Monday, July 23, 2018

Circumcising the... Dead?

Two and a half years ago, I shared a story of meeting a Jew from the former Soviet Union who was concerned about undergoing circumcision at an advanced age. See the link here.

Last night, the words I shared with him came true for a different Jew from that time and place, who had been living in South Florida for some time. I was called to circumcise a man who had passed, because he wanted to be buried looking like a Jewish man, circumcised, but for whatever reason he did not take care of this when he got through the Iron Curtain.

Of course, I have sadly done this before for babies who did not survive birth (lo aleinu, rachmana litzlan, etc). But this was a new one for me.

While I am very happy to participate in a family's bris, with all that joy and under-the-surface tension that comes with it, this experience brought home a very different feeling.

There is certainly more than one way to live as a Jew. But as much as possible we've tried to universalize what it means to die and be buried as a Jew.

I am grateful to have played a small part in helping this man's final wish for himself be fulfilled

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bris During the Nine Days... But is it Joyous?

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1908) is arguably most famous for writing the "Arukh HaShulchan," a contemporary work based on the format of the Shulchan Arukh and Tur.

In the laws of pre-Tisha B'Av, he drops a number of comments about how people conduct themselves during the Nine Days leading up to Tisha B'Av, a traditionally negative/ bad-luck time for the Jewish people, during which we minimize our joy and withdraw from certain pleasures and celebrations, such as eating meat and conducting weddings.

In 551:8-9 (and 27) he has a number of insights about Bris Milah, a mitzvah which is time-dependent, based on when the baby is born, which necessarily overrides other restrictions. We may eat meat at such an event, and we do not push off the celebration, as we might a wedding, because the bris MUST take place on the 8th day (assuming the baby is healthy). 

What follows is a summary of the insights about Bris Milah. I left the Hebrew (untranslated) at the end, in case you are inclined to read it inside.

8. "Weddings (which are forbidden during this time" are not comparable to Bris Milah and Pidyon Haben, which are permitted because they are time-dependent. Additionally, you don't really have "Simcha" (joy), for real joy is only in matches (for matrimony) at which we declare "שהשמחה במעונו".  Therefore anything related to marriage is considered to be joyous. But that is not the case for circumcision and redeeming of the first born.

9. When a Bris takes place any day from Rosh Chodesh (Av) through Tisha B'Av, the custom is for the mohel, sandak and the father to wear Shabbos clothes. All of the honorees, including the kvatter, do not wear Shabbos clothes. However, women do have the practice to wear Shabbos clothes, because this is their main observance of the mitzvah - their wearing fancier clothes in honor of the Milah.  

27. For a circumcision and a redemption of firstborn..., people may eat meat and drink wine if they are participants in the Simcha.  [Hosts]  need that ahead and extend invitations to people with whom they have no connection, just for the sake of the Bris.  One who normally would not be there should not take advantage of the opportunity to eat meat even if it is it legitimately special occasion.

MY TAKE HOME LESSONS:
1. The Simcha at a joy is emotionally subjective. Objectively, Halakha only defines real Simcha as the kind you have at a wedding. Certainly there is a joy at a wedding unlike at any other occasion, with a band and with music and dancing, which you simply don't have at a bris. Also, we note the reality that - albeit for a very short time - the baby experiences pain, and that takes away from the full Simcha we might otherwise experience. Though we skip tachanun on bris days, we don't skip Lamnatzeach, which includes the words יענך ה' ביום צרה, for precisely this reason!

2. Women and men have different ways of celebrating special occasions. Men more actively participate in the mitzvah, while women dress nicer (much nicer) than men tend to!

