parents are willing to pitch in to make things easier for you.


Sometimes, when people ask "how can I help?" they mean to do menial tasks. But if you have a plan for the things you need (who will do the shopping, carpooling - if you have other kids, other errands), people are pleasantly surprised and so willing to pitch in if you have specific tasks for them to do. Remember, if they offer they usually mean it. And if you have something for them to do when they offer, they'll usually come through amazingly.

If you have to call them when you decide you need them, you'll probably never make the phone call.

For the Bris

As far as the bris goes, give me a call and we'll talk. There are things you need to prepare for the ceremony and aftercare, but those are things others can do for you. The lists of supplies are at the top of the page here. Give them to your parents to do. Send them to the pharmacy and/or baby store.

We'll schedule a time to talk, to meet (if you live at a reasonable distance away), and to plan or strategize.

I hope the bris will be the least stressful for you due to our conversations, other than the natural stress that comes with concern over your son's wellbeing during and post his circumcision.

I can't do too much about any natural reservations you may have about the ordeal (more on this in a different post), but hopefully we can come to a reasonable understanding.

Mazal Tov!