Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Thought on Metzitzah

According to the Talmud, there are a few steps that need to be followed when doing a bris properly. Incidentally, I am choosing not to "number" the steps, due to the variating ways people choose to read the Talmudic passage of the bottom of Shabbat 133a:


עושין כל צרכי מילה [בשבת] מוהלין ופורעין ומוצצין ונותנין עליה איספלנית וכמון
On the Sabbath, we do everything that needs to be done for the circumcision: Remove the foreskin, remove the membrane from the glans, draw out blood, put on a bandage and cumin.
The Talmud goes on to say that even if the cumin had not been properly prepared (crushed or ground) before the Sabbath, one could grind it with his teeth on the Sabbath, an act which would generally be forbidden on the Sabbath - but is permitted, presumably on account of the role the herb/spice would play in stopping the blood and healing the wound.

The differences in the reading open up a debate as to whether metzitzah, which I have defined as "drawing out blood" is considered to be: a. part of the steps of the process, or b. a suggested component that the Talmud records as the best known form of helping the wound heal.

If it is the former, then metzitzah must be done at every bris [how the blood is drawn is a topic of a different discussion, and of much debate, particularly in ultra-Orthodox and some Haredi/Hassidic circles]. If it is the latter, perhaps it need not be done,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Consultant

People call for all kinds of reasons. Some are looking to "book a mohel right now." Others are expecting a baby in a few months and are doing research. Others don't know if the baby is a boy or a girl, but are preparing nonetheless, just in case.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, such as a health concerns, the bris usually takes place on the eighth day of the baby's life. Even though mostly everyone knows this, sometimes people - in the heat of the excitement - forget that mohels are used to being called after the baby is born. I blogged about this a long time ago, and tried to make light of the possibilities of when to call the mohel to book the bris itself.

There is never a wrong time to do research pre-birth.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Wonderful Relationship

In general, this blog is dedicated to sharing information with those looking to explore the significance and practical sides of bris milah.

On the one hand, it is meant to answer questions you may have related to the significance of the mitzvah, the specific practices, the rituals, the pieces of the ceremony that have been introduced and innovated over the centuries.

On the other hand, it is meant to provide you with hands-on information that is most useful for the parent who wants to know what happens during a bris, what happens to the baby, what the healing process is, and how things will be different after the bris. It also provides information for first time parents (or first-time parents of a boy who may already have a daughter or two (or more!)) about what needs to be done to put together a bris. You may have friends who will help you, but if you have trouble finding information, it's all here.

So, in this posting, I will detour to the personal side of this role I play from time to time.

I was invited to perform the bris for the second son of a friend of mine, who I've known for close to thirty years. (I had the honor of doing their first son's bris two and a half years ago) We'd been in and out of touch for the better part of our formative years, but a reconnection 6 years ago tightened our friendship to this day. I am better off because of it, and for that I am grateful.

I cannot express in words how special it feels to play such a significant role at any family's bris. Being invited into the inner circle at such a significant time, being given a tremendous level of trust and good faith is something I cherish from all the people who call me at this joyous, yet vulnerable time in a family's growth.

And when the parents of the baby are such dear friends, the feeling is exponentially greater.

And so NOA, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being true friends,

What's In A Name?

Many bris speeches tend to focus on explaining the name that has been given to the baby.

Often enough he is named for a family member who has passed on, such as a grandparent or great grandparent, or an uncle or some other distant relative. Some families opt to name a boy after a grandmother - obviously he is not given the woman's name, but he may be given the same first initial. Grandma Nettie will become Natan. Great-Aunt Shirley will become Shlomo.

At its core, the practice is simple. Carry on a name, retain a heritage.

On a deeper level, we fondly recall those who are gone when we think about the name we have given this child, and we hope the name, and all it represents to us, will be embodied by the child who now carries it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How travelingmohel.com helped me

Since moving to Florida from New York, I have had a number of past "clients" and new clients call me to perform their son's bris in New York. If it works out schedulewise, I am happy to do it.

Many more have called from New York, but when I told them I'm in Florida, they opted to go local. Which is understandable.

Traveling gave me the idea to create travelingmohel.com, but it also forced me to become an even better mohel.