Monday, October 5, 2009

The "Afterthought" Question

Please note I have another post on this subject here

New parents have many things on their minds. (Thank you "Baby Blues" for putting it so nicely)

Before preparing for a bris, the first thing everyone is concerned with is the adjustment - getting life back to a semblance of "normal" routine. First-time parents need to get used to the reality of a new person in their lives, whose care they are responsible for, and whom they possibly (probably) love more than they even love each other.

Parents with other children need to deal with the adjustment of a new baby in the house, possible jealousy of siblings craving attention, as well as the needs of the new baby himself, even though they are "seasoned" parents.

A bris puts what could potentially be a very stressful burden onto parents of a newborn, with a very fast deadline: No more than seven days to prepare.

Those who work out as many details in advance of the birth, whether they know the baby's gender or not, are a step ahead. They know where the bris will take place, they know who will cater, they've made arrangements with a mohel.

And somehow in the middle of it all, "the" question gets lost in translation.

"What's the fee?" "How much will it cost?" Most mohels do not raise such a question on their websites.






The truth is, how can you put a price on a mitzvah of such intimate, personal, and national significance?

My answer to the question is simple: I can't, so I don't. It's up to you.

According to Jewish law, the actual commandment in the Torah, is for the father to do the circumcision himself. People ask me all the time, "Did you circumcise your own son?" You see, bris and mohel-ing is not like a medical procedure for which it is ill-advised to have a family member preside over the surgery - even if the family member is the top in his or her field.

For a bris, the father is supposed to do the surgery.

Yes. I circumcised my son. Thank God, I am in a unique position of being a father who is trained and knows how to circumcise.

Most fathers are not trained, however, and would prefer to put their sons' well-being in the hands of skilled practitioners. And even if they think they can do it, the baby's mommy will never allow it, so it's usually a moot issue.




"Come on, Rabbi. Give me a range."

I can do that, but I don't want you to feel pressure to "match up" to others who may be in a different financial position. Ask yourself what it is worth to you to have this taken care of by someone else, and that is an appropriate honorarium.

It is my practice to say "Thank you" - no questions asked.

Final two notes:

A. If you live in a relatively close proximity to my home or regular travels, I look forward to meeting you before the bris. I will always make at least one follow-up visit, and may come back two or three times, depending on your child's needs. All travel expenses are included in whatever remuneration is offered - and is, of course, most appreciated.

B. For those looking for a range, people generally offer anywhere between $0 and $1000. Most people settle somewhere in the middle range ($250 to $750).

Here is the link to this question in the FAQ section of my website.

It may or not be helpful, but it is the best I can give you. Parents of a new baby could be at very different stages in their lives - from barely newlyweds who have no money to wealthy CEOs having their last hurrah at age 40. Let each do according to their means.

I am truly honored to participate - the role of mohel is a reward in and of itself. The opportunity to help, and everything else, is a gift of God.

See part II of this discussion

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