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)
- Does the mohel see the baby before the bris? Does he make a follow up visit after the bris?
- Is he sensitive to the baby? Is he sensitive to the mother?
- Does he wear gloves and have a sterile technique - see here and here ?
- Does he put you at ease (see here too)? Is he preoccupied thinking only about what he has to do?
- Does he inform you how to care for the baby after the bris?
- Does he tell you what to do in an emergency situation?
- What is his track record? Was his work ever revisited by surgeons? (for most mohels the answer may be yes. This is a simple matter of statistics. Out of 100 brisses, at least one may have an issue. Either he won't tell you, or, and this may very well be the case, he does not know because the parents did not tell him about it)?
- How long does it take to heal and what are the cosmetic results like (in general)?
- What kinds of complications can or do arise after a bris?
- How does a mohel deal with them?
- What if aesthetics or other matters come up or become apparent a few months down the road? How does the mohel deal with these circumstances and questions?
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.
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