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.

There are other places where white is utilized. A clean hospital, particularly before the advent of colorful scrubs, always had the image of clean white sheets, white nurses uniforms (for both male and female nurses). Even orderlies wore white.

Perhaps it is because if something is wrong or dirty it is easily spotted and easily removed for cleaning. Perhaps bleach is the easiest cleaner to use, and of course, works best on white.

And all this leads to my point. A number of people have marveled to me lately that they enjoy watching me work because I wear white (lab coat, gloves, tallis (sometimes)) and I utilize white drapes, gauze, and a white padded base on which the baby's bottom rests above the pillow, so he is in a good position for the bris.

I do all this not just because I think it is important to present a clean and sterile image, but because I think sterility is a key ingredient to a successful bris. And one who is surrounded by whiteness can't help having a mindset of cleanliness and caring.

I wish other mohels would wear gloves when they did their brisses. Easily more than 60% of Orthodx mohels don't wear gloves (anecdotal), but I hear the numbers may be changing. If anything it is a slow process, but a process nonetheless.

May the standards of whiteness and sterility go up, and may bad stories become fewer and fewer. We can not afford brisses to be an untrustworthy business. As long as mohels think the bris is more about them than the baby, we'll continue to see a low percentage of changes.

But, when mohels are willing to take big stands to change practices to insist on higher standards of whiteness - this will lead to greater standards of sterility.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rabbi Billet,

    You are a cut above the rest (although the cut was below, as promised). We had twins, and i a nervous first time parent, but you put us at ease with humour, knowledge and professionalism.

    Ps. My son says no hard feelings.

    ReplyDelete

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