Q: Why Circumcise?
While I do have opinions on the subject based on research and my practice and experience of 20 years working with clients of all ages, it is not my place to tell a family what to do or not to do. HOWEVER, if a family elects to circumcise, I strongly encourage that they use a competent experienced Mohel. Not only are the instruments used better suited for a perfect circumcision than the standard hospital/doctor technique, but the entire procedure can be performed in less than 30 seconds with much better aesthetic and medical results.
Q: My mother says it one way and my grandmother says it another way. What is the proper pronunciation for the word "Bris" and "Mohel?"
A: Brit ... Bris ... Mohel ... Moyel ... It really doesn’t matter how you say it; the Jewish rite of circumcision performed on an eight day old baby is a prime first cut. All kidding aside, the Bris is a momentous occasion in the baby’s life and that of his family. It is meant to be a time of happiness and extreme rejoicing. I look forward to sharing in your Simcha and joy!
Q: Why is there so much anxiety associated with Bris?
A: Anxious feelings are normal and natural for new parents, but most of the anxiety is due to a fear of the unknown. Most expectant couples attend childbirth education classes where they are prepared for what to expect during childbirth in order to maximize their ability to enjoy the process as much as possible. In the same way, becoming knowledgeable about Bris can allay the natural anxiety parents feel when planning a Bris for their son.
Q: How much is it going to hurt the baby?
A: Honestly, despite the fact that the nerve endings of newborns are not fully developed, in all probability, there will be some pain like any other minor cut or wound would inflict. However, what is important to understand is that, while this pain is limited and short-lived, what the Bris represents, that special bond being developed between the baby and G-d, will be everlasting. No matter where the child will be in life or what he’ll be doing, he will always have that Bris and all that it symbolizes. Let me illustrate this idea with the following story. Claude Monet, the renowned artist, was a student of another famous artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In the early 1900’s, toward the end of his life, Renoir developed a severe case of arthritis making it difficult to continue producing his beautiful, detailed paintings. His love for painting was so deep however, that he tied a brush to his hand and continued to paint broad stroke paintings. One day, Monet approached his teacher and asked him why he doesn’t retire? Why do you continue to paint amidst so much pain and suffering? You had an illustrious career, and now, enough is enough! Renoir answered with conviction, The pain will fade away; it won’t last, but the art that I produce will last forever, long after I pass away. This story is a perfect analogy for the mitzvah (commandment) of Bris. Yes, the Bris creates some pain (minimal if it’s a Rappaport Bris!) but the special relationship and covenant it creates will last throughout his lifetime. There is a topical anesthetic out on the market called Emmla Cream that parents can get through their pediatrician. It is supposed to reduce the pain felt by the baby. However, I must tell you that, in my experience, I have not seen any difference between the amount of crying by babies where Emmla is used and those where Emmla is not used. Babies cry even when their diaper is changed simply because they do not like being exposed to the air and handled. The best anesthesia really is speed and accuracy in the procedure. The only benefit of Emmla, in my opinion--and it is not something to dismiss easily--is that parents will be more relaxed feeling that they have done something, at least, to minimize the pain.
Q: Is there a preferable time for a Bris to take place?
A: The Bris of a healthy baby is done on the eighth day of life (counting the day of birth). This is so even if the eighth day falls on Shabbos, Yom Kippur or any other Jewish festival. However, in the case of a baby born by Caesarean section, the Bris is not performed on Shabbos or on a festival, but on the day following. Bris Milah may not be performed before the eighth day or at night. In the event that a baby is not in perfect health-even if not seriously ill-the Bris is delayed until both the doctor and the mohel are in agreement as to the healthy status of the baby. A common example of this situation is newborn jaundice. However, in the case of serious illness, a delay of one week following full recovery is required. There may be other technical considerations that would necessitate delaying the Bris beyond the preferred 8th day. I would be glad and open to discuss your situation with you.
Q: Why should parents want or need to use a Mohel to perform a Bris?
