Friday, December 26, 2014

Another Metzitzah Tale Gone Bad

NOT BY ME, of course. This is out of New York. My method is completely safe, as there is no contact or transfer of fluid from mohel to baby (or vice versa).

See here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/jewish-baby-contracted-herpes-bris-article-1.2055911

This story has a happier ending, as it seems the baby has been treated and will be OK.

But the beginning of the story is not so happy, because this baby should have never needed this kind of treatment.

A bris done under sterile conditions - with metzitzah being accomplished via sterile tube - does not produce an infection.

Properly sterilized instruments, sterile gloves, a sterile metzitzah tube, sterile bandages + the correct amount of skin being removed = job well done, quick healing time, healthy baby.

End of story.

Mouth on baby and whatever other ingredient which removes another step of sterility = good chance of infection.

I am not ashamed to be a mohel. But I am ashamed to share in a profession in which practices that can lead to this result (herpes infection on a newborn) are maintained by fellow practitioners, and desired by an ignorant herd who do not think for themselves and demand otherwise from their mohels.

Many non-observant Jews ask me "What is your policy on metzitzah?" (here it is)

This should be the FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION ALL NEW PARENTS ASK. And if the mohel puts his mouth directly on the baby, IT IS TIME TO CALL A DIFFERENT MOHEL WHO PRACTICES OTHERWISE.

We need to put these guys out of business, or force them to change their ways.

No baby need ever be put at risk, even the slightest risk, beyond the risk of the circumcision itself, which is commanded to us in our Torah. But metzitzah is not a commandment. And this method should be banned by rabbis, community leaders, parents, and mohels. NO MORE EXCUSES.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Bris is on a Fast Day (Tosafos insights)

In a much larger Talmudic discussion (Eruvin 40b) that involves the question of whether one must eat/drink after saying a blessing (instead of having someone else, such as a child drink), as well as the propriety of giving alcohol to children, Tosafos record two stories, which are instructive as to how people conduct themselves with reference to eating and drinking on a fast day.

I share because when there is a bris on a fast day (10th of Tevet, referenced below, is coming up), this information is instructive.

תוספות מסכת עירובין דף מ עמוד ב 
ומעשה היה בחופה בעשרה בטבת נתנו הכוס לתינוק לשתות [ומעשה היה בברית מילה ברבינו יעקב בר יקר שחל עשרה באב בא' בשבת והוא היה אב"ד וצוה להתפלל מנחה גדולה ורחצו ואכלו מפני שי"ט שלהן היה כדכתיב שש אנכי כו' והאי דלא מברכינן שהחיינו משום צערא דינוקא תוס' שאנ"ץ].

"It happened that there was a wedding on the 10th of Tevet (a fast day), and they gave the cup (of wine) to a child to drink (the word "Tinok" means baby - but sometimes refers to a child)."
"It happened that there was a bris with Rabbi Yaakov bar Yakar which fell on the 10th of Av which fell on Sunday (meaning it was the day they were observing the 9th of Av fast, pushed to Sunday). He was the Head of the Rabbinic Court. He instructed everyone to pray the early Mincha, and then to wash and eat, for it was a Yom Tov for them, as it says, 'I rejoice at the fulfillment of Your word...'
And the reason we do not say "Shehechiyanu" at a bris is because of the pain the child experiences."
When we say a blessing over wine on a fast day, we have the custom to give the wine to the child - which at a bris is the baby. This may or may not be the source for our giving wine to the baby at every bris anyway.

But the points we take from these tales for bris practices on fast days are the following:
1. The easiest person to give to drink on a fast day is the baby
2. A fast day which is pushed off, even a fast day as important as 9 Av, is a day when participants at the bris may eat. While this is not a common practice, it is mostly due to lack of awareness of the rules.
3. A baby does feel pain at a bris. This is not something we celebrate through the recitation of Shehechiyanu. [This is a confirmation that this mitzvah is one of the rare mitzvos in the Torah that has pain associated with it (the other being fasting on Yom Kippur). This is why numbing the baby is advocated, while some argue that the speed in which we operate serves as its own numbing.]


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

News Monitor: the circumcision debate

This debate has been ongoing for many decades, with medical views going back and forth on the subject of "to circ or not to circ." This is the latest installment (text embedded below).

As always, this is irrelevant to the Jewish people on account of it merely being a footnote to why we do what we do.

