Frequently Asked Questions
When do I call to schedule a Brit?
Please call immediately after your son is born. Many people even prefer to contact the Mohel well before the baby is born to become familiar with the many details involved in a Jewish circumcision Brit Milah ceremony. If your call is answered by voice mail, leave all numbers including home and each parent’s cell. Please do not e-mail. When your call is answered, you will need to have the following information readily available.
- What time of the day was the baby born?
- Was it a cesarean birth?
- Are you flexible on time or do you have specific preferences what hour of the day you would like the Brit to take place?
- What is the general location where the Brit will take place?
- Who is the baby’s pediatrician?
- Name of hospital and cell phone number of both the baby’s mother and father.
- Are you affiliated with a Synagogue or Temple, if you are and plan on inviting your Rabbi, what is their availability?
What happens after I schedule my Brit?
The Mohel will send you an e-mail containing our Brit Milah packet which has detailed information about the items you need to have available for the Brit as well as a list of honors for you to be able to choose which individuals you would like to include in the ceremony (family or friends). It also contains information to help you with the selection of the baby’s Hebrew name.
I will also call you when you get home from the hospital to discuss with you how to prepare the baby for his procedure. I will outline the ceremony in the context of your own family and discuss any issues you may have.
Surgeon or Mohel which is the Best Choice for Covenantal Circumcision Brit Milah?
Some Jewish parents allow a hospital surgeon to circumcise their sons, believing that he can perform the act more safely, or perhaps that it makes no difference who does it.
They are in error for several reasons:
1. Performing hundreds of such ceremonies each year, the Mohel attains experience in this operation which many surgeons will candidly admit they cannot match. Mohel’s use of course, all existing safeguards and antisepsis.
2. The Mohel’s familiarity with the surgical procedures and their possible complications make him the proper man for it. Accidents can occur under the most skilled hands on earth, but the parents can do no more to ensure the infant’s safety than to get a qualified Mohel.
3. The circumciser takes the place of the father in a dedication rite going back four Millennia. It stands to reason that he should be familiar with the Jewish religion and given to it.
And–perhaps decisively–Jewish circumcision differs from routine hospital practice. In the hospital way, babies are brought into a hushed, coldly tiled room, in the odor of antiseptic, with illness above and death below.
There is no margin of extra safety or painlessness in the hospital way, but the Brit is usually incorrectly done.
What steps can be taken to alleviate any discomfort during or after the procedure? How much pain does the baby feel?
This is the most important and most frequently asked question of me. One that I do not take lightly as a Mohel, who is judged every day by the sounds the baby makes both during and after the circumcision. The “success” of a Mohel is generally judged in three areas:
1. The baby’s comfort during and after the circumcision
2. The ceremony
3. The Pediatrician’s evaluation of the circumcision
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, not those performed by a Mohel. The Mohel is a specialist, an expert at his profession. An active Mohel will possess much more experience in the area of circumcision than most doctors. A doctor will strap the baby down on a molded plastic body board placed on a table, use a very painful clamp and the procedure may take up to twenty minutes or longer, depending on the ability of the individual doing the circumcision.
The approach the Mohel uses is to place the baby on a pillow and not strap him down. The instrument the Mohel uses to perform the circumcision is not the same instrument used by a doctor. It is much more efficient and with better results. Most importantly, a procedure should never take more than a maximum of 30 seconds.
There are creams and ointments that are available that will help alleviate some of the discomfort of the Brit. A baby’s crying should not be mistaken for pain. Many babies will begin to cry as soon as their diaper is opened just from the cold air hitting their bottom before any part of the procedure has even been started. There is also a variety of non-pharmacological interventions that may be used very effectively, alone or in conjunction with the other approaches for treatment of procedural pain in neonates. There are also some creams which the Mohel has readily available and will use if necessary or requested by the family. It is the Mohels goal to provide the most effective pain management for your baby. I am familiar with most of the studies undertaken to determine the safety and effectiveness of interventions to relieve pain associated with neonatal circumcision.
What is the recovery process when circumcision is done by a Mohel? Is the third day after a Brit is performed the most painful?
Most babies resume their normal pre-circumcision routine 24- 48 hours after the circumcision. Generally the third day is not painful at all.
