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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 ...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Oy Oy Oy. Let's Understand Priorities

In addition to being a mohel, I am the rabbi of a synagogue. On a daily basis, after morning services (on days when I don't have an early morning bris), we learn some Jewish law. It's amazing how much can be covered over the course of a year learning just 2-3 minutes a day.

We are currently learning the laws of Shabbos, and have arrived at the segment related to what is done differently when there is a Bris on Shabbos!

The Talmud says clearly (it's actually a Mishnah).
תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף קלג עמוד א
עושין כל צרכי מילה בשבת 
All needs of the circumcision can be performed on Shabbos.

The reason this is important is because circumcision, mitzvah (commandment) that it may be, is elective surgery. And while the elective surgery is required, we do not violate or desecrate the Sabbath through having elective surgery on the Holy Day. Therefore, such a procedure should take place on any other day of the week.

Why is there an exception for Shabbos? Because the verse says that when a woman gives birth to a boy, on the 8th day he is to be circumcised. (Vayikra 12:3)  [This means only if she gives birth through birth canal and the 8th day is absolutely Shabbos, meaning the child had to have been born after the stars came out Friday night, and before the sun set on Saturday.] This 8th day business is so serious, that when it is clear that the baby's 8th day is Shabbos, his required 'elective' surgery takes precedence over the Holy Day.

In the context of addressing what are "צרכי מילה" I mentioned two things that I heard from my rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Tendler.

1. Metzitzah, which is a tradition Rav Tendler supports for it to be done in a sterile way, using a tube, as a vestige to a requirement of the Talmud, but which clearly has no necessity today as the Talmud clearly mentioned it as an act which had medicinal purposes, whose merit is clearly not supported by today's medical understanding - in his view, performing Metzitzah on Shabbos is a violation of Shabbos! [See here where Rabbi Moshe Feinstein noted that, in general, if Metzitzah were not done (accidentally, for example) there would be no need to revisit the wound, and the bris is kosher]

2. Using a marker - I have noted here - Magic of a Marker and here - Getting the Percentages Right (and much more critically here) of the IMPORTANCE of using a marker when circumcising, for the baby's sake, to get the circumcision as precise and even as possible. There is no question, in my mind, that marking the foreskin is the most important thing I do in preparation for a bris, because once the foreskin is pulled forward to apply the shield, it is impossible to know exactly where the edge of the foreskin is without that mark. Particularly since we don't want to remove more skin from the ventral side, I maintain that any mohel who scoffs at marking the baby is being foolish and is doing a disservice to the baby.  Rabbi Tendler is of the opinion that marking the baby is a necessity of milah, and that just as the circumcision (a Shabbos violation of cutting, causing a wound, etc.) pushes aside Shabbos, marking the baby (a Shabbos violation of writing) pushes aside Shabbos.

Two days later, someone in the synagogue told me that his son is a mohel in Israel, and that his son completely disagrees with these two points. Mostly, he believes that marking the baby is unnecessary EVER, because mohels in Israel don't do it! To which I said, most mohels in Israel don't wear gloves when they operate - does this make their method correct? (It happens to be that his son was trained wearing gloves, so he wears gloves.) By and large, I think I've addressed most of his son's and my differences in this post.

As for metzitzah on Shabbos, it boils down to how we understand necessity, how the Talmud viewed metzitzah (is it a requirement or medical recommendation based on medical knowledge of the time), as well as how we punctuate the Mishnah - most notably the continuation of the Mishnah, the part which I did not provide above.

Bottom line: As Jews we prioritize Shabbos. Absolutely. But Shabbos comes every week, and every week we have an opportunity to experience it better than last week. A bris is a ONE TIME opportunity, and you really only have one shot at getting it right. This is why the rules of Shabbos (for things that could not have been prepared in advance) are suspended for the mohel/caregiver when it comes to the conflict with Shabbos that a bris presents. No one questions that the rules of Shabbos are set aside when it comes to saving a life. Certain rules of Shabbos should also be pushed aside in order not to ruin a life through an imperfect circumcision.