But the STD concern is real.

See also this article and newsreel from today.com

Monday, December 1, 2014

Yer Lookin Quite Good Yerself

Because we live in an increasingly depressing world, there are things that I must do and that I cannot do in order to maintain that my interest in this field (bris milah) is solely for the mitzvah - helping parents fulfill their biblically mandated requirement to have their sons circumcised to bear the mark of the Covenant.

This is why, as much as I want to share before and after photos so parents can know what to expect, I am resigned to explain it in words, leaving photos out.

This is why my care for most children ends one or two days after the bris, when things are healing nicely and I know that as long as post bris care follows my instructions, everything will be fine.

I have a colleague who likes to offer the change the baby's diaper if he bumps into the parents weeks down the road - it's his way of checking his handiwork to assure that all is healing as it should.

I am not so bold, and I don't ask parents for such opportunities. However, every now and then a parent will have a question or wants me to assure that all is good (especially if we left things as "let's keep in touch to see how things heal") and I get a chance to see how things have healed.  This happened twice this week, and I am happy to report wonderful healing processes.

It is always flattering to see such beautiful results from one's handiwork.  I hope they all turn out this way.

God bless!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Minhagei Worms, Germany (2 of 2)

The first installment is the previous posting. Here are a few more gems from the book "Minhagei Vorms."

1. Rabbenu Tam would be sure to stand during Torah reading and during a bris. The reason for standing during the bris was the same verse from Melachim II 23:3 - that the people stood at the covenant. The reason why the person saying the bracha needs to be standing is because of a comparison from the word לכם to the word לכם that we learn from ספירת העומר. Just as by the counting of the Omer the Torah tells us וספרתם לכם, the Torah tells us regarding the bris, המול לכם כל זכר. Just as we stand for counting the Omer, we stand for the bris. 

2. When there is a bris associated with שחרית we have a custom not to say עלינו until after the bris is over (most shuls today finish davening and then repeat עלינו, but that may be because many mothers bring their babies to the bris a little later than the end of davening (and some mohels have the bad habit of coming late*), and it takes a few minutes from baby's arrival before the bris begins). Why is עלינו not recited until after the bris is over? Because we say in עלינו the following phrase: "שלא עשנו כגויי הארצות" - that He did not make us like the nations of the land. When the child is uncircumcised, he is like the nations of the land. When he is circumcised, we can mark his entry into the mark of the covenant by including him in the missive that we are different from them. 

* I pride myself on coming on time, and not double booking, in order to be sensitive to everyone's schedule. 

3. Why is there a custom to have a party for a bris? There is a gemara that says that "all mitzvos that the Jews accepted with joy they still fulfill with joy" (i.e. with a party), and the classic example is bris milah. 
Furthermore, we are told that Avraham made a big part ביום הגמל את יצחק, Another way to read that is that Avraham made a big party ביום ה+ג מל את יצחק. On day (5+3=8) Avraham מל (circumcized) Yitzchak. And that's when he made the big party - at Yitzchak's bris!

4, We have the custom to say that just as the child entered the covenant so should he enter
"Torah, Huppah, and Maasim Tovim" - learning about (and living based on ) the Torah; the marital canopy; and a life of good deeds. In the footnote on this pronouncement, the author writes "I've been asked many times why Huppah precedes good deeds. Why can't it be the other way around? And I don't really have a good answer."

But I (AB) have a good answer. Simply put, one who does good deeds before marriage knows that a volunteer may step away at any time. But one who is married, in a committed relationship, cannot just go when things are rough. It is true that "chesed begins at home" and a life of good deeds truly begins AFTER marriage, when a person should do good deeds because it makes the other person's life easier and better. It isn't voluntary in the way one can just walk away when one is done. It is a commitment that one sticks with no matter what (again, in a lasting relationship) that outweighs any sense of "I'm volunteering and can walk away whenever I like."

Some of these vignettes are really fantastic. I hope you enjoy them as I have.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Minhagei Worms, Germany (1 of 2)

Over the weekend I picked up a book which discusses the customs of the Jewish community of "Vermaiza" - Worms, Germany. While much of the customs of the Jews of Worms are for the Ages, the book had some interesting insights about some aspects of Bris Milah, and the customs associated with the ancient ritual.

1. The reason we don't say Tachanun - since Eliyahu the Prophet will be in attendance at the bris, all rejoice over his arrival and Tachanun is cancelled.