A: Traditionally, the parents engage a mohel to perform the Bris. A mohel is a person who is specially trained in the medical and surgical techniques of circumcision. In addition to being an expert in his field, the mohel is also an expert in the Jewish laws pertaining to Bris Milah. A doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital within the first few days after birth, does not fulfill the requirements of a Bris Milah and is not considered valid according to Jewish law. The Bris must be performed by a Jewish person who understands, upholds and practices the tenets of the Jewish religion and is specially trained to function as a mohel. It is important to choose a Mohel with whom you feel comfortable, someone who will be accommodating to the specific needs of the family. Pediatricians, obstetricians and urologists constantly marvel at the work of a good mohel. I personally feel that in order to be considered an expert Mohel, it is necessary to spend a significant amount of time in training and apprenticing in order to become familiar with the many challenging variations of the Bris area and its impact on how the Bris must be performed in each case.
Q: Does the Bris have to be done in a Synagogue?
A: A Bris does not have to be done at a Synagogue. My experience is that most families have the Bris where it’s most comfortable for them, usually at their home or the home of a close relative. Some people opt to have it at a catering hall.
Q: What happens in the ceremony?
A: How am I going to get all my family and friends involved? How long is the ceremony? These are all great questions. The Bris ceremony is a very special occasion and is accompanied by much happiness and rejoicing. There are several honors to be conferred during the ceremony, usually bestowed upon the relatives and close friends of the baby’s family. The number of honors can always be minimized or maximized in order to include every relative or friend that needs to be included. A brief description of the ceremony is as follows: A couple enters with the baby and the baby is placed on a chair designated as the Chair of Elijah. The baby is then placed upon the lap of the Sandek (most often a grandfather) who holds the baby during the circumcision procedure. After the appropriate blessing is recited, the circumcision is performed by the mohel. Immediately following the Bris, another blessing is said over a cup of wine, and the baby receives his official Hebrew name, which he will proudly carry throughout his life. The newborn child is often named after departed relatives, a symbolic source of continued life for those no longer with us. My personal Bris presentation includes all the blessings and prayers in the traditional Hebrew and also in English for everyone to understand and appreciate. The ceremony ends with the resounding wish of Mazel Tov! followed by the serving of refreshments or a light meal. The entire ceremony lasts approximately 25 minutes.
Q: Can we get some clarity on the baby naming part? We need some assistance in choosing our baby’s Hebrew name.
A: More often than not, the baby is named for a departed relative, in which case the simplest way to go is to determine what the Hebrew name of the relative was. If the name is not known, parents can choose any Hebrew name, Biblical or contemporary. I have named many a baby in my day by giving suggestions from which the parents can choose. Biblical names are easy since virtually all have a Hebrew source (i.e. Jacob-Yaakov, Samuel - Shmuel) but the English and Hebrew name need not correspond. What about naming our son after a woman? Some female names have a direct male counterpart (i.e. Chaya - Chaim, Tzivya - Tzvi, Malka - Melech), but if the particular name does not, then the custom is to use as many letters from the female name as possible. It is also quite common for parents to choose a Hebrew name for a boy or girl which would reflect meaning of the English name. For example, I recently did a baby naming for a girl whose English name was Ava Valentine. For Ava, a type of bird, we used Tzipporah (Hebrew for bird) and for Valentine, which represents love, we used Ahava (Hebrew for love). There is much room for creativity when it comes to the names.
Q: Isn’t a Bris a most barbaric act?
A: Have you ever met a barbarian with a Bris?
Although this all seems cut and dry (no pun intended!) a Bris is so multi-faceted that one web page could never cover all the issues. I invite anyone to contact me with any further questions or comments.
"During nursing school, I observed dozens of circumcisions and Rabbi Rappaport's procedure on our son was the most relaxed and least traumatic one I have ever seen."
“I was delighted to be present at a Bris performed by Rabbi Abraham Rappaport. The couple was from Israel and spoke fluent Hebrew, but many of the guests were American with no knowledge of Hebrew. Rabbi Rappaport made all present feel at ease with his humor and caring demeanor. He switched back and forth from Hebrew to English so everyone present was aware of the importance of this ceremony. His skill and speed during the ceremony was also evident. If I ever have another boy, I would be honored to have Rabbi Rappaport perform the Bris.”
"We are so thankful that we chose Rabbi Avraham Rappaport to be the Mohel for both of our boys. He was everything we could ask for. His ceremony was inspiring, accommodating and even a bit humorous. He made everyone feel so calm at such an anxious moment. The actual circumcision took a few seconds and our baby hardly cried. Our pediatrician raved about Rabbi Rappaport’s work and we hope other expecting parents are privileged to engage Rabbi Rappaport to perform their son’s Bris."