So let us understand priorities, and not have our Hashakafic differences determine what is best for the baby. Let reality determine what is best for baby.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Scare Tactic - Long Term Reminder

Provocative title, I know.

Some of my favorite blog posts concern explaining how things will look after the bris, and long term care reminders. Why? Because I don't post pictures of actual circumcisions, so I need to be quite descriptive, and rely on other images to get the point across.

See for example the following urls.

Certainly my most favorite blog post about explaining the anatomy - with pictures! - and what happens during a bris, is here. The only challenge was that I had injured myself at the time. Can you tell?

So what is the scare tactic? How do I get people to understand the concern of Chubby Baby Syndrome, and the reality of the Fusion Challenge, the need to be resilient (in some cases) in pushing back the remains of the membrane (or ha'priah) and making sure it does not fuse to the glans?

Here's the story.

A few years ago I had an incredible bris experience, which actually led to this amazing story. (I wrote up a dvar Torah using the story, which is on my other blog). When I visited the baby at the end of the day, to remove the bandage and see that all was well with the bris, I met one of the father's friends.

Permit a brief pause, but this is actually quite relevant. At many brisses, while most people are respectful, respectable, and honorable, there are some men who make unnecessary (and unfunny) jokes about bris and circumcision. I promise I've heard them all. The most common one is "rabbi, do you do touchups?" As if the person is suggesting he is 'unhappy' with his circumcision or that I have any interest in doing a surgical correction. My thoughts on this kind of humor can be found here. 

The friend of the father had a question about his "bris," and after ignoring him/pushing his 'question' aside a couple of times, I realized he was actually serious. This was very rare. (Like urologists, I examine adults on occasion, to see if their circumcision is kosher, particularly before a conversion, or if someone not circumcised by a mohel wants to make sure his circumcision is adequate and correctable through hatafat dam bris) We went into a room for a consultation, and with a quick look I knew exactly what was wrong.

When circumcised as a baby, this man's caregivers did not separate the membrane, and it had fused to the top edge of the glans (38 years earlier). During erections, instead of the glans going straight, it was being pulled back by the 12-o'clock skin of the shaft. I told the fellow he needed to consult with a urologist and have it surgically corrected. And his friend, the baby's daddy, confirmed for me several months later (when we randomly met in a store) that his friend had things taken care of and was grateful.

Bottom line: Parents, this need not ever be your child's experience if you take heed to what I (or your son's mohel) tell you about aftercare and how things are supposed to look (see all links above for descriptions).

That is my "scare tactic." I hope the message comes across loud and clear.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Table of Contents - Calendar Days

The Calendar as described begins with Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, then moving into Rosh Hashana - the URL shows the content, and what needs to be thought about on special days on the calendar

[Subsequent to making the list below, a page dedicated to ALL special calendar days was created

Table of Contents - Symbolism

Beauty of the Bris
Inspiration of Bris
Covenants in the Torah
Why We Name the Baby at the Bris
Elijah the Prophet
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Bris Symbolism
What's in a Name?
Saying וכרות עמו הברית Together at the bris
Significance of Bris [audio class]
The Shalom Zachar - sources of the Friday night celebration
Why We Circumcise - the Footnote
What is the Covenant of Circumcision?
Achieving Perfection

Table of Contents - Stories

Stories that are Inspiring or just Nice
Bris Where the 3 Boys Were Killed
A Promise Fulfilled
Best Line - Great Story
First Bris of 2016 - WOWZA
The Infertility Miracle Twins

For FUNNY stories, click here and look for "Stories"

For RANDOM stories, click here and look for "Stories"

Table of Contents - Sterility

Cleanliness and Efficiency
Sterilize and Reuse vs. Disposable
Sterility and Cleanliness - Can't Overemphasize
Gloves   and Gloves Part II
On Creating Standards for Sterility
In the Florida News

Table of Contents - Mohels

Putting Your Mind At Ease
The Color White
Hollywood mohel will travel
Different Types (Levels) of Mohels
Mohel's Role in the Ceremony
How to Find a Mohel
Doctor Vs Mohel
Special Role of Being a Mohel
Sensitivity Factor

