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Welcome to -  the most comprehensive and up to date mohel blog on the internet . My name is Avi Billet, and I am so ...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Milah U'Priah B'Vas Achas

The title refers to removing the foreskin and the membrane below it in one action. There are different ways to do this:
  • My teacher, Rabbi Mordechai Sasson, would often grab the foreskin with his fingers and remove all of the membrane along with it, alleviating any need to tear the membrane or otherwise remove it.
  • Others accomplish the same task with the help of an instrument called a "hemostat"
  • Still others do what Rabbi Sasson did, except they only remove part of the membrane. The remaining membrane is then torn apart with the fingernails (which can be gloved, if the gloves are thin) and folded back beyond the corona of the glans. This third approach does not completely remove the membrane as do the first two methods described.

Rabbi Kaminetzky Clarifies His Statement

See here where Rabbi Kaminetzky "clarifies" what he said in the comments I noted here.

Having read the Rosh Yeshiva's brother's book about the response to his (Rav Nosson Kaminetzky's) book "Making of a Godol," I can only surmise that the zhulikehs are at it again.

I love the 3500 years line. It follows along with the "2000 years of a perfect record" which appears here.

The link will do the best justice - here is part of it. One of the commenters claims that the Jewish Week, which orginally quoted Rabbi Kamenetzky, lied. But the Rosh Yeshiva never said he was misquoted. He just clarified what he was quoted as having said.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Postponing a Bris

I was asked recently about jaundice, and whether it might delay a bris.

In my experience, jaundice rarely causes a bris to be delayed.

 In simple terms, a delay of a bris will come about if a baby has a condition, which, if untreated, could bring about the baby's death. Typically if the baby needs to go on antibiotics to treat something (as opposed to as a preventive measure), the bris will be delayed.

For very small babies, see this posting

For a systemic issue, we'll typically wait 7 complete days (7 twenty-four hour periods) from the time the danger passes and the baby is medically cleared.

For something which is not systemic, or even regular physiological jaundice that DOES cause a delay, the bris can be done as soon as the specific issue heals or is resolved.

Being Up Front and Straight

This posting is designed to address all the concerns that have been brought to my attention by a Mr. Anonymous who comments on some of the postings of, bringing up questions and "challenges" that are irrelevant to the post at hand.

If you want to have a conversation, feel free to call or email me. If you want to comment or ask a question that is on topic - that furthers the point in any direction - such a response will be approved. Inasmuch as you are looking for consistency, I ask the same for the conversations here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Metzitzah Follow Up - Common Sense from a Highly Respected Rabbi

See the comments of Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky in this article from Vosizneias

The following quote is a direct cut and paste from the middle three paragraphs of the article:
When asked if there were those who believe that metitza cannot be performed using a tube, R’ Kaminetzky stating unequivocally, “Nobody holds likes that” and expressed disbelief when told that there are rabbis who insist that metitza must be done by mouth saying, “I don’t think there is any response to them.”
R’ Kaminetzky expressed surprise that any Mohel would perform metitzah b’peh, given the links between the practice and transmission of certain diseases to infants, saying that under the circumstances, performing metitzah b’peh would run counter to halacha.
“Chas V’shalom, if [children are] getting sick [from oral suction, you] wouldn’t do it,” under Jewish law, ruled R’ Kaminetzky, saying that since the act of doing metzitza via a sterile tube is completely risk free, the suctioning should clearly be performed in this fashion.

See the update - as per 3/31/2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

So.... Do you use a Clamp?

I get this question a lot, and I think it's time to clarify what the tools of the trade are. I have blogged about the different methods utilized in bringing about the coveted circumcision result.

Here I will simply distinguish between the largely rabbinically approved, lauded and recommended device which is called a מגן - a Magen - a shield (in Hebrew).  And the "Mogen Clamp" developed by the mohel, Rabbi Harry Bronstein in the 50s (or thereabouts).

Here is a link to photos of shields. The basic gist is that a shield is a solid metal plate (once made of silver, but now more often made of steel) with a thin slit that divides the shield in half.