2. The reason why we still say Lamnatzeach is because of the pain of the child. Targum Yonatan defines the phrase "יענך ה' ביום צרה" (That God should answer you on a day of pain) as "God should accept your cries on the day of circumcision." Obviously, this is an appropriate thing to say on the day of a bris. (Though it too is cancelled if there is a groom in the synagogue).

3. We say "ברוך הבא" at a bris, either because we are welcoming the 8 day old (הבא has the gematria (numerical value) of 8 in 5+2+1). Or because it is a greeting to Eliyahu the Prophet (as someone once pointed out to me, הבא is an acronym for - הנה בא אליהו.)

4. The mitzvah of Bris Milah has two components - Milah (removal of foreskin) and Priah (removal of mucosal membrane) (note - no mention of metzitzah as being essential...), based on the verse in Yehoshua (5:2) "Return and circumcise the children of Israel a second time." The word שנית (a second time) has the same numerical value (760) as פריעת, which is a reference to the second component of the circumcision. When the child is circumcised, people should be standing, based on the verse "ויעמוד כל העם בברית" (Melachim II 23:3) - that the people stood for the covenant.

We'll have more in the next installment from this wonderful book.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Metzitzah in a Nutshell

Oy.
This question keeps coming up. And while I have a page dedicated to it, and a lengthy blog post explaining it, and a clarification as to how I do it, it seems I haven't made clear in simple terms why I do it.

So here goes.

The Talmud states that a Mohel who does not do metzitzah is not fit to serve as a mohel.

Not wanting to fall out of favor with this declaration in the Talmud, I continue the tradition.

HOWEVER, the Talmud does not describe how metzitzah is to be done. Nor does it ever say that a bris without metzitzah is an unkosher bris. The bris is fine! It is the mohel who is suspect!

Since Metzitzah can be done in a number of ways, and since a long tradition has the power of the mouth performing the metzitzah, I choose to do it in a way that is as sterile and sanitary as applying a sterile gauze pad to the wound (haven't met a parent who objected to that!), which does no harm to a baby, which also satisfies my own obligations vis a vis the Talmud.

Were the metzitzah, as I perform it, in any way possibly dangerous to a baby, I wouldn't do it at all. I would find an alternative method. But the sterile tube stuffed with sterile gauze assures no transfer of fluid, assuring safety of baby, and allows me to be Talmudically fit to serve as mohel.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Sensitivity Factor

I've been asked by many people, "Why should I hire you? What do you differently than any other mohel?"


But after some of the more recent experiences I've had with some sensitive situations, and the feedback I've received, what people have told me they found most helpful about my services is the calming demeanor and the "knowing the right thing to say" manner I bring to their unique circumstance.

Honestly, I am a results guy. I want the circumcision to look as perfect as I can, and I want the baby to be in a good place in his post-bris healing the last time I see him (which is usually one post-bris visit).

But there is so much more to what is going on than just the baby's circumcision. There is post-partum mother, and, in many cases, a nervous father. If this is their first child (but also if it's the first son after a girl or only girls) there is the added "This is totally new for us" factor, 

And people need to know...

that everything will be OK, 
that we have thousands upon thousands of Jewish boys born every year, 
that the baby will cry during the bris.
that circumcision causes a little bit of bleeding.

AND also that
your baby is in good hands
other than you right now, no one cares for your baby's well being more than I do

And all this will be explained to you in a calm manner, in a sensitive manner, in a way that will put you at ease, and will hopefully leave you feeling (as the couple from this morning's bris told me) that your questions and concerns are also my concerns, and that they were answered, and that you were given the attention you need and deserve in the events surrounding the bris of your son. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Does the Delayed Bris Take Place?

The reasons why a bris might be delayed are mentioned here.

The specific points to consider are addressed here

I got a call Sunday night from a father whose newborn son had finally come home from the hospital after having been there for over a month on account of his premature birth.

He wanted to schedule the bris for a week later, because that was what he had been told to do.

(The following is my summary of our conversation, the quotes are not actual)

Did your baby have complications? No. He needed to learn how to do things, but he's been fine for a while.

Why was he in the hospital so long? He wasn't eating well, he needed to gain weight.

Was he ever "sick"? No. He needed to grow into himself.

All this information led me to understand that the baby did not fall into the "choleh b'khol haguf" (systemic illness) category. It was a matter of maturity.

