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Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Mistakes Many Parents Make Before Their Son's Bris

I have met parents who had less than an A-1 experience with a mohel, who returned to have a similar experience a second time with their second son. Their reason? (usually one of three)
a. We heard you're not supposed to change mohels;
b. We only know one mohel;
c. We didn't want to hurt his feelings.
[I've also met quite a few parents who have told me, "You were our third mohel, and the only one we would call again, if we have another son."]

Is this about you and your baby? Or about the mohel? [Hint: IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MOHEL]

I want to make clear: If you had a positive experience with a mohel, you should absolutely return to him when you are blessed with another son. But if you didn't have such an experience, why would you want to?

So here it is: The Top Ten List : Mistakes Parents Make When Hiring a Mohel

(Written in Second-Person for convenience)

10. You know 4 months in advance that you're having a boy (even if you don't tell anyone), and you do not utilize this information to make any advance preparations for a bris

9. You let your parents (baby's grandparents) handle all the arrangements. [If they want to pay for the bris, and you want to let them, that is a different discussion.] You should make the party the way you want to make it, and you (particularly the father, for whom this is your mitzvah) should at least be making the arrangements with the mohel of YOUR choice [which might be the same one your father is telling you to use, but might not be the same one. Go with your gut feeling (based on your research)]

8. You think it's cool to hire the mohel who circumcised the baby's grandfather (if the mohel was twenty at the time, and he is now in his sixties, this might not be a bad idea. But if the mohel was 30 then, and he is now in his nineties, you might want to reserve the coolness for a different part of your celebration)

7. You assume your baby is going to have a perfect circumcision, simply because "Everyone" uses so and so [even though no one talks about what the circumcision looks like]

6. You do not make yourself aware that every mohel operates differently, and that you have the right to a. choose, and b. demand that the mohel servicing you operate according to the standards that you think will most benefit your child

5. You choose not to be interested (to not care at all) as to what will be happening to your son. [It is nice that you trust your mohel implicitly. But how can you not want to know what he will be doing to your son?]

4. You do not inquire about the mohel's hygiene practices and methods of sterility. You do not concern yourself with whether he is wearing gloves, and even if he is wearing gloves, whether they touch anything before they touch your baby and are used for the circumcision. You don't ask about metzitzah. You don't inquire as to if he uses a clamp, what the repercussions are in either direction, and if that's even what you want. Circumcision clamps did not exist seventy years ago, and many rabbis have outlawed their use.You shrug it all off saying "Babies have been circumcised this way for thousands of years and there hasn't been a problem." But you don't know that historically there were problems, and that the understanding of germs and sterility is relatively new. Just because some mohels are still living in the dark ages does not mean that you need to live in the dark ages or that your baby needs to potentially suffer because of your deliberate ignorance.

3. You allow the mohel to make the bris about "himself" and "his show" and about "his getting more publicity and jobs from your bris" than about letting him play the role you have hired him to play, "to be the shaliach/agent to do the bris on your behalf." [If you want the 'extras,' that is OK, of course. But it should be a conversation you and the mohel have before the morning of the bris.]

2. You let the mohel get away with leaving you with a bloody bandage, a bloody diaper, bloody blankets, a bloody pillow. If your mohel is the least bit competent, everything should be more or less clean (save for the diaper the baby is wearing immediately post bris, which should be changed right away by the mohel (IMHO)). If everything is an absolute mess, your mohel has given you a shlocky job. [i recognize that "things happen," but such an outcome should be the exception, and not the rule]

1. You allow the mohel to "estimate" where the edge of your son's foreskin is, without marking it with a marker or surgical pen. Some mohels get lucky, and some might be good at estimating. But why take a chance?

[On this last one, I have seen a few boys in the last month - some were recently circumcised, and some were circumcised a few years ago (their parents asked me to look at their sons to see if "everything is normal") --- I did not circumcise any of these boys --- and I dare say, it is a tremendous disservice that mohels (and physicians) give these children, when they do not take the extra minute to demonstrate how much they really care about these babies through simply marking the edge of the foreskin and following the mark when circumcising.] 

I know corrective surgery is always an option to make things better. BUT IT SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE AN OPTION.

You are the parent. Take responsibility for your mitzvah. And more importantly, take responsibility for your son.


  1. I had a conversation with a woman today who told me she was looking for a mohel because three of her friends had their sons circumcised by OB-GYNs and the boys required reconstructive surgery because the physicians in question did not remove enough foreskin. I wrote about this in the beginning of August, point #4&5 -

  2. This was a very helpful, well-thought out summary of mistakes parents make. Thanks for enlightening your reading public. RKB


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