The foreskin is grasped with the thumb and index finger, and the shield is applied so that only the foreskin is drawn out - while the glans remains protected below the metal, and the foreskin is excised along the shield.


The Father's Role

Bris milah qualifies as one of the commandments incumbent upon a specific individual (in this case the baby's father) who can opt out in the event he feels unqualified or inadequately trained to perform it.

He can't shirk the responsibility completely, but he can hire someone else, in this case a mohel, to serve as his agent to accomplish the mitzvah on his behalf. Which most fathers opt to do. [here's a story of a father who opted to do the bris]

What is the father's role at the bris?

Top Referring Searches and some stats

This website is a blog which has seen much traffic in the two and a half years it has been up. Blogger recently changed its interface and my ability to navigate it. I have just discovered that the top "search terms" which send people this way are the following: "jewish moyle" "moyle Jewish" and "moil Jewish."

The Hebrew term for this profession is מוהל "MOHEL" - though the "H" is dropped in some Yiddish pronunciations (or at least sounds like it is dropped) which has somehow influenced the American perception of the title. [Here is the top visited page, and here is the second highest visited page]

[Though I think this should be the most visited page]

I suppose the Seinfeld episode has a lot to do with it too.

Here are the countries hosting some of those looking to
United States, Ukraine, Israel, Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Luxembourg, China.

I am so flattered and glad that is reaching such a diverse audience. For those seeking from far and wide - I do travel and would love to participate in your family's bris. And if you have someone local, I am happy to play the small role I get to play through the information shared here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Talking to a Urologist

At today's bris, the mohel was actually the baby's grandfather, a Urologist by profession. I served as the facilitator and the bandager, setting things up and taking care of the baby afterwards [see here, where I describe what is done when I play this role, in the context of a father who "blanked" in the heat of the moment].

Just a few observations from a Urologist who has been around the block a few times, with whom I chatted for a few minutes afterwards.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Circumcision for Conversion

Here I explain my personal philosophy regarding my role as mohel for conversions and an alternative those looking for my services might want to consider. Here is my previous post on this subject - along with earlier links to related topics

I get calls and emails from people across the spectrum of Judaism: Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, unaffiliated Jews, Jews by birth, Jews by choice, "Messianic Jews." I also get calls from those who identify themselves as "non-Jews."

While I am not picky about my clientele per se, I do try to distinguish between "circumcision services" and "bris services." While both obviously include a circumcision, the former is without a ceremony and without blessings. It is not meant to serve as a fulfillment of the Jewish "bris" and it is typically requested by those who are not Jewish.

The "bris services" are for Jewish babies, born of Jewish mothers, who are Jewish either through matrilineal descent - a line of Jewish mother after Jewish mother - or through a conversion I might have officiated over myself, were I in the business.

Due to the unfortunate reality of the manifold kinds of conversions out there, some of which do not demand very much from the converts in question, I try to shy away from them. Rarely do I perform circumcisions for the sake of conversion, and I have difficulty providing a "bris" for those mothers whose conversions I cannot personally qualify - simply because I do not have enough information about the process, the rabbi, the bet din, the method, etc.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Medical Opinion Piece about Metzitzah (plus some logical arguments)

I will talk about this piece after the following interlude, but if you don't want to read what I have to say, either click the link or scroll down to where I have reproduced this opinion piece of Dr. Gary Gelbfish in the Jewish Week, dated March 13, 2012

I just got off the phone with a mohel colleague - we talk about the trade every now and then, on the phone, online and on Facebook! Young mohels... so in touch with technology :)

After sharing this article with me, he argued that people going snowboarding/skiing, or driving unsafely on a highway are all risks that people take, but we don't ban the activities. Therefore, perhaps one can make the argument that metzitzah is a risk people take.

I am not going to go into the probabilities and start making mathematical equations. To live life and avoid danger we don't shut ourselves into a corner. We face the world, do the best we can and hope for the best. But snowboarding and skiing is generally safe when done in a safe manner - and besides, it's a choice individuals make for themselves. Can I put myself at risk in choosing to participate in this activity?

