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Thursday, June 27, 2024

A few Random Items With One Common Theme

The Importance of Bedside Manner

 Thank God, I had several brisses this week, and along with them had a few unique experiences, beyond dealing directly with the parents and the baby - which is of course run-of-the-mill (though always a different dynamic).

1. First Story

At one bris, a couple who had their son circumcised a few months ago on a Shabbos (with a different mohel) asked me about something the mohel had done on Friday. He used a Probe to separate the foreskin from the glans, somewhere between 16-20 hours before the bris. They wanted to know if this is normal. (a few things emerge from this: a. it is (in my opinion) unnecessarily uncomfortable to the baby, b. it causes swelling, c. it might cause the baby to bleed)

While there may be different feelings about this, I'll tell you how I answered.

a. The mohel probably did it to minimize what he would need to do on Shabbos.

b. There are mohels who probe in advance of the actual bris, but it is usually within a few minutes, to help cut down (no pun intended) on their "bris time," with one step already done when it comes to the ceremony

c. If the mohel felt this is what he needed to do to do the best job for the baby, that is what you hired him to do

d. If the baby is fine and the circumcision healed nicely, that is a good outcome

e. It is always good to have knowledge and to ask questions when you are having your son circumcised. Knowledge truly is power.

f. I personally wouldn't do that, because the way I do a bris on Shabbos is just about the same as how I do it during the week, and I do this preparation component 10 seconds before the circumcision. But it is unfair for me to judge someone who did a good job, just because he did it in a way I wouldn't. And, I wasn't there.

g. The baby won't remember what happened, and hopefully in due time you won't either

While I didn't ask them why they asked me, it was obvious that they felt more comfortable asking me for information than they did expressing disappointment to the mohel who circumcised their son. I guess in a way that is understandable. Most people do not want to be confrontational, and I am certainly not blaming them or anyone. But it was touching that they felt comfortable asking me, even though I'm a stranger to them.

 2. Second Story 

The baby was the third boy in the family, and I was the third mohel they have hired. Without going into all the details of our conversations, we did have a good time chatting, and mixed the serious nature of what we are doing (circumcision and celebrating the Covenant between God and Children of Israel) with good humor and appropriate ease-of-natural-tension comments that made the crowd comfortable, and even enjoy the overall experience of the bris - in a way I often see, but this was somehow a different level!

Anyway, the text message I got from the baby's mother afterwards was "Thank you so much for everything today. It was a great ceremony and experience from start to finish."

While in the previous brisses the outcome was eventually fine (baby healed, all good), it sounded like the process of getting to that coveted space was much more difficult than it was this time around.

The message that came through to me had a few components:

a. Your website is extremely informative and very helpful!

b. The treatment we've received is even more than what we expected from having read through your website

c. You're the third mohel we've had, and the first we'd call again!

3. Third Story (2 consultations combined into one)

After two of the brisses, I happened to find myself near the home of someone who called for a consultation. One is a family newly arrived in Florida, also having their third son soon. They got my name from several people and wanted to chat in advance of the baby being born. 

We spent about 1/2 hour together, and parted ways on even better terms than we started.

The second consultation was with a young man looking to correct the fact that he was circumcised before the eighth day. Generally this is achieved through Hatafat Dam Brit, unless other intervention is required. We chatted, we explored different options of what would be right for his situation, and we parted ways with a plan.


The common theme is the subtitle you saw at the top of this page - the importance of a good bedside manner. I'm grateful to have honed this skill to the point of making people feel comfortable, informed, empowered, and prepared to have the bris experience. It is not always an easy decision (though for some people it's more of "when and where" as opposed to "whether and if" we are going to do it), but it does bring a natural anxiety, a worry and concern for what the baby will be experiencing.

Comes the Bedside Manner, and much of the tension is soon resolved, especially once the bris is over, and informed parents see their baby is fine.


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