Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Delaying Bris, and When the 8th day is Shabbos or Yom Tov

A bris takes place on the 8th day of life, because that is the Torah's rule. This means that we don't usually pick the day of the week for the bris as it is dependent on when the baby is born.

However, there are other rules which might prevent this from happening per schedule.

1. Since we only do a bris on a healthy baby, if baby unfortunately has a medical condition that needs attention, the bris will be delayed until he is clear. If the issue was systemic, the bris will be delayed to a full week after he is medically cleared.

2. If the baby was delivered via C-section, his bris MAY NOT TAKE PLACE ON SHABBOS or a Torah-mandated holiday (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Pesach (1st and last days), Shavuos, Sukkos (1st days), Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah), and will instead take place the following day, either Sunday or the day after

What happens when the bris is supposed to take place on Shabbos or Yom Tov, but it is inconvenient for the mohel, who does not drive on those days, to have the bris take place at the right time?

There are a few options.
1. The mohel or baby's family can make arrangements for mohel to stay nearby
2. Even if it's several miles, the mohel can offer to walk to the bris
3. The family might come to the mohel*
4. The mohel can say, "Look. It's your job to hire someone for the 8th day. I can't do it at that time. However, if you can't find anyone, I'm available the day afterwards." (This is what I often tell people)
5. The mohel might say, "Forget it. We'll do it after Shabbos or Yom Tov." (I find this to be disingenuous. If the parents want the bris on the 8th day, that should be presented as an option for them to pursue with someone else.)

* If the family plans to drive with the baby on Shabbos or Yom Tov (though 2nd day of yom tov raises an interesting question), that is certainly not within the spirit of the day. However, if it is the 8th day, and the baby is brought to the mohel (parents' choice), he (the mohel) does have an obligation to facilitate the fulfillment of the mitzvah of bris on the child.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

An Insider View: When Two Mohels are Involved

I recently had a problem with an appliance in my house. Being a good American citizen, appreciative of how the free market works, I brought in a few repairmen to assess the situation and provide me with a quote. One will get the job. The others will not. That's called "the cost of doing business."

In the mohel world, things operate a little differently. While parents are encouraged to do their research before the baby is born (to call and interview the "repairmen"), once the baby is born the crunch time sets in. Because the mohel needs to be booked ASAP. And the bris needs to be prepared for the 8th day.

How many times does it happen that people call me, asking for my availability at a certain time - but, alas, there's another bris, elsewhere, at the same time? It happens a lot. (There are some mohels who book both without telling anyone - which causes delay and inconvenience to a lot of people. I saw that a lot in Israel!) So I have to decline - first come, first served is how things work.

But what happens when different family members take upon themselves to hire the mohel? Sometimes parents do the hiring, while a grandparent is looking for the mohel s/he likes! Unlike the analyzing repairmen, who come at different times and await a booking, a booked mohel pencils a bris into his calendar, and he expects to do the job!! Once that happens, he might turn down other opportunities as well, which is why some mohels have a cancellation fee.

I had this recently - had a set of twins bris booked in Miami for the Sunday after Rosh Hashana weekend (Rosh Hashana was Thursday and Friday, leading into Shabbos). I turned down another bris at the same time. And then got a text-message (!) Saturday night informing me that the baby's grandfather had booked a different mohel. Disappointing? Of course. But what can I do?

This is why only one person should book the mohel.

On the other hand, I have also been that second mohel in a number of circumstances. And while when I find out there's another mohel in the picture I typically bow out (out of courtesy for the other mohel), here are reasons for why I will take the job.

1. The parents had a bad experience before, and just discovered they could use a different mohel
2. The parents heard about a bad experience their booked mohel gave to a friend of theirs, and they are worried. They've cancelled him and are reaching out (usually late in the game) to find someone
3. The mohel is delaying the bris for his own convenience, while the bris need not be delayed (THIS ONE IS THE MOST COMMON)

So here are the easy guidelines for how to book a mohel
1. Make sure ONE PERSON in the family is booking
2. While you can interview as many people as you want before baby is born, once baby is born make sure YOU KNOW WHICH MOHEL you are hiring. Communicate this to family and avoid double-booking!
3. Please be respectful of mohel's time and schedule. If you book a mohel, assume he is giving up another bris for you. A cancellation on your part at the very least deserves a PHONE CALL (don't do it by text or email). (I'm torn about the cancellation fee - it's hard to expect people to pay for nothing... on the other hand, if a different bris was lost on account of the booking, that is significant to anyone who counts on the bris at least supplementing one's parnassah)
4. However if you're talking to a mohel who is using delay tactics, when your bris should be on time, and another mohel you speak with accepts the job at the right time, the delaying mohel is owed nothing. As far as I can see, if the bris was supposed to take place Friday, and he is trying to push it to Sunday, he was never booked.