Then he told me that the doctors felt the baby could have circumcised while still in the hospital, if the parents had wanted such. Which meant he'd had medical clearance for a while.

With an understanding of the medical side, and an understanding of the halakhic side, we discussed options for when to have the bris, and when to have the "celebration party." I told the father that when a baby is ready for his bris, the appropriate thing is to do it as soon as possible. Could a preemie wait a few more days? Yes. But it's not necessary to do so.

The bris ended up taking place the following afternoon after our conversation, with a small, yet respectable - mostly family and very close friends - crowd. The family will have a bigger party as a combination homecoming and post-bris celebration, after the holidays.

MAZAL TOV!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Promise Fulfilled

I did a bris for a very sweet family (the baby's parents are very chilled out - I love that!) 2 and a half years ago, and blogged about my reflections on a conversation I had at the time with the baby's grandfather. 

At that bris, the baby's father had requested that his father, a urologist by profession, be the one to actually do the circumcision - with me being the facilitator and bandager.

Which I happily did at that time.

The baby's father watched his own father do the bris, and when he saw how simple it is to do, once everything has been set up properly, he spontaneously called out, "THAT'S IT?! I'M going to do it NEXT TIME!"

When he called me last week, I reminded him of his spontaneous comment at the previous bris. And that I'd been telling the story for 2 and a half years.

With a reminder and a nudge, he fulfilled his promise today, and served as mohel for his third son - with complete support of his wonderful wife.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Beautiful Bris Story

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/184689#.VBaHHH-9KK0

A couple chose to have the bris for their baby in a new yishuv that was established immediately after the murder of Gilad She'ar, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrach became known.

See pictures at the link above.  Here is the text of the article:

About two months after Givat Oz veGaon was established, in memory of the three youths Gilad Sha'ar, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Frenkel hy"d, a moving event was held on the hill - the first brit milah (ritual circumcision) ceremony in the forest, which is situated facing the Gush Etzion junction.

David and Ilana Brenner, residents of Elazar in Gush Etzion, invited their guests, relatives, and the mohel to Givat Oz veGaon, where the ceremony was conducted. The baby, who became part of the renewed history of Gush Etzion, was named Oz Michael.

The baby's grandmother, Naomi Brenner, one of those expelled from Yamit, emotionally summed up the event.
"We felt a special atmosphere here, in the place that is named after the precious boys who fell," she said. "A brit symbolizes continuity. We look at one another here with joy, and the desire to be in Eretz Israel."

The baby's grandfather, Igor Tofeld, added, "This isn't just a moving event because we gathered in this place. This is our first grandchild, and I am very happy that Ilana and David chose this location. This symbolizes that the people of Israel lives, and that with all that has happened, we will be victorious."

The mohel, Rabbi Hayyim Moshe Weisberg, too, expressed his emotion at performing the first brit at a new Jewish site.

Oz veGaon  was first settled by members of Women in Green and the Zionist Midrasha, the night after the murder became known.
In the days and weeks that have passed since then, many youth and visitors from all over Israel have come to the hill, that is next to the site of the kidnapping.
They renovated and restored the site, and started to establish the infrastructure needed to turn it into a regional tourism center.

"The preserve was established to continue life in Eretz Israel, give a living soul and provide a constant Jewish presence at another location in Gush Etzion. It therefore was only natural for the family to conduct their first son's brit here, in the Oz veGaon preserve, and to call their baby Oz Michael," say the heads of Women in Green, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar. They add that "the phrase 'In your blood live' [recited during the brit ceremony] received redoubled significance here."

The two, as well as the activists and supporters from among the nearby communities and the members of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, call upon the public at large "to conduct events at the site, to enjoy the beautiful forest and the facilities that have been established, and to strengthen the Jewish presence."


It's Worth A Phone Call

Someone from NY recently told me of a negative story they had with their bris. Details are not important - while the episode is forgettable, the baby is ok - which is the most important thing.

When the story was recounted, the person said, "We wish you could have been the mohel."

To which I said, "Then why didn't you call?"

"O. We thought you wouldn't be interested in traveling."

Au contraire!

Certainly there are times when my schedule does not allow for me to make a trip. But I enjoy traveling for a bris, and I make every effort to to attend the Brisses that are a flight away! because those trips are the most fun for me on a personal level.