When 2 mohels are involved

Table of Contents - Questions to Consider and Ask

Questions to Ask
Good Questions to Ask ANY Mohel
Prioritizing Our Questions
Wrong Attitude is NOT to Ask
FAQ - Summary (links to answers to the questions) - Shorter Answers Appear in a Link at the top of the page
Inquiries Welcome

Table of Contents - Miscellaneous


Delaying and Figuring Out When the Bris Will Take Place
When Baby is REALLY Small 
Timing the Bris - Figuring out when the bris will take place
DELAYING a Bris - when and under what circumstances?
C-Section differences
What happens when 8th day is Shabbos or Yom Tov and the bris has been delayed?

AMAZING bris experience
Amazing story attached to baby's name
MohelinSouthFlorida Goes Intergenerational
Historical - portrayal of adult circumcision for conversion
Historical - a list of circumcisions from the 1700s
Scare Tactics - An Experience I had which highlights why parents MUST listen to aftercare instructions

Before and After
When to call the mohel
Calling the mohel does not equal booking the mohel
What to Prepare for the Bris
BEFORE AND AFTER - What it Looks Like

General Qs
Foreskin - how is it disposed of?

The joy of TWINS - with a photo!    
Another TWINS photo

Proper Attitude of Mohel = Confident Parents
The Importance of Trust
It's All About the Baby

Fun Stuff
How do you spell MOIL, MOHEL
Bris Humor
Source for the Bris Party
Are there BOOKS about Bris? [Not too many in English - you'll find much more information in this website!]

Table of Contents - Preparations

Family and Friends Focused
When to Call the Mohel
What Kind of Party
Supplies List page    (earlier blog post = What to Prepare for the Bris)
Private Room
Kippah for baby?
Bris at Night?

Table of Contents - Problems


When There is NO BRIS due to a baby's anatomical reality
What problems with the baby would cause the bris to not take place on time - ie to be delayed?

Corrections needed?
Most Common Issues After the Bris
What Will it Look Like Before and After
news out of Israel
What Happens in Circumcision
What I Learned in the Operating Room

Dealing With A Delayed Bris
When DOES the DELAYED BRIS take place?

What Can Go Wrong at the Bris
The Part No One Talks About (relates to previous)
The One-Two Stage Process (a positive twist on previous)
MYTHBUSTER: The Bleeding Vein

Long Term Care
Knowing What to Expect Afterwards
The Fusion Challenge (related to previous)

This should NEVER happen - a tale told to me by a baby nurse
Denuding the Shaft

My Worst Story
Vindicated!- a story of a not as great bris experience, with a satisfying (for me) conclusion

Table of Contents - Parent Notes

Parents, Notes to
For Bris Prep
ALL you need to know, in one easy blog post (links)
Being Aware of What you Should Be Asking Your Mohel
Numbing - Should I? Or shouldn't I?
Why baby can't eat before the bris
Tricks for baby care from your local - especially good for first-time parents!
Important Reminders
TOP TEN - Don't Make These Mistakes! - you'll kick yourself afterwards!
Finding a Mohel in South Florida

A Note to the New Mom
Dear Grandparents - a Note to Share with Grandparents, a reminder of boundaries
The Right to Choose Your Mohel - (Grandparents may have solicited input, but they don't decide)

Table of Contents - Miscellaneous Essays

Miscellaneous Essays:

Anti-Semites and Anti-Semitism
Bris: Not Barbaric - Another essay on the subject of why we do bris and why anti-circumcision  advocacy is irrelevant to our discussion
An Act of Faith - What Circumcision is Really All About
Addressing Anti-Circumcision Claims
Bris and the Challenge of Consent (or lack of consent)
Being Anti-Circumcision in Europe is Anti-Semitism disguised as Liberalism

Covenant Explained
What is the Covenant of Circumcision?
Achieving Perfection - a thought about the covenant

Emotions, their place in bris arguments
Emotions vs Intellect vs God's Law (Part I)
Emotions vs Intellect vs God's Law (Part II)

