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Bris Ceremony by Rabbi Nechemia Markovits | Kwatter Carrying Newborn Baby, Rabbi Markovits Preparing for the Circumcision

Mohel: The Expert Who Performs Jewish Circumcision

If you're a Jewish parent with a baby boy, you might be wondering who is best suited to perform the sacred act of circumcision, also known as "bris milah" (brit-milah). Should you choose a doctor or a mohel? In this article, we will explore the role of a mohel, the reasons why a mohel is preferred over a doctor, and how to choose a qualified mohel.

What is a Mohel?

A mohel is a specially trained expert in the medical and surgical techniques of circumcision who performs the procedure for Jewish babies. However, a mohel's expertise goes beyond just the technical skills. A mohel is also knowledgeable in the customs and traditions behind "bris milah" (brit-milah), which represents the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham in Jewish belief.

The history of circumcision in Judaism dates back to Abraham, who circumcised himself at the age of 99, as well as his sons, namely Isaac and Ishmael. The act of circumcision is considered sacred and is therefore performed by a mohel rather than a doctor.

"Every Jewish father is obligated to circumcise his own son, just as Abraham circumcised his own son, Isaac. However, most fathers are not trained to circumcise. So we invite a mohel to serve as a shaliach, a stand-in for the father. A mohel is an observant Jew who has studied the texts and laws of bris milah; the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the penis (and related organs); and the techniques of circumcision."

Why a mohel?

The act of circumcision among Jewish boys is a sacred act and a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham's descendants. It is a religious observance that must be performed by a person who is not only medically qualified but also an expert in Jewish laws and customs. This is where a mohel comes in. 

 

"Jewish law sees the moment of Bris Milah (Brit-Milah) as having a great spiritual impact upon the child." 

That is to say, undergoing this process means that they are entering into a covenant between them and God. Thus, if you are a Jewish parent who has a child who needs to be circumcised, it is important for you to choose a mohel rather than a doctor due to the fact that in the Jewish belief, the act of circumcision itself, Bris Milah (Brit-Milah) is a religious observance.

 

Thus, the person who will do the procedure must know not only how to circumcise and be an expert in the latest medically approved surgical and sterilization procedures. But he must also be an expert in Jewish laws and customs pertaining to Bris Milah - the traditional circumcision and ceremony.  

A doctor's medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital within the first few days after birth, or/and not performed during daylight hours does not fulfill the requirements of a bris milah and is not considered a valid bris according to Jewish law.

The bris should be performed by a Jewish person who understands, upholds and practices the tenets of the Jewish religion and is specially trained as a mohel.

Should I choose A Doctor or a Mohel?

Mohel Vs. Doctor

Why A Mohel Should be Chosen Rather Than A Doctor

Choosing a mohel over a doctor has several advantages.

 

Expertise of a Mohel

Unlike doctors who perform various medical procedures, Mohels are highly trained specialist whose sole profession is limited to circumcisions. This singular focus allows Mohels to perform many more circumcisions than doctors. In fact, their expertise is so highly regarded that even doctors and surgeons will often seek their advice and guidance for difficult and serious cases.

Speed and Painless Procedure

One of the biggest advantages of choosing a Mohel is the swift and painless circumcision procedure. A Mohel performs the procedure much more swiftly and painlessly than doctors do. In fact, a skilled mohel can perform a traditional circumcision in 10-20 seconds, compared to a hospital circumcision or one performed by a doctor that can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. 

Less Painful Procedure

Furthermore, a mohel's technique involves "no crushing of tissue," making it less painful for the baby. Hospital and doctor circumcisions require giving the baby injections of anesthesia, a nerve block, because of the length of the procedure. However, a bris - traditional circumcision, done by a mohel with proper technique - the actual incision is so quick and precise that subjecting the baby to the injections is more painful than the circumcision itself. Moreover, there is a potential for side effects or extreme reactions, especially in newborns.

Comfortable and Warm Setting

Apart from the technical advantages, a mohel also performs the circumcision in a more comfortable and warm environment, either at your home or synagogue in a loving, warm, and sterile setting. In contrast, a hospital circumcision takes place in a cold sterile setting, which may add to the baby's discomfort and anxiety. 

For many non-Jewish communities, a mohel is the preferred option for their expertise, speed, and painless procedure. Not only is the procedure itself much more comfortable for the baby, but the mohel also performs it in a warm and sterile environment that can make the entire experience less stressful for everyone involved.

Comparison Between Mohel vs Hospital Circumcisons

Mohel Circumcision

Hospital Circumcision

Religious/cultural expertise

Personalized experience

Warm, loving hands

Less traumatic for baby

No drugs, injections

Swift in seconds and Painless Procedure

Quicker recovery time

Potentially lower cost

At your home or Synagogue

Spiritual and meaningful

Significant milestone in the child's life

Medical expertise

Standardized experience

Clinical and cold

Potential for greater pain/bleeding

Crushing of tissue | Nerve Block

Ten to Fourty Minutes Procedure

Longer recovery time

Higher cost in some cases

Performed in hospital or clinic

Routine medical procedure

Can be stressful for the child and parents

"It is, moreover, acknowledged that for Jews the traditional bris might be less traumatic than common institutional approaches [Lander et al., 1998]. Jewish Mohelim take 10 seconds, with 1 second for excision, and 60 seconds on average for crying;"

After 30 years of watching circumcisions, both by competent mohelim (Jewish ritual circumcisers) and medical doctors (pediatricians and urologists), I have become proactive on the side of a good mohel. And this is not on ritual grounds.

As a rabbi and as a father of three boys, all things being equal (which they rarely, if ever, are), I would specifically choose a mohel that is not a physician over a mohel that is a physician.

How To Choose A Mohel?

When choosing a mohel, it is essential to consider several factors.

Firstly, ensure that the mohel is a well-trained "Certified Mohel" to ensure the safety of your baby.

Secondly, make sure that the mohel is an Orthodox Jew and a God-fearing person who is personally observant, shomer torah umitzvot.

Lastly, the mohel must be trained in Jewish law, customs, and traditions behind "bris milah" (brit-milah), so he can perform the circumcision in accordance with the intentions and methods of Jewish law.

Where Can You Find a Qualified Mohel?

Finding a qualified mohel is easier than you might think. You can ask your friends, family, fellow synagogue members, or your Rabbi. If you cannot find a qualified mohel in your location, you are living in an area where it is difficult to find a qualified mohel to perform a Jewish Bris Milah circumcision on your newborn baby boy? Don't worry, you're not alone. Many families face this challenge, but there are solutions available.

You can seek help from Rabbi Nechemia Markovits, who may be able to provide contact information for a Rabbi or mohel in various communities throughout the country. With his extensive network, Rabbi Markovits can guide you to a qualified mohel who can perform the circumcision.

 

In some cases, Rabbi Markovits has traveled long distances to perform Jewish Bris Milah circumcisions. If you are located in a distant area and cannot find a qualified mohel, you may be able to contact Rabbi Markovits to inquire about traveling to your location to perform the circumcision.

 

It's important to note that Rabbi Markovits cannot assume responsibility or liability for the information he provides. It's up to the family to do their own research and ensure they are obtaining the services of a qualified and experienced mohel.

In conclusion, choosing a mohel over a doctor for circumcision is a personal and religious decision that requires careful consideration. With proper research and guidance, you can ensure that your baby receives a swift and painless circumcision that adheres to Jewish customs and traditions.

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