As for cost - don't worry about it. If it's not feasible because of the airline flight, we'll discuss that. But a standard budget for a bris usually adequately covers the travel and bris expenses.

So pick up the phone and call me, and let's discuss the options - as we AVOID the negative stories due to my overprotective approach to doing the bris on time and giving the baby the best possible care. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wild Opinion Piece

Haaretz published an opinion piece that is so wild, it is indicative of where some elements of the Jewish world are headed. (Reproduced below in case it gets lost behind a paywall.)

  A few false assumptions at the end (the suggested paradox), and then of course, this line:
 Here are the facts: there is no Jewish death penalty. We do not put out eyes or cut off hands. There are no rabbinic executioners, or people who amputate limbs for violations of Jewish law. All that are left are the mohalim – those who are specially trained to perform circumcisions." 
 We never put out eyes or cut off hands in all of our history (an eye for an eye was always interpreted to be a monetary punishment). And the Talmud flatly rejects death penalties, for all cases except murder, and even winces at the suggestion that we have such a right in murder cases.

But there is no evidence anywhere prior to the advent of Reform Jewry (which today has Berit Milah Boards and hundreds of certified mohels) as well as post-modern liberal (read emotional and not intellectual or religious) "Jewish" thinking which supported such a notion that Bris Milah is to be rejected. The Talmud unabashedly praised Bris Milah assigning it numerous Covenants, blessings and rewards, as well as saying that when the Jewish people sacrificed for it (as we have for millenia), it was maintained in our ranks.

  The Covenant has always reigned supreme.

The Special Role of Mohel

Of the last few brisses I have performed, a number of them have been for people I have known for a very long time. Of the fathers: A friend from college (15 years), a former camper of mine (18 years (though I know the mother's family for almost 30 years)), family friends (I know the father since he was 6 - for over 20 years).

Being brought into the family circle when I'm already in the family circle is super special. Not too many people know their mohel personally. And the truth is, it it probably awkward for people to make the phone call out of the blue to a person who is in this line of work.

But as my college friend remarked at his son's bris - when he first found out I was a mohel (I already was when we were in college), all he could think was (long before he was married, and long before any child was on the way) "You are never going near my child." And now, all he could think was, "I wouldn't want anyone else to serve as my son's mohel."

It is ALWAYS an honor to serve. I try to get to know everyone in the time I spend with every family. Some families are very straightforward. Some families have an infectious sense of humor. Some like to hear as much information as I can provide. Some have very few questions and are very trusting. Some are more nervous. Some are chilled out.

Having a very long history with people brings the relationship to a whole new level. And thank God for social media, I maintain contact with people now in ways that was more difficult before.

But it is such an honor, every time I meet people with their son(s) and they introduce the boy with a smile and say, "He was your mohel. Do you remember him?" I usually do, the boy usually does not. Knowing that I was able to help the father with his "shlichut" (agency) to help him fulfill his mitzvah, and that it is something which is forever remembered and appreciated, is a gift that is hard to top.

Thank you for the privilege!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

And.... We're back!

Summer is over, and we have returned to Florida.

I look forward to further servicing your bris needs... I look forward to being in touch and working with your family through this special time in your lives.

A.B.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Plans 2014

I am away from South Florida for the summer.

If you are having a baby in July, it is unlikely I will be able to make the trip back to Florida for the bris.

If your baby is born in the second half of August (or if the bris will be delayed until the last week of August) I will more than likely be available in Florida.

Of course, if you'd like me to serve as your mohel in New York over the summer (I already had a bris on Friday) please be in touch. I am happy to serve as a "Mohel in New York" over the summer!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Metzitzah Clarification

Google my name and the word metzitzah and if you don't click any of the links you'd get the wrong impression.

Several years ago, I was contacted by a woman who was writing an article for a local Florida online newspaper, because news came through the wires of a baby who died on account of herpes contracted from the ritual of metzitzah as performed by a certain mohel in NY. Which obviously was not me.

The story went viral and I was quoted in many a news source, including the Huffington post!

I put together the metzitzah page because of that  story.

But I was asked today how I personally do metzitzah - and if it was unclear in my website, here is the official clarification:

I do metzitzah because the Talmud warns mohels against avoiding it.

I use a sterile tube (stuffed with gauze) to accomplish the metzitzah in a sterile manner, not putting the mohel, or the baby, at risk.

