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.

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