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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Should the Father DO the Circumcision?

Most fathers (and certainly most mothers) will answer "NO!"

For this reason, I've outlined the Father's Role here, and also told the story of a father who got lost in the moment when circumcising his son (don't worry - everything turned out OK). I've also addressed the emotional downside that may accompany the first time a person does the circumcision act (see here, most notably paragraphs 6-9).

When I did the bris that was the inspiration for this blog post, the father of the baby wanted his own father to do the circumcision. When the father saw me set everything up and observed his father make the incision, he spontaneously remarked, "That's IT? I'M doing it next time!" [Once the moment of the incision has arrived, if the mohel has set things up properly, it is a simple matter of sliding a scalpel across a metal shield, literally like cutting soft butter.]

The simple answer to the title question is if you know what you are doing, you have an awareness of the anatomy, and can maintain poise in the heat of the moment, then you can do the bris. Nonetheless, you don't have to do it yourself, because appointing a mohel to serve as your "Shaliach" (Agent) on your behalf fulfills your responsibility adequately.

But the Torah says, וימל אברהם את יצחק בנו בן שמונת ימים כאשר צוה אותו א-לקים, that Avraham circumcised his son when Yitzchak was 8 days old. He did it himself, without an agent.

The Shulchan Arukh expresses, in the first of the Laws of Milah (Circumcision) (Yoreh Deah 260):

מצות עשה לאב למול את בנו, וגדולה מצוה זו משאר מצות עשה.
"It is a positive commandment for the father to circumcise his son. And this mitzvah is greater than every other positive commandment."

To be fair, the "greatness" of this mitzvah lies in the fact that if the mitzvah is not done there's a significant (and quite serious) spiritual consequence. But this could mean that "if the father does not see to the circumcision being taken care" i.e. through a person trained to do so, that such a consequence would come into play.

Bottom line is that the mitzvah is the father's to do. Most fathers are not trained and are happy to have the mohel do the brit milah on their behalf. But if this is something which is of interest to you, even remotely, and baby's mommy is cool with the possibility of your playing this role, I am happy to have the conversation and see if it will work. I have done set it up for many fathers, with an excellent track record.

But if you are interested in at least exploring or finding out more, there's no harm in having a conversation.

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