Maimonides, Bris and Circumcision
Stimulus Response - noting Maimonides...
Maimonides Reasons for Circumcising I
Maimoindes Reasons for Circumcising II

Medical Procedure?
Bris v Circumcision (medical versus by a mohel)

A connections between Chanuka and Bris Milah
Being an Uncircumcised Jew - Conversation with an elderly Jew from former Soviet Union
When bris is on a fast day 
The Shabbos Bris
When Baby Dies Uncircumcised

Mohels Who Should Not Operate
Danger of Arrogance
Denuding the Shaft
A debate I had with a myopic person

Non-Jews: Mother, Baby and the bris (or the circumcision?)
Why I don't perform a "bris" ritual ceremony (as opposed to a medical circ) when the baby's mother isn't Jewish
What Makes a Jew
Circumcisions versus Brisses - status of circumcision based on baby's birth status from his mother

Women and the Covenant of Circumcision
Including Women in the Ceremony

Table of Contents - Mohel Standards

Mohel Standards

Inauthenticity of "Authenticity - why old-school is not always best for baby.
Awareness Factor - parents must know what you are looking for!
The Danger of Arrogance
Mohel's Role in the Ceremony

Dealing With Multiple Brisses on the same day
It's All About the Baby
Jews, Religion and Observance

news out of Israel
Observations of a Urologist

Sterility and Cleanliness
Cleanliness and Efficiency
Sterility and Cleanliness
Gloves and Gloves revisited
Perhaps a better way to give the baby wine
Creating Standards for Sterility

Different Types of Mohels
Is the Mohel a Doctor?
Marking the Foreskin with a Marker

Table of Contents - News Monitoring About Bris Milah

Some articles in the News
March 2014 - some articles about Bris and Circumcision

News Monitor: Circumcision Recommended to cut down on STDs

News Monitor - The "pro-bris but anti-circumcision" movement

News Monitor - Botched circ - not a botched bris. (ie doctor v mohel)

News: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Report about Metzitzah

News: Europe and Germany [see the bottom of this page]
Good news and bad news out of Germany

News: Israel
News out of Israel - about inefficient circumcisions (the mohel who did not remove enough)
Israel and Europe - 2013 - Fighting Anti-Cirumcision Bills

News: Washington
House Bill protects Circumcision

News: New York
Baby Dies From Metzitzah With Direct Oral Contact - part 1

Part 2 - just a couple of linnks following the story
Part 3 - My Response to the story and the media
More on Metzitzah and Herpes
A wise opinion about NYC and metzitzah (IMHO)

News: San Francisco - The attempt to make circumcision illegal
Monitoring the News - San Francisco
No Indication of Anti-Semitism (San Francisco II)
San Francisco Ban Part III
San Francisco IV - The Final Chapter

OPINION Piece in HA'Aretz - that circumcision will be rejected by the Jewish People????

NEWS IN EUROPE (GERMANY, AUSTRIA, SWITZERLAND) - These are links to news articles.
Not always in chronological order - but the latest news is at the bottom

Table of Contents - Metzitzah

The METZITZAH PAGE - Links to many articles about Metzitzah
See what Metzitzah is - VIDEO (not me :)   )
Source for Metzitzah (joke)
Some Thoughts on Metzitzah
Another Thought on metzitzah
Early sources for Metzitzah? Who will find...
Metzitzah Clarification - No, I NEVER infected a baby
Metzitzah - in a Nutshell (why we do it, and why it's best to utilize the tube method)
Making Metzitzah Optional
A Debate on this subject
A Medical Opinion Article in the Jewish Week (+ some logic)
Response to the News About March 2012 baby-death story - geared at explaining Metzitzah to non-Jews
Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report - 2012 conclusions about controversial ritual
Why Metzitzah With the Mouth is DANGEROUS by Rabbi Dr. Ronnie Hassan
Why I Disagree With the Agudah on Metzitzah
Another opinion Re Metzitzah and NYC
My Article in the Jewish Week
Arukh haShulhan approves Metzitzah tubes!
Metzitzah Tale Gone Bad (in the news) - not terrible ending though
Topic That Won't Go Away
More of the - NYC Metzitzah Policy

