Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I have a bris for my son?
That’s a very personal question that only you can answer. But here are a few things to consider.
- Brit Milah, or the Jewish ritual of circumcision, dates back almost 4000 years. Abraham was the first father to be commanded by G-d to circumcise his son and Jews have continued this ritual despite every challenge through the generations. A bris makes your son a link in the chain of the Jewish people and establishes a spiritual connection to a family even larger than your own. If you’d like to delve deeper into this, we should chat by phone or over a cup of coffee.
- While there are some medical studies that point to benefits of circumcision overall, alone they are unlikely to be a persuasive reason to have a bris.
- A bris, when done properly, is a spiritual, holy and truly joyful event.
I’m conflicted. The thought of hurting my child at all goes against all my instincts. Does this mean I shouldn’t have a bris?
No parent wants to inflict any amount of pain on their child. But, parenting often involves making tough decisions that benefit your kids. This starts from the moment they are born. And as the father of four boys, I can tell you it’s just the beginning. A bris is a covenant or commitment and as such should not be taken lightly. Your struggle and questioning is part of the process. G-d commands us to do many things that are not always easy. If you are a circumcised father, it is also your way of confirming the choice your parents made for you, when you were an infant. Choosing a bris begins a spiritual journey for your son and is your way of connecting him to the Jewish people.
Is a circumcision done in the hospital better or safer than a bris done at home?
Absolutely not, for many reasons:
- Why take a perfectly healthy baby to the hospital? A bris is done in the comfort of your own home as opposed to in a cold hospital. Your baby will be back in your arms nursing in a matter of moments –no need to load him into a car seat or drive anywhere.
- If you are thinking the procedure itself will be safer done in the hospital, you are also mistaken. As a mohel, I am specially trained to do the procedure as quickly and painlessly as I possibly can. I have done the procedure literally thousands of times without any complications. In a hospital very often the procedure is done by an intern or resident. Many of my clients are pediatricians, obstetricians and urologists, who know that a mohel is better trained when it comes to routine infant circumcision.
- Choosing a bris begins a spiritual journey for your son and is your way of connecting him to the Jewish people.
- There is no lengthy behind closed doors prep when I do a bris. Your son will be held in the arms of a loved one, not tied down and immobilized. If this is important to you, be sure that it is the case with any mohel or doctor you may use.
- A hospital circ does not meet the requirements of Jewish law. To be kosher, a bris must be done on at least the 8th day of life. Hospital circumcisions are done on the first or second day of life –not kosher.
Is there a difference between the hospital procedure and how a mohel does a bris?
Trained mohels are able to complete the procedure very quickly. This is in large part because they use a Mogen shield or clamp. The Mogen allows a trained mohel to complete the procedure very safely and very quickly. Doctors in a hospital often use a Gomco clamp. The Gomco takes much longer to use, up to 10 minutes. Remember, the quicker the procedure, the less pain your son will experience. Ask your provider which technique they use.
How long does the procedure take?
Speed is of the essence. In this case, it is the best pain control. The actual procedure, including the placement of the shield and the cutting of the foreskin, takes a matter of seconds. Add in the diaper change and you might be up to a minute.
What do you use for pain control?
Pediatric urologists tell me that the best pain control comes from the sucking motion and the ingestion of sugar water. So, we dip gauze in sweet kosher wine and allow the baby to suck this. A prescription for a topical anesthetic called Emla cream can also be used. A dose of liquid infant acetaminophen before the procedure can also help.
Do I have to have a ceremony and invite people?
This is totally up to you. A bris is a cause for celebration and many people enjoy sharing this joyous event with close family and friends. The ceremony allows for several honors that you can bestow upon the people closest to you. That said, you can certainly keep your bris to immediate family or make it a completely private event.
When should I do the bris?
According to Jewish law, the bris should be done on at least the 8th day of life. Studies have shown this is an ideal time based on clotting factors as well. Of course, if the baby is premature or not completely well, the baby’s health comes first and the bris will be postponed until the pediatrician says the baby is ready.
When should I call Rabbi Trager?
If you have questions, you can call Rabbi Trager any time. To schedule a bris, call him as soon as you’ve given birth. 415.366.6757.