FAQ

See the blog post of Frequently Asked Questions for links to fuller answers to the following questions.

ABOUT THE MOHEL

Q. Any thoughts on how to find the right mohel?
A. You can call me ;).  Seriously though, doing research to find out what you want, and interviewing mohels to find the person who best fits your needs (based on your Jewish practice, hashkafah - philosophical outlook on Judaism and life) is the best way to find a mohel right for you.

Q. What is your training?
A. The Government Supervisor of Mohels in Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Sasson, was my teacher, and the one who certified me as a mohel. I have also spent time with urologists and pediatric surgeons when they performed circumcisions in the operating room. These education experiences gave me enhanced appreciation and understanding of different methods of circumcision, anatomy, and what goes into a different kind surgery than the one mohels do in a bris. I am also indebted to Mohels David Fuld and Pinchas Katzenstein for allowing me to accompany them to their brisses in my earlier years, sharing their insights and elements of their techniques.

Q. Why did you become a mohel?
A. The simple reason is that I wanted to be a well rounded Jew who knows how to do Jewish specialties.

Q. What do you enjoy about being a mohel?
A. I love playing a significant role in this special moment in people's lives. I enjoy bringing patience and ease to the somewhat stressful time of the bris. I absolutely love newborns - I cherish the opportunity to see newborns (and re-experience the miracle of new life) on a regular basis.

Q. Are you a doctor? Does a mohel need to be a doctor?
A. I am not a doctor. A mohel needs to be fluent in the laws of Bris Milah, and needs to be a skilled practitioner. Being a rabbi or a physician is (perhaps) a bonus (for the mohel's resume), but is irrelevant to his being a good mohel.

PREPARING FOR THE BRIS - DETAILS AND MINDSET

Q. What do I need for a bris?
A. See the "Supplies" link at the top of the page

Q. What is the setup for a bris?
A. For the circumcision, I need a table, two chairs and good lighting. For the food/party component, you can do it however you like.

Q. What goes into preparing a bris party?
A. Hiring a mohel, figuring out the venue, and telling your relatives and friends when and where to be. If you are doing anything more than having a very private bris, you will want to prepare food - for which you will either engage the help of relatives and friends, or you will hire a caterer.

Q. What is an appropriate venue for a bris?
A. A synagogue, a home, a restaurant, a catering facility, a country club. Any place people gather for a relatively conservative party.

THE CEREMONY AND THE PROCEDURE

Q. How does the ceremony work?
A. See the link to "Ceremony" above.

Q. How is a circumcision done?
A. The adhesions of the foreskin are separated from the glans, the foreskin is pulled forward through a metal shield which will protect the glans and scrotum when the foreskin is excised.

Q. What exactly happens in a circumcision?
A. The foreskin (prepuce) and its parallel mucosal membrane are removed, to reveal the glans. The foreskin is an outer layer covering the glans. Its removal does not make the penis particularly shorter, but the exposure of the glans makes the penis look significantly different than when uncircumcised.

Q. Explain the honors of the ceremony: Kvatter, Kisei (Chair of) Eliyahu (Elijah the Prophet), Sandak
A. These are elaborated upon in the "Ceremony" link above, as well as in individual postings about these honors. In simple terms, the Kvatter brings the baby to the ceremony, the Chair of Eliyahu person places the baby on the chair designated for Elijah the prophet, and the Sandak holds the baby on his lap during the bris.

Q. What is metzitzah?
A. Metzitzah is the ancient practice of removing blood from the bris wound manually. Most people do this with the power of the mouth (either with a sterile tube, or by putting the mouth directly on the baby). Others feel that putting pressure with a gauze pad accomplishes this step more than adequately. See the metzitzah page for other postings and articles on this subject. I use the sterile tube method. (If parents want the direct mouth technique, I feel the father should be the one to do it.)

Q. How do you balance inclusion of family, friends and guests in the ceremony?
A. All participants in the actual ceremony have to be Jewish. We will have a conversation about how to best include those you want to include, unless you are particularly familiar with the proceedings and know how you'll be doing this.

AFTER THE BRIS

Q. How do I care for my son after the bris?
A. I will give you instructions. They are also summarized in the link above for post-bris care.

Q. What can go wrong?
A. In the basic method of doing a bris, not all that much. The "worst" that can happen is that not enough membrane is removed, which is easily corrected and will be taken care of right away. Otherwise, the worst situations are unforeseen anatomical or biological issues, such as if the baby has a lot of tissue webbing under the foreskin, or if he is a bleeder and we have trouble getting the bleeding to stop. These cases are extremely uncommon.

MISCELLANEOUS

Q. How does it work if one of us (baby's parents) is not Jewish?
A. When the baby's mother is Jewish, the circumcision is a bris. If the baby's mother is not Jewish, it is not a bris. In the latter case, some mohels do milah l'shem geirus - a circumcision for the sake of conversion. I don't generally perform such a ceremony because conversion is a different ballgame, with different ramifications.

Q. What will the bris itself (circumcision - mohel's role) cost?
A. I don't put a price on a mitzvah. (I have two blog posts about this subject). Most people choose to offer an honorarium, which falls anywhere on a (recommended) scale of $360-$1000, based on their own feelings, emotions, appreciation and budget. Multiples and long-distance travel would increase any recommended honorarium. See this page

Q. How important is sterility really?
A. While a majority of brisses go without incident, I am willing to bet that 100% of brisses that were followed by infection took place when the mohel was not practicing a completely sterile technique. Whether it was through not wearing gloves, or using a knife he dipped in alcohol two minues before the bris (as opposed to a sterile, one time use scalpel blade), or doing metzitzah with his mouth - none of these practices are the most sensible in a world of hygiene and sterility. If your mohel insists on doing any of these, I strongly recommend finding someone else.

Q. Is there a difference between a bris and a circumcision?
A. A bris is a circumcision which reveals the entire glans. It also consists of a ritualistic ceremony in which blessings are recited and the baby is given his name. It is the obligation of the baby's father to either do the circumcision himself or to appoint someone to serve as his agent (ie a mohel) to perform the mitzvah on his behalf.  A circumcision, outside of Jewish law, is loosely defined as removal of some or all foreskin from the penis, though how much and what degree is based on preference and (in some cases) the doctor's personal standard or luck of the draw (many doctors guess/ estimate with eye as to where the foreskin ends, without drawing a line to determine where they will make their incision. Don't ask me why). Parents will request it for either religious, cultural, practical or aesthetic reasons. Sometimes they will want it done so the child will "look like his daddy" who is circumcised.