Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Good Line

In the moment before the baby's father places the baby on the sandak's lap, it is my job to remind the father that the mitzvah to do the bris is actually his mitzvah, and that he is merely appointing me to serve as his "shaliach" (messenger or agent, in Hebrew) to do the bris on his behalf.  The formula is more or less "I, John Doe, appoint you, Avi Billet, to do the bris on my son."

As a mohel, I am trained to do this. As a person not trained to circumcise, the father usually complies and appoints me to do the bris. Occasionally, the father will ask me to set everything up so he can do the incision. This is the ideal way for an untrained person to do the bris, so I try to accommodate when I think it will work out fine.

Anyway, at today's bris - where the father is a friend of mine from way back - I said to him, "I am reminding you that the mitzvah of the bris is your mitzvah. So you have to appoint me to be your shaliach to fulfill the mitzvah."

He said, "I do."

"I didn't ask if you want to marry me," I responded. "Just appoint me to serve as your agent to help you fulfill the mitzvah." 

Then we walked through the formula as above. It was a great setup and comeback, and the people close by enjoyed our bantering.

May we have many opportunities to laugh together. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quick Audio Tutorials

In response to some people who had a little trouble navigating the Topical Index, I have uploaded brief audio files of the most common questions related to bris milah (usually from 1.5 to 5 minutes, though some are a little longer), hosted on yutorah.org.

When you get to YuTorah, type "Bris Milah" in the search engine and limit the search to classes given by me, and you will see the self-explanatory titles.

Feel free to share with anyone making a bris!
Thank you
A.B.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Magic of a Marker

Mohels are funny. When we see another mohel as a guest at a bris we are doing (some people know more than one mohel as a friend, but can only have one of them do the job), we will invite him to watch and to critique us. I don't enjoy critiquing. But I do enjoy watching so I can learn from someone else's techniques. For the record, the main "critique" I ever give is that the man might consider putting a wastebasket next to his working area, to cut down on the mess he either leaves or has to otherwise clean up afterwards.

[A dentist friend of mine once observed me in the 'critique' position and said to me, "How can you stand it? I hate watching another dentist do an extraction!" Translation: Since he's invariably not doing it the way I would do it, it becomes painful to watch. I told him I am learning what "to do" and what "not to do."]

But my real NUMBER ONE CRITIQUE (other than sterility, which people won't listen to anyway) is my belief that Every Mohel should use a magic marker to guide the incision he will be making in his circumcising the baby.

The results of not doing so are aesthetically unpleasant, at best, and cosmetically hideous at worst.

No human being is perfect, and no one can guarantee a perfect job any time. But taking precautions such as this one will help us be a little closer to perfect and accurate, in a manner that will be appreciated by all parents who trust their babies to our care.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mohel in CENTRAL Florida?

Though I maintain travelingmohel.com as one of my websites, that will more often attract brisses to which I must fly.

But I have also been called to do brisses in some cities and towns in the general vicinity of Orlando. I guess I could technically fly there, but the hassle of security, check-in, luggage, etc makes it so much easier to drive.

Which, with the help of the right mix of mp3s, cds and radio makes it an absolute pleasure.

And did I mention the phone? Ah yesss... what a pleasure.

Friday, August 12, 2011

News Monitor - being pro bris and anti circumcision (go figure...)

With the San Francisco story a thing of the past (sorry about the cliche), a not-so-new trend is making its way through news outlets and the blogosphere.

Just a few links to bring the idea close to home:
Beyond the bris - the header of the website says: "an increasing number of Jewish people are moving in a more ethical, more humanitarian and more Jewish direction" ---- hmmm... Not sure how getting rid of Torah commandments makes it MORE Jewish. But maybe I'm living in the wrong century.

Circumstitions - They surprisingly invoke this to say circumcision is against the Torah
"N 41 Not imprinting any marks on our bodies
N 45 Not making cuttings in our flesh
- 613 Mitzvos according to Sefer Hamitzvos of Rambam"

I guess they forgot about Genesis 17 and Leviticus 12:3. And, of course, they took both negative commandments out of context (tattoos and cutting ourselves over the death of a loved one) while disregarding that "bris milah" is a positive commandment. I guess you can pick and choose what you want to support your cause when it's convenient.

An article written by Professor Jon Levenson was republished today, and is well worth the read.




Monday, August 8, 2011

The Fusion Challenge

This is a topic which seems to come up every now and then, but since I've dealt with it twice in the past week, I write about it again. [Here is the original posting on this subject]

The two cases I dealt with in the past week were on babies who were circumcised by physicians, one two weeks ago and one 2 years ago. In both cases, the babies' parents were unaware of "why" the baby did not look circumcised. With no need to re-invent the wheel, I refer you to the post I linked before, where I explain how parents should deal with this to avoid it being a long-term problem.

When the skin on the shaft (especially since it may be a little more loose after the circumcision) is looking to settle down and get comfortable, it can easily sort-of-kind-of fuse itself to the edge of the glans, or even climb up on the edge of the glans.

THE GLANS SHOULD BE DISTINCT. YOU SHOULD SEE THE OUTER EDGE OF THE GLANS, AND IT SHOULD NOT BE FLUSH WITH ANY SKIN OF THE SHAFT.

As some babies develop, their body fat is deposited most heavily in the groin area. So it is not uncommon for the penis to seem as if it sinks in to itself. It is constantly being constricted inside the diaper, and the baby fat likes to swallow whatever might appear "extra."

In this case, the glans' rim sometimes appears to fall back into the shaft, but you can still see that there is a glans and a shaft.

There is a more extreme case, where the glans and shaft disappear entirely into the hole from which they may otherwise seem to emerge, and when you open the diaper, you only see a scrotum and a hole where the shaft should be.

Not surprisingly, this condition is called "The Disappearing Penis."

To avoid boring you with details (it is apparently a little more common, just people don't talk about it), I refer you to Dr Greene, where he more than adequately deals with all the possible scenarios.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

San Francisco Comes to a Close, It Seems

It seems it was "much ado about nothing."

See here from nbc bay area

I was never concerned that the vote would make circumcision illegal. It doesn't strike me as something that would pass, even in a town as liberal as San Francisco.

And a judge confirmed this sentiment, throwing the proposed law off the ballot.

Victory: Circumcision.

Until it comes around again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don't Let Finances Deter You!

Every now and then I either hear a story about someone or hear from someone directly that they either chose not to circumcise or to have a doctor do it instead of a mohel (which usually means when the baby is 1 or 2 days old, instead of on the eighth day - the correct day for the bris),  on account of financial reasons.

Often, they never even spoke with a mohel: they chose to go that route without even consulting with anyone.

This is very unfortunate, for a few reasons.

1. Any real mohel would prefer your child have a bris than a hospital-circumcision
2. Any real mohel will "work something out" if that is your circumstance
3. A circumcision before day 8, as well as almost any hospital circumcisions are not considered brisses
4. A routine hospital circumcision has a different definition than a bris circumcision. Significantly (and statistically) more often than with a mohel, the hospital cosmetic result will have a child who has not had enough skin tissue removed, who requires another procedure.
5. Anecdotal evidence (from physicians and pediatric surgeons I know) suggests that more "touch-ups" come from work done by doctors than by mohels. This is not to say mohels are perfect, or that doctors never do a good job. Just that mohels (generally speaking) have a better track record than doctors when it comes to the cosmetic results of their circumcisions. [Of course, the doctors who do the cosmetic touch-up work usually do a great job!]

Your research is a great first step. Now pick up the phone, and let's work something out!