Frequently Asked Questions
Why have a Bris?
Ancient hieroglyphs show that male circumcision has existed for at least 30,000 years. It is probably the oldest form of tribal body marking known to humankind. Indeed, predating the biblical record of Abraham’s covenant with God at the age of 99. The Bris is a symbol of our commitment to continue our faith as the Children of Israel, and is the most widely recognized, the most widely followed and perhaps the single most important ritual in all of Judaism. For full inclusion into the fold, Judaism demands the ritual circumcision of all healthy male babies. Even a broad spectrum of interpretations has not swayed the course of this powerful statement from being the core of Judaic belief and the basis of its spirituality. This time-tested, indelible mark of Jewishness, intrinsic to our belief system, is what marks your son’s entry into the fold. It is a common bond, uniting Jews of all types. If your son is Jewish, he deserves a proper Bris.
When do I call to schedule the Bris?
Please call immediately after your son is born and we will begin the process of making arrangements.
Does the Bris have to be performed on the eighth day?
Tradition states that circumcision takes place on the eighth day of life, as long as baby’s health permits. The day that your son is born counts as day one. A Bris is considered such an important mitzvah that it takes precedence over observance of Shabbat. If the eighth day falls on Shabbat, the Bris is held that day. There is only one exception to this rule: if the baby was born by caesarian section, the bris cannot be on the eighth day if that day falls on a Shabbat or a holiday.
Must a Rabbi be present at the Bris?
It is not necessary to have a Rabbi at the Bris. An experienced, qualified Mohel is able to conduct the ceremony alone. However, if you wish to have your family Rabbi present, I welcome and encourage it.
Does it have to hurt?
Every parent’s biggest concern about circumcision is that it will hurt. Many studies have been performed to try to ascertain how much pain the baby feels. These studies however, reflect the clinical experience of hospital circumcisions, where often there is little or no inclination to anesthetize babies for the procedure. Several years ago, I was one of several Mohelim selected to share insights along with a prestigious panel of religious and medical authorities at New York’s Yeshiva University on the topic of Anesthetics in Circumcision. It was concluded that if safe anesthetics were available, it was immoral not to use them! Thirty years earlier my father and I had already come to this same conclusion. In an effort to spare the baby any unnecessary pain, my method is to apply two different topical spray anesthetics at appropriate times during the procedure and follow for the first 48-72 hours with an anesthetic ointment. The actual circumcision takes as little as 20-30 seconds. Parents can be assured that in the hands of a well-trained Mohel, any discomfort will be minimal.
What about using a doctor instead of a Mohel?
Circumcision has never been seen by Judaism as a medical procedure. The Mohel is not only an expert at his profession, who performs more circumcisions in a month than most doctors do in a year, but he is also an expert in the Jewish Laws pertaining to the Brit Milah, as well. Doctors, for the most part, recognize this and gladly defer their Jewish patients (and frequently their non-Jewish ones) to a Mohel. In isolated areas, where a professional Mohel might not be readily available, there are some sincere and observant doctors who can fulfill the need, but for the most part this is not the case. Too often, I have seen the aftermath of slipshod surgical abilities and the tragic results.
How do I choose a Mohel?
Well, the fact that you’re searching through my web site is a good start! Aside from making sure the Mohel is experienced, trained and an expert in Jewish Law, listen to what other parents have to say. Was he warm and caring, taking the time to tell the parents everything they needed to know? Or was he cold and abrupt? Did he make the service meaningful? Was he accommodating to the family? The answers to these questions will make your choice easier than you think.
Can non-Jews participate in the ceremony?
Over the years, with an increase in diverse family blending it has been challenging on occasions to maintain the Judaism of the event while providing a positive, inclusive atmosphere. When a family calls on me, it is my obligation to make the event work for them within the framework of Judaism. Since no two families are alike, we would need to address concerns prior to the Bris. Please call me to discuss.
Should we invite a lot of people?
Although the Brit Milah is a true celebration, my advice would be to show a bit of restraint with the guest list. Remember, mother and baby are only eight days post-partum, and this time is a sensitive one — physically and emotionally for both. (And let’s not forget the introduction of colds and flu into the baby’s environment.) Don’t go overboard, if you can help it.
What if you personally are not available for my son’s Bris?
If I cannot be available for your son’s Bris, I will recommend another well-qualified Mohel who shares my approach.