A baby has no such luxury. Please excuse the image I am about to present. The parallel would be that if I am circumcising myself, I can choose to have someone do metzitzah on myself. Baby has no say in the matter.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Metzitzah - an explanation for non-Jews in light of recent news stories

When the story in the Daily News came out, I honestly thought it was shoddy reporting. The information provided would never stand in a court "A baby died 6 months ago, says the unnamed spokesperson, from complications from herpes allegedly transmitted by an unnamed mohel to an unnamed baby of an anonymous family."

I was interviewed for an article, from a mohel's perspective, and the article in question found its way to the Huffington Post, among a whole host of blogs. Many of those involved have made disgusting and unwarranted comments about me, mohels in general, and Judaism. I will not give those comments the dignity of a response.

I have seen the story be re-translated in a number of venues – as news and in opinionated-blogs (everyone is entitled to an opinion), so I am writing here to make a few clarifying remarks and to explain metzitzah to a non-Jewish audience in particular.

Those who view mohels as pedophiles are completely in the wrong. It's the same as saying a Gynecologist assaults women. No mohel touches a baby unless he has been hired by the baby's parents, and they have called him based on his experience and reputation.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Plot Thickens... Still No Information

Link 1:  From the Jewish Week

Link 2: Failed Messiah Blog

We'll see what information comes forward. [I have received a confirmation of the death claim from a different source not quoting the original Daily News article.]

The Wine

We use wine at the bris for the blessing over wine and to sanctify the ceremony. 

There is a custom to give some of the wine to the baby after the ceremony.

I don't know how this custom came to be, but it is clearly stated in Jewish law discussions that when a bris takes place on a fast day, when the mohel, sandak and/or person reciting the blessings are fasting, that the wine (over which the blessing for wine is recited) is tasted by the baby. [This goes into a different discussion about a bracha l'vatala – a wasted blessing – which we try to avoid saying. Once the blessing is recited over the wine as part of the ceremony, someone needs to drink it.]

On regular fast days, the baby's mother is usually not fasting on account of her recently giving birth, so she can be the one to drink if she is present or close by. But if the bris is on Yom Kippur or Tisha B'Av, the mother does participate in the fast – leaving the baby as the closest available candidate to drink the wine.

Some will say in shock, "You mean you actually give the baby wine?"

Yup. Not a lot. Very little, in fact. But the sweetness of the wine makes it easy for the baby to handle, and the low-alcohol content helps soothe the baby.

I have seen many a smile light up on the faces of those watching as the wine touches the lips, sometimes when baby is crying (in which case he stops), and he does the cutest lip-smacking you have ever seen in your life.

How is it given to the baby?

This Type of Thing Should NEVER Happen

At today's bris, as I was changing the bandage post-bris (in the Private Room), I was chatting with the baby nurse. She is relatively new in the field, and so all of her experiences are very clearly etched in her memory.

She told me that the last baby she cared for was brought to the hospital after the bris, because the mohel cut too much. I could not get a sense of the gravity of the details in question, though she indicated that the baby's glans had been seriously nicked. In either case, she said, "There was so much bleeding. It was a horror."

I asked her if she had accompanied the baby to the hospital. She did, with the baby's parents and their other child.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

News Monitor: New York

I am not a fan of metzitzah b'peh - using the method that involves direct oral contact of the mohel to baby.. That is no secret. And stories like this one just make me mad.

At the same time. The article is rather pathetic. Not a single person is named. Not the baby, nor his parents, nor the mohel, not even the spokesperson.

While I find stories like this to be reprehensible, I am skeptical of an article that seems to muckrake through bringing up the 2004-5 incident again for no other reason than to revisit a topic which has had little media attention for seven years.

If the article named names and actually contained information I might hail it. For now, I am more disappointed in the newspaper than the "purported" mohel.

Bring proof and whatever the truth is will win the day.