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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 ...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Different Type of Busy

I don't know what triggers them specifically, beyond my existence, but every now and then my Facebook page is attacked by anti-circumcision activists, some of whom are respectful, some of whom are curious as to why we do what we do, some of who can not fathom how we don't view Brit Milah as a human-rights violation, and some of whom are vile human beings who spew filth and the most hate-filled language and invective towards me (as a representative of Brit Milah) and our backwards ways.

These latter people, some of whom go so far as calling me a pedophile, get blocked, banned, and their comments deleted. They don't call urologists and gynecologists sexual predators, so their comment in my direction is just disgusting. If no one ever hired me again for a bris, I would never see another foreskin (except on my own newborn son, I suppose) as long as I live. And I certainly have no interest in seeing my work once the healing process has completed and parents aren't asking me questions about it. (Though as long as they ask questions, it's in a professional capacity, and the physician parable remains...)

As for the rest of the people, if they have respectful comments and questions, I am happy to have the dialogue. Perhaps there is merit to trying to explain - in a respectful manner. Even though it takes time, and the conversation almost never convinces anyone of even the merits of our view.

Because the bottom line is this. People who have not bought into a. Judaism, and b. the Covenant (both of which are why we do this), as well as those who do not agree with the idea that parents who bring children into the world are allowed to raise them how they want, they don't accept that Brit Milah (which includes the act of circumcision, but is symbolically much more than a circumcision) isn't a human rights violation. 

They can argue that a child born of a Jewish mother is Jewish even without circumcision. This is certainly true. But try explaining to them the concept of 'karet' and you're viewed as a lunatic (so I don't - not worth it). They certainly don't understand why doing it this way is highly preferred over letting the child decide when he is 18. While I've met some people on FB who are disgruntled, in my personal dealings, everyone is happy their parents took care of it for them when they were babies (as per Torah law - Genesis 17 and Leviticus 12:3), so it's done and taken care of.

To these activitists, pro-circumcision views are irrelevant (not that we need them, because we're doing it anyway), and any perspective other than their own is unacceptable. One woman even said that circumcision is a form of Anti-Semitism (I can't make this stuff up!) 

They don't understand us. Period. One person told me there was a reason why Greeks and Romans outlawed circumcision. And I congratulated him on joining the ranks of the most evil people to ever inhabit this earth, who hated Judaism and (murdered) Jews on account of their being different, and for the acts they did which made them Jewish.

Most Jewish men I encounter give no second thought to their circumcision, and certainly don't obsess over how their lives would be different if they had their foreskin. Many are even proud of their circumcision, and even prouder that they had the opportunity to bring their sons into the mark of the Covenant as well. 

It's been an interesting week. But I look forward to focusing on the important work of bringing our Jewish boys into the mark of the Covenant. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Pulitzer Prize-worthy photo that went viral

The first time I posted a picture that went viral on Facebook was, post-bris, after a mom put a creative Harry-Potter themed onesie on her baby.

This time - overwhelming those numbers - the photo I posted on Friday (2 days ago), has already been seen by over 100,000 people, has been shared over 500 times and has received over 1100 reactions, according to the stats I see through FB.

I did not do this bris - it took place in Israel - but the story is so heartwarming. The great-grandfather held his own brother during WWII, as his brother died. The baby was named for that brother - what a different position to be in! To have held and lost over 70 years ago, and now to hold for life!!!

Here is the post. Am Yisrael Chai!!!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tefillin at the Bris

Image result for bris photo
I don't know what's going on in this photo, but the person on the right is still wearing his hand tefillin
When davening leads directly into the bris, the baby's father (as well as the Sandak) will often ask me, "Do I leave my tefillin on?"

According to the Sha"kh (Y"D 265:10) "the custom was to not remove tefillin until after the Bris, because tefillin are a sign (אות) and Milah is a sign (אות)."

Yosef Weissberg, in his Otzar HaBris Vol 2, page 250, addresses many of the rules associated with Tefillin in conjunction with a bris. 

* The Sefardic custom in Jerusalem is that the father and the Sandak put on tefillin (or leave them on) for the Bris. If it's after davening, the Mohel leaves them on too. (This assumes the mohel davens with the family, which is not always the case. Also, from experience with my first son, I'll note that I took off my hand tefillin, but left my head tefillin on, as the hand tefillin get in the way of doing a good job  - AB)

* In the book אות חיים ושלום (from Munkatch) concurs with my parenthetical comment about the mohel, but felt that the Sandak should keep the tefillin on. 

* There is another viewpoint (recorded by Ateret Tzvi, and reported as practice of Chozeh of Lublin and others) not to keep the tefillin on for the Bris. This is also true for the Yemenite Jews - tefillin are removed prior to the bris. 

* A reason for removing the tefillin follows a similar reasoning for why we don't wear tefillin on Shabbos. Since Shabbos is an אות, we don't need tefillin that day. Since מילה is an אות, we don't need to have another אות around at the same time as we are introducing a new אות. 

* In the book כורת הברית, he doesn't recommend taking them off. But if one is not wearing tefillin, he should not put them on, as he looks like he's seeking an אות when he is already partaking in the marking of a very special אות. 

* Rabbi Moshe Feinstein argued with the logic of most recent bullet point, because the new אות is not on the person wearing the tefillin - it's on the baby! So if the tefillin are on - whether kept on, or put on in honor of the bris - this is not a contradiction. 


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bris During the Three Weeks

For babies born yesterday and for the coming three weeks, any bris will be during the period which is called "Bein Ha'Mtzarim" in Halakha, or the "three weeks" in English. This period starts on the 17th of Tammuz and ends with Tisha B'Av.

As this is a time of mourning on the Jewish calendar, some rules of the bris experience are a little different than usual.

All of the following is recorded in Yosef Weissberg's bris Otzar HaBris volume 1, pages 289-291, where he has all the footnotes supporting the viewpoints presented.

The Baalei Bris (Father, Sandak, Mohel) may get a haircut in honor of the bris. Some are of the opinion that if the bris is during the week when 9 Av will be taking place, that haircut should be skipped. [In a footnote, he essentially argues that the same rule applies to cutting fingernails]

The Baalei Bris (see above) may wear "Shabbos clothes" to the bris. The woman who brings the baby into the bris - the female half of the Kvatterin - may also wear Shabbos clothes, though the male Kvatter may not.

The wine should be given to children to drink, or to the mother of the baby. But the one who makes the bracha during the bris ceremony should not have, and neither should the Baalei Bris (see above) taste the wine. [Though he doesn't specify, I assume this rule is actually during the 9 days, when the custom is to refrain from wine, except on Shabbos, and not from 17 Tammuz until Rosh Chodesh]

Everyone who is present for the mitzvah and therefore the meal are permitted to eat meat and drink wine as part of the "seudas mitzvah" celebratory meal. The wine used for bentching may also be consumed.

However, during the week in which 9 Av falls, one should limit the size of the guest list to relatives and enough to make a minyan. The exception to this rule is if the bris is on Shabbos - even on Shabbos which is 9 Av (for which the fast will be observed on Sunday) - then everyone can participate.