And I am grateful that my sterile technique and parents' subsequent care have kept all of my bris boys away from post-op medical care. I am unaware of any infections from my brisses. 

BARUCH HASHEM!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Moheling Around

One of the more unknown (or undiscussed) aspects of being in the mohel field is the back story that comes with every bris.

It's true that many parents are first-time parents, or first-time-having-a-bris parents (they have a girl or girls), but some people have incredible back stories that have brought them to this day. 

For some parents it is an illness, or a spiritual journey; some babies had "issues" which were discovered by the sonogram or after birth, some babies are results of much fertilization medical intervention (a.k.a extra special miracles).

Some circumstances involve unexpected babies, either on account of age, or on account of medical history of parents. I've dealt with many IVF babies, a few surrogate babies, and a few adoption/conversions.

I've done hatafat dam brit on babies that were circumcised in a hospital, on adults who were circumcised in a hospital before the eighth day, and on adult converts.

It is always an honor to be brought into the inner circle, and a privilege to play a role in promoting the Covenant of God and Abraham, of God and the Jewish people.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recent articles about Bris and Circumcision

I have a Facebook page to which I keep an intermittent commentary about some of my brisses, as well as a social commentary about bris milah and circumcision, when the topic is written about for newspapers and websites. Seems there's no end to this conversation.

Anyway, here are some of the articles I've posted recently on Facebook.

With the comments I shared about them in Bold
***************************************
http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/212542/a-bris-performed-by-a-mohel-less-likely-to-result-in-complications-then-if-performed-by-an-md.html

Poor writing and odd reporting, but this is something I have heard anecdotally from the touch-up people (pediatric urologists and pediatric surgeons) for a long time. 
And to the title I will add the word "Reputable" - as in "Performed by a Reputable Mohel." Carrying the title doesn't make a person perfect and not subject to human frailties.
[I am humored by the photo, which shows a "forbidden" Mogen clamp, something "supposedly" no mohels in Israel use.]

***********************************
http://www.activebeat.com/your-health/children/the-pros-and-cons-of-circumcising-your-baby-boy/?utm_source=outbrain&utm_campaign=activebeat_mobile&utm_medium=cpc

We're doing this anyway. But here are different sides to the circumcision debate. 
***********************************
http://m.forward.com/articles/195306/rabbi-performs-controversial-metzitzah-bpeh-circum/

A horrific article in the Forward. 
Every excuse the mohel gives comets from the vilest, most bigoted place. And it ignores the reality that this is AT MOST a custom that really has NO PLACE in the 21st century. 
Do metzitzah with a gauze-stuffed tube/pipette and quit legitimizing your irrational and WRONG behavior under the guise of tradition. Inauthentic Judaism at its finest turning people away.

************************************
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4504242,00.html - 'Intactivists' protest against circumcision in Washington

Oy vey

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Husband

I have written several notes to the father about what is expected of him before and during the bris.
Here is one about the things the father needs to do, and one about whether/when/if the father opts to make the incision himself. Now I venture out of mohel role for a moment, as I talk to you as a friend and a father, who was a husband before being a father, and more than likely before becoming your friend.

Dear Husband,
Congratulations on the birth of your new son! I am sure this is a moment you have been waiting for - for a long time. You have a boy, a son who will carry your name, to whom you can teach everything you want, from sports, to interests, to Torah, to the great upbringing you will undoubtedly provide for him.

But this is not a letter to you, the father. This is a letter to you, the husband.

Look at the woman who just gave birth to this child. Remember that for nine months she endured a pregnancy and all that goes with it. Whether she loved her pregnancy or hated it, whether she had cravings or did not, whether she was more beautiful than ever or pregnancy did things to her (ie morning sickness, bloating, etc) you could have never imagined, whether she got pregnant easily or it was an ordeal (which you both went through), remember that she went through all of this for YOU.

You have a mitzvah to have a child. She does not. She may WANT to have a child, but it is her choice. She becomes the vessel through which you fulfill your obligation to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."

Conception takes a second. Pregnancy is a long ordeal. Your job is simple. Hers is much harder.

And remember who will more likely experience more sleepless nights (especially if she is nursing)? Who is likely to be more involved in the raising of your son?

Please don't think I am accusing any father of shirking his responsibilities as a father. 

But don't forget your responsibility as a husband. Appreciate your wife, the mother of your child. Love her. Cherish her. Honor her. Respect her. Be patient with her.