Can the Mohel perform the Brit Milah in a hospital?
Generally the circumcision ceremony is a family event performed in a home, catering establishment, or synagogue. There are some medical conditions which could require the circumcision to be performed in the hospital.
Must the Brit be performed on the eighth day? Can the Brit be before the eighth day? For the sake of convenience can the Brit be delayed to Sunday? What if the baby is ill?
Performing the Brit on the eighth day is a Biblical requirement that is emphasized two different times in the Torah. It is therefore of utmost importance that the Brit be performed during the daylight hours of the eighth day. A Brit performed at night or before the eighth day is not valid. Some people prefer to delay their Brit ceremony to a Sunday for convenience; however, this is not really appropriate and should preferably not be done. True friends and family will come to a Brit ceremony whenever it is performed on any day of the week. A Brit is more than a medical circumcision; hence the religious nature of the Brit is significant. It is a time that we utilize to give the child a blessing for success in all of his life’s endeavors the child to start his life properly. A circumcision before the eight day does not fulfill the Mitzvah.
If a baby is ill the Brit must to be delayed because there is nothing more important in Jewish law as the baby’s health. Once the physician and the Mohel agree that the baby is well, the Brit may be performed. If there is any sort of doubt, the Mohel should always err on the side of caution and wait an extra couple of days. A delayed Brit will never be performed on Sabbath.
Which Surgical Methods Does A Mohel Use?
There are various methods available for performing circumcision. The Mohel is a Mohel who employs the traditional method to perform the circumcision procedure, using a Mogen shield which may also be called a guard.
This method is arguably the fastest way to perform the circumcision procedure, as well as the most gentle for the child.
In certain instances due to the various physical characteristics, the Mohel must use other surgical methods to perform the circumcision.
How is the eighth day determined?
The day of birth is counted as the first day. According to Jewish tradition days begin and end at sunset. Therefore, a baby born on a Sunday will have his Brit the following Sunday at any time between sunrise and sunset. A baby born on Sunday night after sunset will have his Brit on the following Monday anytime between sunrise and sunset. The same is true for every day of the week.
Does it make a difference if my baby was born caesarian instead of a regular birth?
On a weekday the fact that the baby was born cesarean has no ramifications according to Jewish law. However a baby born by caesarian section on Friday night or Saturday will have his Brit the following Sunday. A baby born by caesarian section where the Brit coincides the following week with a holiday will have his Brit on the next available weekday.
Can a Brit take place on Shabbat or on a holiday?
Yes. With certain exceptions, a Brit Milah always takes place on the 8th day, even Sabbath or Yom Kippur.
Does a Brit require a Minyan (a gathering of ten Jewish men) present?
It is highly recommended to have a quorum of ten Jewish men at the Brit, but is not required if it unfeasible or too difficult.
Can a Brit be done at home?
Yes. A Brit can take place in any setting and many do take place at a Synagogue, local community centers or different relatives homes as long as there is a comfortable place with good lighting to work with.
What are the honors at a Brit? Do I have to appoint godparents?
No. Godparents are optional. In Judaism there is no specific concept of godparents. This term alludes to guardians and is not really necessary at the Brit. However many people like to appoint godparents and it is generally used to refer to the role of different grandparents aunts or uncles and their spouses bringing the baby in to his Brit. It is a very nice way of being inclusive and results in no legal responsibilities to the bearers of the baby.
For a complete list of honors please refer to the Brit ceremony section here.
Is there a list of items that I will need to have prepared by the Brit.
Please see our section titled Brit prep.
What is the ceremony like?
Please see our section titled THE CEREMONY.
How do we select a Hebrew name?
Please see our section titled BABY NAMING.
Can we name our son after a female relative?
Please see our section titled BABY NAMING.
Is caring for the baby after the Brit difficult?
We have been told by nurses that our after care instructions are easier to follow than those for babies that are circumcised in the hospital and brought home. After the Brit, the Mohel will explain how to care for the baby first by demonstrating what you need to do and then providing explicit written instructions. The Mohel is always available to answer questions, and will follow up shortly after the Brit to see how everyone is doing.
Does the Pediatrician need to see the baby after the Brit?
