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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Bris in Quarantine

It's now been over a month since many of us have gone into full scale social-distancing and limited quarantines. I am sure many of us have seen that weddings are still taking place, albeit significantly scaled down, and usually in a backyard.

Naturally, babies are still being born, and each Jewish boy still needs to have his bris!

While in the past people have contacted me in advance of the birth asking if I'll be around in a few months, now the only questions I'm getting are, "Have you been infected?" "Who are you hanging around?" "Are you sick?" and "Will you do the bris wearing a mask?"

Thank God, I have not been sick at all. I'm mostly hanging around my family. And I will happily do the bris with a mask (the mask does prevent metzitzah in most forms - which has certainly demonstrated that metzitzah is less a requirement and more of a custom).

To be perfectly honest, I've done many brisses with the kinds of crowds I'm seeing these days. Sometimes people live far from Jewish friends, or they simply want to keep things very private. So the territory of working with just the parents and baby present is not new for me. 

What is new is having a lot of people participating through a screen on ZOOM or Facebook.

And I am loving it - for the baby, for the parents, and yes - for me too.

Why? Mainly because I think the best place to have a bris is at home. The baby doesn't have to go anywhere, he can nap afterwards in his bassinet / crib (not in a carseat), and his parents can give him full, undivided attention (as they are often unable to do when they're hosting a bris). 

Yes, of course they're saving money on renting a space, on all the food (or catering), and much of the heartache (not that this is a bad thing) that naturally comes from throwing a party. But there's a certain blessing that comes with sharing the simcha online, and then shutting off the screen and just being with most immediate family, new parents, baby, and baby's older siblings (if the baby is not the first child).

They also don't have to think about kibbudim, but I did read Rav Herschel Schachter's thought on participating in a bris via Zoom: in which he wrote "If a grandfather is participating in the bris milah of his grandson via Zoom, it is permissible for him to name the baby. However, he should not recite the bracha of “asher kidash yedid m’beten” via Zoom."

That is fascinating!

I personally enjoy not having to rush from room to room, not having to worry about forgetting something in one place, to track down the pillows and kiddush cups that may have been left in one room, and most importantly, being able to give the baby full attention in the presence of his parents. Additionally, since there aren't distractions, we can all focus when discussing the baby's "post bris care."

This is the first part of the letter I am sending to parents these days:
Dear Parents
              Mazal Tov, and congratulations on the birth of your new son! 

               I am very excited to join you at this very special time, and honored to serve in the role as mohel for the coming bris. I look forward to doing all I can to help make this event meaningful and special to you, and to giving your son the best care possible.  
                Because of the current social distancing protocols, this bris is going to be different from others you've experienced, but hopefully, for your immediate family, it will be most memorable. 

                You don't need to think about all the kibbudim and people you will be honoring. But you will have the chance to relax immediately after you turn off the Zoom (or whatever platform you use to connect with relatives and friends) immediately after the bris is over. In the brisses I've done during this time period, I've found this to be an unexpected blessing for some parents. When all this is over, your family and friends will meet your son in person and watch him grow. In the immediate minutes and hours after the bris, he'll be with the people he needs most. The two of you!

               This link will provide you with links to most of the information you need. Some of it is less relevant in the very private affair we'll be conducting. I gave you the basic information any way, though I imagine we'll play much by ear based on the realities we'll have that day.

As always, it is my honor to be brought into a family's inner most circle at this time. 

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