Thursday, May 23, 2013

Honesty From Your Mohel

Please note: This is not "confessions of a mohel." This is sharing of information, in which I try to be realistic about the pluses and minuses of the bris experience - with whichever mohel you may one day hire.

This blog was born after years of looking at different mohels' websites and finding them to be largely the same. Of course every mohel has a different style, and (obviously) a different web designer, but between explaining the "Order of the Bris," the "Honors/Kibbudim" and, every now and then a "Frequently Asked Questions" page, most of the websites offered little to no information beyond what the particular mohel wants people to know.

But over the years I have been asked MANY questions. Some are fairly simple and common, and some are much more complicated. Because as much as circumcision is a relatively minor surgery, the organ upon which it is done is not "minor," the nature of the procedure in question is quite sensitive - physically AND emotionally, and, perhaps most importantly, the results of the procedure (NOT the ceremony) will last a lifetime, and will be something parents will encounter every day, until the child realizes what privacy is, and from then on HE will encounter the results every day.

[Some people only realize afterwards how much the personality of the mohel, and perhaps how the way he personally experiences his Judaism informs how he runs the ceremony and perhaps relates to people, is also important to them!]

I have met many men who have confided in me that they are not sure if their mohel did a good job. Everything usually "works" but they don't like how it looks or think something is awry. But because it's embarrassing to discuss or address (who really wants to have a cosmetic touch up?), most do nothing about it. Except mention it in confidence to a friendly mohel - who is in the field, but is not interested in rendering an opinion nor is he in a position to do anything about it.

Some mohels have communicated with me how helpful they find this website to be. Others have communicated their opinion that I offer too much information and scare parents away.

To the former I say thank you, and to the latter I respectfully disagree. We live in the Information Age when people find whatever they need to know with a few clicks on a keyboard. And so I have tried to provide information on both extremes, and everywhere in between, so people can have a good understanding of how things can go perfectly, how there could be a few bumps on the road (including this error that some mohels are not careful to avoid) and how much care and thought people need to put into their research and decision making.

And if people choose not to hire me because I am honest and say I am imperfect, so be it.

When I lived in NY, a pediatric surgeon told me he had done touch up work on babies circumcised by every mohel in NY. Even the BEST of the BEST. Here in Florida, a pediatrician and a pediatric surgeon (2 different people) have shared similar statistics. 

NOONE is perfect. And parents, who are often doing research for their mohel on a very limited time frame (too often people wait until after the baby is born, at which time they have only 7 days until the bris), don't have the time to ask ALL the important questions to make sure the mohel they are talking to is exactly what they are looking for. Sometimes, they don't even know what that means.

I take the precautions to make sure I can deliver as close-to-perfect a job as I can. I double check afterwards to make sure everything looks as good as I can get it to look. I try to be as sensitive to your baby as I can, and to give you as much respect, courtesy, and straightforward information as I can. I want you to know what is happening and what has happened to your baby. The ceremony is flexible, depending on your background, your crowd, the setting, your level of observance, and any number of factors that weigh into your personal situation.

And the results show. I meet many babies months after their bris, and their parents are happy, and the babies don't remember a thing. They smile at me, coo at me, and have no ill will.

With the exception of one case where an anatomical abnormality was uncovered once the foreskin was removed (it was not evident while the foreskin was present), I am unaware of any touch-up surgeries that followed my brisses, on account of the precautions I take (the case I mentioned needed a surgery irrespective of the circumcision). Does it mean every circumcision turns out the same? No. And that I am unaware of touch-ups does not mean they never happened. I simply don't know. But most mohels will not say that "it sometimes happens." It's actually a lot more common when an OB-GYN does the circumcision, but it does happen to mohels too. Nobody is perfect.

There you have it. Up front and straight. Everything on the table. From a mohel who is honest with you, who will communicate with you, and who will do the best he can to give you and your baby a positively memorable experience - with the main positive memory being a satisfactory result that you and baby will be happy with for the rest of his life.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May A Bris Take Place At Night?

I've addressed this question in simple terms over here, when we discussed how to time when the bris will take place, along with the notion that the bris should take place while the sun is out.

But I came across the question in Yossele Wesiberg's magnum opus on Bris Milah (Volume I page 154), where he records 4 possible answers:

1. One would not fulfill the mitzvah and there would be a requirement to draw out blood for the covenant (Hatafas dam)

2. One does not fulfill the mitzvah and even Hatafas Dam would not change any status. It is an error that cannot be corrected.

3. One has nonetheless fulfilled one's obligation, with no requirement at all for Hatafas Dam

4. If it was on the night of the eighth day, no Hatafas Dam is required. Any other night would require Hatafas Dam.

Generally speaking, however, we follow the first approach if the circumcision happened to take place at night. But we do not schedule the circumcison to take place after sunset.

The celebratory meal, on the other hand, can go for as long as you like into the evening.