Follow your doctor’s schedule. He does not have to return any earlier. My goal is to hear from parents that when they do return to the Pediatrician for the next visit, the Pediatrician will say, CANT GET A BETTER CIRCUMCISION THAN THAT.
What happens if I am having twins?
If you are having a boy and girl, we can have a Brit for the boy and Baby Naming for the girl at the same time. The Brit would go first, followed by the baby naming. If you are having twin boys, the older baby goes first followed by the younger child.
Will we receive some form of documentation certifying the event of the Brit? Is there any significance to this certificate?
Yes the Mohel will issue a certificate that has the baby’s Hebrew and English name, with the Hebrew name also transliterated into English, Hebrew and English birthdays, and a place for the participants to sign. This certificate will serve as a future reference, for future life cycle events for example, in determining the correct day of his Bar Mitzvah.
Will a Mohel perform the circumcision if our family is not religious?
Each and every Jewish child is entitled to a proper traditional circumcision by a qualified Mohel regardless of the family’s level of religious observance.
If the baby’s mother is not Jewish can he still have a Brit? Can a Mohel perform circumcision on a Non-Jewish child adopted by Jewish parents?
If the parents intend to raise the child as a Jew, then a Mohel can perform such a circumcision provided that it is performed for the sake of conversion. This conversion process is commenced at the Brit and is concluded with the family’s rabbi at a later date.
Is it necessary to have Challah or wine at a Brit?
What kind of celebratory meal is generally appropriate to have at a Brit?
It is traditional to have Challah at the Brit, but it is not required. However, wine is required as it represents happiness and is needed for part of the ceremony. Many people mistakenly think that wine is given to the child to reduce the pain. The baby is given a touch of wine after the Brit procedure so that he too can share in the joy of the Brit not as a form of pain relief.
Who Was the First Mohel in the history of the world?
The sacred practice of traditional circumcision was first performed by the Jewish Patriarch Abraham, who was his own Mohel, and the tradition has continued for almost 4,000 years in every generation of Jewish people.
How much is normally given to the Mohel as an honorarium for coming to our ceremony and performing the Brit procedure?
Generally, an experienced mohel receives somewhere around $500 to $1000 as an honorarium for a circumcision. A Mohel will usually take into account traveling time when he needs to travels a great distance. The Mohel will not refuse a circumcision because of a person’s inability to afford it and if really necessary arrangements can be made for a circumcision to be done pro bono.
Can A Mohel Do Adult Circumcision?
An experienced Mohels can circumcise newborn babies, children, and adults.
How Do I Locate A Mohel In My Area?
There are many people who live in locations where they cannot find a qualified Mohel to perform traditional circumcision on their newborn baby boy.
In some cases there is no qualified Mohel to perform circumcision in the general area where they live. In other cases there may be a qualified Mohel for circumcision in their area, but the family of the newborn baby boy does not know of the Mohel.
We are able to help, by giving contact information for a Mohel or a Rabbi that can direct you to a Mohel in your area of the country.
We cannot and do not assume responsibility or liability for any such information. It is up to the family to do the proper research and make sure they are obtaining the services of a qualified experienced Mohel.
If necessary our Mohel has traveled great distances to be the Mohel for circumcision and may be contacted about traveling out to distant locations to perform a traditional circumcision.
Do I need a Rabbi besides the Mohel?
Although it is not necessary to have a Rabbi at the Brit the Mohel is also an experienced Rabbi and is familiar with conducting the entire ceremony at the highest levels of professionalism and care.
Do I have to watch the Mohel perform the circumcision procedure?
Contrary to popular belief there is no obligation to watch the Mohel perform the circumcision procedure. It is the experience of the Mohel that most parents choose not to be present while the Mohel performs the circumcision procedure. It is quite an emotional time and many people find it difficult to watch the procedure and it is perfectly acceptable for the parents to stand back.
Can the Mohel perform a circumcision Brit Milah on a convert?
One of the main steps of undergoing a Jewish conversion is having a circumcision. This circumcision is done by a Mohel. If the conversion is being done on an older convert, then it is necessary to have a Mohel who is trained and experienced with circumcision on older children and adults.
When does a Mohel draw only a drop of blood?
In cases when the person undergoing a Jewish circumcision has already been circumcised, then it is only necessary to release a drop of blood. This often happens in the case of a convert who has already been circumcised.