Table of Contents - Methods of Circumcision

Methods and Clamps

Circumcision Explained
How I explain what happens at a bris
Bris v Circumcision
Methods of Circumcision

Do You Use a Clamp? (No I don't)
See also Clamps

Instruments (Mohel 'tool box')
See Bris Kit

Methods of Operation
Cleanliness and Efficiency
One of my favorite bandages

Surprises and how to (try to) avoid them
What I learned in the operating room
The Magic of a Marker
Related to Previous - Getting the Percentages Right
Milah and Priah in One Act
And the Flip Side - Bris in One Stage or Two

Table of Contents - Fun Stuff

Fun Stuff

General Information
Not too many pictures in this Bris Website
Streamlining the Blog - Most Important Things to Know
Bris Certificate

Humor (Appropriate Only)
Think Before Speaking - OOPS - a quasi funny tale
Source for metzitzah
Bris Humor
How do you spell Moyle?

Funny Story? You decide
A Good Line - an unplanned humorous encounter
The rabbi with the good line
Another Humorous Exchange
For funny stories see "Stories" below

Perks of Being a Mohel
3-day Yom Tov Mohel Blues - can't be everywhere when you can't travel
The Month of Nissan - When One Perk is Irrelevant
Not Saying Tachanun - Why Tachanun Is Cancelled When Mohel Has a Bris
Good Ole Perks

The Photo that Went VIRAL
When the Baby is a Girl
How I Explain How Things Will Look After the Bris
A List of Brisses from the 1700s

Does the Baby Need a Kippah?
Born without a foreskin?
Is the Mohel a Doctor?
Response to Correspondence I've received

The irony in a given name - an ironic tale
The Story of Pinchas Who was almost Eisav
Remembering Our Roles - the grandmother who forgot she was a grandmother
How Mickey Mouse Saved the Bris
Importance of Thinking Before Speaking
For great one-liners that came out of some tales, see "one-liners" above

Hollywood Mohel Will Travel
To Be a Mohel in Miami

Table of Contents - Customs

Customs and Such
Worms I

Worms II

Table of Contents - Costs

What Kind of Party
Don't Let Finances Deter You from hiring a mohel (as opposed to going the hospital circ route)

Table of Contents - Conversion Concerns

A Note on Jews, Religion and Observance
Hatafat Dam Brit
What Makes a Jew
Bris For Conversion
Circumcision for Conversion - my perspective on circumcision services (such as when the baby's mother is not Jewish) vs bris services
Circumcisions Versus Brisses - Circumcising Jews, Half-Jews, Non-Jews
When the Baby's Mother is Not Jewish

Table of Contents - Clamps

Methods of Circumcision
Do You Use a Clamp? - Defining Clamp v Shield (and no, I don't use a clamp)
Don't Use the Mogen Clamp
News Out of Israel
Conversation about Clamps
The Conceptual Problems With Clamps
Halakhic Objections to Clamps

Table of Contents - Ceremony and Honors

Ceremony and Honors
Shalom Zachar - the pre-bris Ceremony
Multiple Babies
Typical Bris Setup
Why We Stand at the Bris
Family Involvement
The Ceremony and the Honors
A Comprehensive List of Honors for the Bris
THE MOST IMPORTANT KIBBUDIM - including a "don't do this" tale
What is A Kvatter
The Father's Role in the Bris Ceremony
The Role of the Sandak
Elijah the Prophet
The Wine --- And the WINE part II (a sterile approach)
Morning Prayer - וכרות עמו הברית
Including Women in the Ceremony

Table of Contents - Caring for the Circumcision (practical information)

Caring for the circumcision 'wound'
Thoughts on NUMBING the foreskin
What to Prepare for the Bris
Instructions for After Care
What Will it Look Like Before and After
How I Explain How it will look - with pictures!
Photos of a Healing Bris
Looks Swell - No? - on swelling
Is Tylenol a solution for a cranky baby?
What I learned in the Operating Room
Knowing What to expect afterwards
Talking to a Urologist - observations about circumcision from a grandfather at a bris (see follow up to this story here: A Promise Fulfilled)
Long term Care Reminder
CHUBBY BABY Syndrome - How alot of baby fat is disheartening for a few months
Fusion Challenge
The Myth of Bleeding Vein