"Rabbi Rappaport brought great kindness and warmth to the bris he conducted for our son, Reuben, and the naming ceremony of Reuben's twin sister, Anabel. The Rabbi's words contained both wisdom and humor--necessities if you're embarking upon a journey with twins--and we believe that both children received the best of sendoffs to a rich, happy Jewish life. We're very lucky that Rabbi Rappaport with his expertise was there to help share in our simchas."
"We found the time leading up to the actual circumcision very stressful. We had two main concerns. First, were we taking an unnecessary risk having the circumcision performed by mohel who wasn’t also a doctor? I did a little research and found that mohel’s are experts at the circumcision procedure. Even the royal house of England chooses a mohel over a doctor for the circumcision of its boys. Second, was our little boy going to be in pain? Prior to the ceremony I was comforted by the fact that I did not remember my circumcision. Having watched Rabbi Avraham Rappaport perform my son’s circumcision with such swiftness and professionalism, I can attest to the fact that our baby seemed much more disturbed by diaper changes than the circumcision. We were also so grateful for Rabbi Rappaport’s personal follow up to the Bris. We had a second son and did not need to think twice about reserving Rabbi Rappaport for his expert service once again."
For those of you as new parents, looking for a Mohel, allow me to introduce you to Rabbi Avraham Rappaport.
I am an anesthesiologist with 41 years of experience and now a grandfather. Rabbi Rappaport performed the Bris for my grandson. Simply put, he was excellent. Put aside your stress, anxiety and worry. He is personable and very professional both medically and rabbinically. Watching the procedure first hand, holding my grandson, I can tell you that his sterile technique and surgical dexterity was first class. My brother, a dentist and another anesthesia colleague were in attendance. We all agreed that he was top notch. His care of the child throughout the ceremony was calming. His instructions before the ceremony, during and aftercare instructions were great. He is available, if needed, after he leaves the Bris. This was very reassuring. A Bris can be very nerve wracking for everyone. Rabbi Rappaport was excellent in all areas and you will find yourselves at ease with him. I heartily recommend him as a Mohel without reservation.
"My son was circumcised in the hospital the day after he was born just as my older son was. This time, the circumcision was horribly executed. We feared he would be teased as he got older. Our pediatrician (whom we greatly respect) advised we “give it a few months”.
We were a bit nervous before our son’s Brit Mila. Luckily, our experience with Rabbi Rappaport was very positive. He immediately put us all at ease with his professional yet relaxed approach, kindness and thoughtfulness to everyone in the room, including the children who constantly approached him to see what he was doing. We highly recommend Rabbi Rappaport for new and experienced families who wish for a wonderful and relatively stress-free experience for their young ones.
"Rabbi Avraham Rappaport did a wonderful job at each of our 3 son’s Bris’s. His pleasant smile, kind words, and quick hand made us nervous parents at ease. We recommend him to all rookie and veteran parents!"
"We have nothing but the highest praise for Rabbi
Rappaport. He made a potentially stressful event both
meaningful and inspiring. The Rabbi was very flexible
and allowed us to incorporate our own words into the
ceremony so that it would feel more personalized. His
follow-through was above and beyond the call of duty
-- he visited our son both before and after the
ceremony. Perhaps most importantly, Rabbi Rappaport
is very skilled and we are very pleased with his
"We were so happy and fortunate that our good friend Rabbi Avraham Rappaport was able to fly out to Chicago to perform our son Eli’s Bris. Having two other sons born in other states with other Mohels we really feel that Rabbi Avraham Rappaport is “a cut above the rest”! His knowledge, his ceremony and his medical care and expertise were so reassuring to us."
"Having Rabbi Rappaport perform our son's circumcision was a wonderful blessing. Not only did he demonstrate utmost professionalism in his surgical skill, his words and actions showed a genuine care for our son and family. Given our experience with Rabbi Rappaport, there is no doubt in our mind that we made the right decision to avoid having the circumcision performed by a medical doctor. We cannot recommend him highly enough."
"After 4 girls we were quite excited and anxious to celebrate our son's Bris. We had already been to dozens of Brisses that Rabbi Rappaport performed so we had nothing to be concerned about. He was so patient, calm and reassuring and visited us at our home before after the Bris. The procedure was completed before I even realized he actually did it. He is absolutely "a cut above the rest!"
18681 Queen Elizabeth Drive,
Brookeville, MD 20833