Friday, August 27, 2010

The Color White

Nothing represents cleanliness and purity more than the color white. Any image you have in your head of heaven likely includes puffy white clouds and white angels dressed in white garments (to use an anthropomorphic image). A bride wears white on her wedding day, and in Jewish tradition, the groom wears a kittel as well when he and his bride complete the marriage ceremony under the Huppah. White garments (Tachrichim/n) are also placed on the deceased before they are placed in a coffin or are buried directly in the ground, as per the custom in Israel. It is also a widespread custom to wear white on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. There are various reasons given for this, but the attempt to live a symbolic life of purity on these days is unmistakable.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is the Mohel a Doctor?

This has been coming up a lot lately.

I wear a lab coat at the brisses I do (as you can see under my tallis in the photo on the right), for a few reasons:

1. It looks official
2. It looks clean - can't argue with the whiteness of white (who said I can't be profound?)
3. The lab coat has deep pockets for me to put the things I need accessible at different times through my bris workings.

For people who don't know me, though, it makes them think I am a physician. Which I am not.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Correspondence

This post is not about bris milah per se, but more about how this blog has been received by others.

I have been getting a significantly higher number of emails and phone calls from people asking about circumcision - some from local towns, some from across the country. It is nice to discuss this subject matter with people, and to give them a fresh perspective on this ritual. Many people are truly learning about what they will be going through, and the ability to talk things through is something people have expressed appreciation for having.

I have also been getting attempts at Anonymous postings from people who are anti-circumcision. I don't know why people who post anonymously ever think their opinion will hold any credence.

So, let me clarify. This is not a "pro circumcision website." It is a pro-bris website that is informative for people who are going through this experience. I am not looking to convince people one way or the other - the assumption is being made that you are a parent expecting a child (or holding your newborn), who is just trying to find out information.

On that note, if there is any way I can help in your preparations for the bris, feel free to email or call me.

Thanks for looking and searching through the site. Best of luck with your baby.

A.B.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When Baby is "Born" Through C-Section

The Torah says that when a woman gives birth to a male baby, he is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. (Leviticus 12:2-3)

What happens when the birth is not really a "birth"?

Consider this: In "Macbeth," Macduff was able to kill Macbeth, who was unable to be harmed by anyone of woman born, because Macduff was "from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd" — born via a Caesarean section.

A similar thought process occurs in some cases when a child is brought into this world through this abdominal surgical procedure.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

An "Inspired" Teaching

At a recent bris, the baby's grandfather told me a joke:

What blessing does a girl say at a bris? Shelo Asani BOY!

[Translation - "For not having made me a boy." The joke is because there are three blessings that are said in the morning, that begin with the phrase "shelo asani" - for not having made me "x" - and one of them is "Shelo Asani GOY"]

Anyway, while not specifically related to the actual bris and process the baby goes through, I was inspired to find a new explanation for these three blessings, with Bris Milah being an ingredient to my novel interpretation.

It is spelled out in much detail in this post in my other blog.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Some Thoughts on Metzitzah


[Note from 4/30/11 - see here for more on this subject]
Metzitzah is the ancient practice of drawing blood from the wound after the excision of the foreskin. There is much debate amongst rabbinic authorities as to how this is to be done. Sadly, much of it has become a politicized debate to the point that the different sides of the aisle often cannot see or recognize the validity of a differing opinion.


In the Talmud, the main reason for removing a mohel from his position, ie not allowing him to continue to practice as a mohel, was if he did not perform metzitzah. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 133b, Maimonides Laws of Milah 2:2, Shulchan Arukh Y”D 264:3) Bear in mind, the lack of metzitzah does not a non-kosher bris make. (Avnei Nezer Y”D 338, especially letter “י”, mishneh Halakhot (Menashe klein))

Only the mohel who does not do metzitzah has questioned legitimacy. The baby and his bris are deemed kosher, with no further procedure necessary to rectify the flaws of the practices of the mohel.


The Talmud is not clear how metzitzah is to be done. As long as a mohel does metzitzah (many call it "Metzitzah B'Peh" or "Metzitzah B'feh" - drawing blood with the mouth, or the power of the mouth), be it orally or with a tube, he is Talmudically fit to be a mohel (assuming of course, his character is otherwise exemplary).


***************************************************************


Much ink has been spilled over metzitzah. The only Jews who require metzitzah are the Orthodox and some Conservative communities.



How metzitzah is done is the subject of debate, though just about everyone who does it has the mouth involved, in some way performing suction of blood from the wound.
  • Some have the mouth directly touching the open wound.
  • Others have a sterile tube directly touching the open wound, while the mouth provides the suction to draw the blood.

Both methods have rabbinic authorities backing them, and either one is acceptable to most Jews. While I did not poll either community, I imagine that if someone from either camp discovered a bris had been done using the method of metzitzah to which they do not subscribe, they would be unlikely to declare the bris invalid or the mohel who did it invalid.
They certainly would not require the baby to have a wound reopened so metzitzah could be done the other way. Also, metzitzah is never done on an adult circumcision or for hatafat dam brit.



While I do advocate metzitzah be done, with a tube, it is worth noting that if for some reason the metzitzah is not done at all, whether by choice or by oversight, no one questions the validity of the bris itself.


The reason I recommend the tube is because I value the cause of sterility and good hygienic practice in the bris procedure. While Jews circumcise their sons because of the inherent spiritual value, I feel there is no excuse for subjecting the baby to the possibility of any infection - which can so obviously come to a baby through the direct contact of a stranger's saliva with the baby's open wound and the baby's blood which is truly "his life" (see Deuteronomy 12:23)


Final, and perhaps most important note: What sometimes is lost in translation is that the advocates for using a tube are not arguing or declaring a ban on metzitzah or even metzitzah b’peh! They are actually suggesting metzitzah b’peh be accomplished using a tube which can achieve the same result as the mouth, using the strength of the mouth.

I added to this topic in a different posting (as linked at the top of this page)

Pinch Hitting

It wasn't the first time, but it was special.

I received a phone call late last night, "Might you be available to do a bris tomorrow morning?" As things work out, thank God I was available.

"This is a late call. What could have happened?" I wondered.

"The mohel we called apparently had business in Guatemala and is stuck there."

Good thing he called to tell them before this morning.

"Sure. No problem. I'll be there."

It is a wonderful feeling to be called for a bris. It is an honor to be able to fill in on such short notice. In most cases, people appreciate the mohel and the role he plays just because the service is unique and is recognized as being so helpful in performing a special mitzvah. In cases like this, circumstances being what they are, the feeling is different, in a wonderful way, because I know the family's need was more urgent, more pressing, due to time constraints.

And thank God, the bris went well, the baby is doing wonderfully, and everyone seems happy.

Welcome, Miami Beach. I look forward to returning to you soon!