Table of Contents - Bris Symbolism

Bris, and its Symbolism
The Shalom Zachar - Friday night before the bris
The Beauty of the Bris
Typical Bris Setup
The Inspiration of Bris
Why We Stand at a Bris
Why We Name the Baby at the Bris
Invoking the Bris During Davening (Prayers)
How Emotions Overtake Us - the story of the father who forgot his lines
The Significance of the Bris [audio class]
וכרות עמו הברית - during davening
Why We Circumcise - the Footnote
Not Understanding the Bris - includes a video of a bris gone crazy

Defining Terms

Table of Contents - Bris Kit, How Bris is Done

Bris, How It Is Done - Mohel's Bag of Tricks

Table of Contents - Personal Advertisements!

Advertising mohelinsouthflorida services (in this blog)

Rabbi AVI Billet in the newspaper - Boca Rabbi's son's bris
Photos (and Facebook)

Quite the Compliment!
A Skilled Operator - Another wonderful compliment!

AUDIO TUTORIALS (follow the link and instructions)
Bris Workshop in Your Area - A few of your friends expecting a baby? Let's set up a class to learn everything you need to know before a bris
It's WORTH A PHONE CALL - if you want A-1 Service, but live in New York, call me! I might be in town anyway, or cheap flights are available. Never hurts to call

The Process - From When you call me until the bris
MohelinSouthFlorida Stats!
A grandparents record!
A Different Experience (than with other mohels)
Pinch Hitting - Filling in for a missing mohel

So you found your mohel on the INTERNET
Inquiries Welcome

See also
Available - With Flexibility
Being A Mohel In South Florida (note to friendship with Rabbi Howie Seif(the knife))
A Traveling mohel
Getting Around Florida
Mohel in Central Florida
Mohel Anywhere in Florida
A Bris in Puerto Rico
A Mohel in Miami - laugh at ridiculousness, please

Table of Contents - About the Mohel

About Me (Personal)

When the Mohel's Wife Gives Birth to a Boy
A Personal Note on a Unique Friendship
The Honor of Being Called Again - a "repeat" customer
An appreciated compliment
A beautiful Sentiment
Flattering Conversation

Thoughts on Bris Humor
See also "Difference..." below

Being a Mohel
Being a Consultant 
Is the Mohel a Doctor?

Difference between Mohelinsouthflorida and other mohels
What makes you different?
honesty from a mohel
Why Hire MohelInSouthFlorida
The Importance of Open Communication between Mohel and Parents
The Sensitivity Factor

Lessons Learned on the job
An Important Lesson - What Never to Say

Getting Two Calls for the Same Timeslot

Life and Times - busier and less busy times :)
Moheling Around - More about the range of a mohel's experiences

What I Learned in the Operating Room
Becoming more Efficient - all on account of being a traveling mohel

Monday, January 8, 2018

Social Media Warning

A birth of a child is a joyous time, and for those who celebrate the bris, the naming of the baby in the context of the fulfillment of a great mitzvah provides an emotional tide that many people are not used to experiencing all at once.

As a result, the subsequent sharing of "simcha" is so natural, social media aficionados quickly have photos and FB live videos on their profiles shortly after (or during!) the bris.

Enter the warning. There are cruel people who want to take away your joy and call everything you hold dear into question through calling you nasty names on social media for exercising your right as a parent to raise your child the way you want, which includes choosing to circumcise him according to your faith.

The simplest thing to do is BLOCK and BAN. There is no benefit to engaging these people in conversation. In all honesty, they're not looking to have a conversation. They're just attack mosquitoes and they are relentless. So, free yourself from their awfulness (they don't even congratulate you on the birth of your baby!) and just block and ban. Block and ban.

Or turn your settings to friends only. That also works.