Birth is a stressful time. The bris could be a very stressful time. It requires a different kind of resilience to make it through this time period with no regrets.

I am so happy to report that I have seen incredible acts of kindness and chesed and concern and care displayed between husband and wife and vice versa in the days when I am present in the home, shortly after the birth (before bris), at the bris, and certainly after the bris.

At the same time (and this is why I write to you, husband of Amazing Woman), I have seen too many people get into regrettable arguments (in my presence!) over what are usually (in my opinion) the silliest of things - about the honors for the bris, who will be involved, etc; about who will change the diaper, who will get the diapers or the wipes, whose turn it is, etc; over who contributes more to this marriage...

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! And I'll add an "oy vey" for good measure! Even if you need to have the fights, please PLEASE have them AFTER I leave. 

But I wonder if it is even necessary, dear husband. Because you should be looking for EVERY opportunity to give your wife a break, to not have to make her climb stairs, to not have her run around looking for things, to not have to change every diaper. And if she is forgetful or if she gets impatient, or if things don't go exactly your way, let it go. The only pass I'll give you is if the baby is exclusively nursing (a move I applaud and encourage, for the baby's sake - as long as Mommy can handle it), you don't have to feed him.

Remember why you got into this in the first place - marriage, baby, the whole megillah. The baby should enhance your love, admiration, respect for and appreciation of one another. He should not bring about unnecessary stress and tension between you.

As to how you deal with your in-laws? For that you're on your own. :)

I care about your dear and precious wife who has done more for you in the last week months of your lives than you could ever do for her. God bless her. And you should too.

All the best
Avi Billet


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Inauthenticity of "Authenticity"

A mohel in NY called me recently because he was watching a bris on YouTube at which I was the mohel, and he had a comment about the timing of my putting on my gloves. His observation was duly noted, but I had to inform him that I wear two pairs of gloves, the top one protecting the lower pair in the moments leading up to the bris.

I find it much easier and quicker to take off a pair of gloves, rather than put them on, at the moment I am ready to begin.

Apparently my back was 'facing' the camera. He rewatched it and was able to discern, by the sound and the pause, that what I said was accurate. A few minutes later, he texted me that he "got it," and we shared a few tidbits about the trade.

Please understand - I was so appreciative of the phone call! Because here is a mohel who understands that sterility is no joke, and the appearance of sterility must meet with a reality of sterility.

So this was a breath of fresh air. Because the truth is, there is a world of mohels and their legitimizers who believe that the way that Abraham circumcised, and the way our ancestors in Europe circumcised, is the only authentic way to do it.

Whether they are against the use of the pipette for metzitzah, a hemostat for efficiency, a shield for protection of the glans (shudder!), gloves for sterility, or the highest standards of sterility that could be maintained outside of the Operating Room (because heaven forfend the bris koidesh should be viewed as surgery in any way - this is not a medical procedure! This is a mitzvah!), their vision of "maintaining authenticity" makes a mockery of medical advances, germ theories, and safety precautions that should be standard fare for every mohel who "operates" (yes, operates) on any child.

The truth is that the only authentic bris is the one that presents no inherent possibility of danger to the baby, beyond what the Torah obligates - that the foreskin be removed accompanied by the blood of the circumcision. Pain should be minimal, bleeding should be minimal, and risk of infection or damage should be NONEXISTENT.

This is authentic. This is living up to the tradition and covenant of Avraham Avinu.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Life and Times

Being a mohel is not a full-time occupation of mine. Sure, there are times I wish it could be. But between there being many mohels here in South Florida and whatever factors, it is not the reality now. Which is fine. Every mohel has very busy weeks with between 5 and 10 brisses, and every mohel has the occasional lull with 0 brisses in a week.

Thank God, I have other things going on in life, so my mohel blogging has taken a small hit, and I apologize to those who have found this blog helpful, that I haven't been updating.

And yet, those who have taken the time to search the blog have given me wonderful feedback, in person and through email, about how much they appreciated what has been "published" thus far. And for that I am grateful.

Here is to a busy but good life! In which there is much more diversity than brisses. And in which there is more to life than blogging. :)

Always grateful to those who put their trust and baby's bris needs to my hands.

Shalom - peace and nachas to you and your families.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Busy Weekend

Three brisses this weekend - in Boynton Beach, Coconut Creek and Miami Beach.

That about sums up South Florida Jewry for you.

Peace!