3. Specifically looking to manufacture reasons to eat meat during the Nine Days is generally frowned upon.



ערוך השולחן אורח חיים סימן תקנא
סעיף ח
וכן אין נושאין נשים מר"ח ואפילו בלא סעודה... דכל מין שמחה אסור פשיטא דגם בכה"ג הוי שמחה ואסור ואפילו שמחת מריעות נראה דאסור וה"ה שידוכין אצלינו מותר להתקשר מר"ח ולהלן אבל בלא סעודה וכ"ש בלא ריקודין ומחולות ואפילו בשבת אסור לעשות סעודה בשביל זה ואפילו מי"ז בתמוז אסור ריקודין ומחולות כמו שאנו נוהגין לבלי לעשות נשואין מי"ז בתמוז עד אחר ת"ב ולא דמי לסעודת מילה ופדיון הבן שמותר דהזמן גרמא וגם אין בזה שמחה דאין שמחה אלא בענייני זיווגים שעליהם מברכין שהשמחה במעונו ולכן כל השייך לזה האירוסין והקישורי תנאים הוי שמחה ולא מילה ופדה"ב
סעיף ט
אמרו חז"ל בתענית שם האי בר ישראל דאית ליה דינא בהדי א"י לישתמיט מיניה כל החדש דריע מזלא בכל החדש מילה שהיא מר"ח עד ט"ב נוהגין שהמוהל והבעל ברית שהוא הסנדק ואבי הבן לובשין בגדי שבת אבל שארי בעלי הכיבודים אפילו הקוואטי"ר אין לובשין בגדי שבת אך הנשים נוהגות ללבוש לפי שזהו עיקר מצוה שלהן במה שלובשות בגדים יקרים לכבוד המילה [מג"א סק"ג]:
סעיף כז
עוד כתבו דבמילה ופדיון הבן וסיום מסכת וסעודת אירוסין אוכלין בשר ושותין יין כל השייכים לסעודה אבל יש לצמצם שלא להוסיף ובשבוע שחל ת"ב בתוכה אין לאכול בשר ולשתות יין רק מניין מצומצם וזה אפילו בערב תשעה באב שרי ובלבד שלא יהיה בסעודה המפסיק בה וכל מי שאוכל בשר במקום שנוהגים בו איסור פורץ גדר הוא וינשכנו נחש ומותר לשתות כל שכר אפילו של דבר שקורין מע"ד עכ"ל וחילקו בין מן ר"ח לבין שבוע שחל ט"ב בתוכה דבשבוע זו יראו שלא יהיה יותר ממניין מצומצם ומן ר"ח יכול להיות יותר ורק לבלי להוסיף קרואים שאין להם שייכות להברית מילה ואלולי האכילת בשר לא היו קוראים אותם בוודאי יש לאסור

Monday, July 2, 2018

Precision

If you've stumbled across this blog and you are not using my services, I humbly suggest you speak with your mohel about this. I have had quite a few hirings come my way only BECAUSE I DO WHAT IS DESCRIBED BELOW. The people were looking precisely for someone who is precise

Of the recent brisses I have had, in a few cases a grandparent is a pediatrician. In a number of cases, the parents had hired a different mohel for an older son of theirs.

Of course in most most most cases of brisses, everything goes well and everyone is happy.

But a bunch of people have a story. About a bris that did not cosmetically turn out as they had hoped. Of a circumstance under which the baby needed to go to the hospital. Of a less than positively memorable experience. Or a pediatrician sees circumcisions (performed by doctors) and the rare bris performed by a mohel which did not turn out as it perhaps should have.

The parents with these stories probably don't talk too much about it, but they have to tell me because they don't want that experience repeated. Or the pediatrician quietly suggests to parents that they would do well to speak to a pediatric urologist.

It pains me to hear these stories, because they are unnecessary. Honestly, they should never happen.

There is a very simple solution, and a very simple method that mohels MUST train themselves to do, to make for perfect circumcisions - straight, even, cosmetically beautiful, and responsible, while leaving the parents happy and the baby in a good place for all purposes and needs down the road.

MARK THE FORESKIN!!!!!

AND FOLLOW THE MARK!!!

I am tired of hearing mohels say "I don't need to do that." This is arrogance of the highest order.

We are dealing with long term ramifications of a person's life!

This is not to suggest I think that circumcision is dangerous. On the contrary. I think that when done correctly and under all the proper conditions, it is not only not dangerous, but a safe procedure which has very many benefits long term (agreed that some of these are not apparent for a long time, but I can't tell you how many babies had a change in their urination immediately after circumcision - able to urinate more freely, and avoid the UTI that even babies could get under certain conditions).

There is no greater satisfaction that I have in this line of work than in being able to tell parents "Your son's circumcision is perfect." And I know that the only reason I can say that so often, noting the precision of the circumcision, is because of the marking of the foreskin with a surgical pen and following the mark.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Summer Time

My son recently commented to me, "Abba, you do realize you're always busier in the summer."

Looking back at some of my old logs, there is truth to this. Though how he would know I can't fathom, because he was away at camp the last few summers.

But I digress.

Was it the aftermath of Hurricane Irma? Was it the High Holiday season?

Is there a trend among teachers to have babies in the summer time so they can have 2-3 months with baby before needing to go back to work? (Yes there is!)

Or do people just plan for summer babies because summer babies are awesome (my wife and I have 4 "summer babies"!)?

Of course not everyone can plan these things. And of course, I am well aware that there are many people who don't care when they have the baby they desperately want to have, but have been unable to have for all the reasons in the world.

So to those who are having babies, congratulations. Feel free to be in touch when you have a boy.
Congratulations to the mommies of the little bundles of pink.

And for those still hoping, I hope God can fulfill your wishes, for good, speedily in the near future.

ה' ימלא משאלות לבכם לטובה אמן