Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mohel's Role in the Ceremony

Different factors play into parents asking for the ceremony to be tailored to their unique crowd and guests.

Of course this is obvious, but the main messages I try to convey in the bris ceremonies over which I preside include:
1. We are celebrating the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 17, which coincides thankfully with the birth of a baby boy.
2. The families of baby's mother and father are celebrating here today.
3. There is much significance attached to the ceremony - much of which has literally been introduced in the last few hundred years, as the ceremony has to a large degree been influenced by a fair dosage of symbolism.
4. The ceremony is an education opportunity.
5. There are some circumstances when light humor is beneficial to ease the nervous tension in the room, which is typically brought on by the fact that a circumcision is about to take place.
6. The ceremony is NOT about the mohel.

All these being the case, sometimes one, sometimes a number of these being true, the ceremony will have the same main ingredients but will never look the same twice.

0. Mohel Circumcises, Someone Else MCs, or runs the show
This does not happen often, but there is sometimes a rabbi, or a close relative or friend who runs the ceremony, and the mohel is literally hired to circumcise, and that's it.


1. Most basic
I will introduce the honorees and go through the ceremony step by step without fanfare. No explanations necessary - this is usually a knowledgable crowd.

2. Minimal Explanations
I will add a brief explanation of each step of the bris as each honoree is introduced.

3. Educational Ceremony
The different honors are explained in greater detail. A light comment, some good-natured humor, and an overall respectful message for the crowd. The ceremony concludes with the baby being given his Hebrew name and the final blessings embedded in the liturgy are briefly explained.

We can discuss what you want, or you can decide for yourself.
But know this: I make the ceremony about the "Bris (the Covenant)" about the family, and about the baby. No part of the circumcision or ceremony stands to serve any purpose to shine light on the mohel, to make it about him, so he becomes the object of attention. It is about the experience, the family, and whatever people can take away from their participation in this special occasion.

I firmly believe that a good mohel's mannerisms, sensitivity and awareness of the needs of people will serve him better than being a showman. Some people like a good show, but most just people prefer honesty, dignity, and a healthy dose of good natured cheer.

Which I hope I provide satisfactorally.

2 comments:

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