Bris Milah

A child takes a breath
And, as wonder turns to wonder,
All things that were, are and will be
Change in the world.
The breath of life,
The prayer of tomorrow.

        Michael Andron, written for Lillian at the birth of Benjamin Shalom, their son.

Almost four thousand years ago, God spoke to Abram and established a covenant: throughout the generations, every Jewish male would be circumcised on the eight day following his birth, health permitting. This removal of the ‘veil’ of the foreskin represented the deeper removal of the veils that separate us from God, encouraging our discovery of the divine sparks within us.

As with Abraham, the first forefather of the Jewish people, who received the name Abraham after his circumcision, the child receives his Hebrew name at the time of the Bris. This name has important spiritual ramifications and should be chosen carefully. Michael will be glad to help you with your search.

Information Form

To begin with, let’s get some information. Fill out the form and then click ‘submit’. This will make it easier to stay in touch and to schedule your Bris. Please note: submitting this form does NOT schedule your Bris. You MUST speak with Michael.

What You Need

Dear Parents, Mazal Tov!

By now, your son’s Bris should now be scheduled for next week, on the eight day after birth.

If it isn’t scheduled, contact Michael immediately to schedule a time. Call either (305)654-9888 or cell (305)798-5088.

If the baby is not yet born, be sure to contact Michael as soon as possible after the birth. Put Michael’s name on the list of people you will call when the baby arrives, right under the grandparents! Please call (between 7a.m. – 11p.m.) as soon as possible after the baby is born This will help your getting the time you prefer on the 8th day. Either way, please fill out the form first.

If you call me the late afternoon or evening before a scheduled C-section or induction, I will be happy to PENCIL you in for a tentative time . I do not INK anything onto the schedule until the baby is born. Therefore, if you have called the day before, please call me again as soon as possible after the birth .

The List:

For the baby’s comfort, here is a list of the items you will need. Please have all these items prepared when I arrive (30-45 minutes before the scheduled time) so that we can begin on time. If the Bris is not at your home, please be sure you are there 45 minutes before the Bris.

  • A card table with a tablecloth or cover (it can be a bigger table, such as a dining room table, but no smaller than a card table.)
  • A Brown paper grocery bag (e.g., a Publix bag or regular size shopping bag) that I use for garbage disposal. You can use this bag to gather most of the following:
  • A box of 20-25 Johnson and Johnson 3×3 sterile gauze pads (J&J, CVS or Walgreen’s brand please!)
  • A tube of Povidine/Povidone ointment (not cream or liquid) It’s a brown color ointment. Currently, Walgreen’s and CVS both carry their own brand of Povidine-Iodine Ointment… that’s perfect! Unfortunately, not all branches carry it. If it is not available, either Neosporin or Bacitracin is fine. (There is an easier option than shopping for this: see the Mini Bris-Kit or Bris Bag paragraphs below).
  • A tube of nupercainal ointment (not cream) Look for it in the hemorrhoid department. You can also use Dibucaine ointment which has the same active ingredient. CVS’s own (CVS Hemorrhoidal & Topical Analgesic Ointment) is excellent. (There is an easier option to shopping for this: see the Mini Bris-Kit or Bris Bag paragraphs below).
  • An extra tube of A&D ointment is useful.
  • 2 burping cloths or flat square/rectangular cloth diapers.
  • 2 disposable diapers (with Velcro fasteners, preferable, but not essential).
  • 1 cotton (not wool) receiving blanket (no tassels or frills)
  • A baby bottle with glucose water (you can mix a teaspoon of sugar in 3-4oz. of water) or pedialite, preferably non-colored.
  • A pacifier
  • Baby wipes
  • A bottle of red Kosher sweet grape wine (e.g., Manishewitz or Mogen David); Please do not get cherry or berry wine.
  • A Kiddush cup with a small plate underneath it
  • Candles and candle-stick holders. How many? 1 for each family member of your nuclear family, including the baby! i.e. 2 candles for the 2 parents PLUS one for each child in the family. e.g., 1st child? That means if this is your first child, you need a total 3 candles; 2nd child? That means a total of 4 candles). And, don’t forget to count the baby! The candle-stick holders needn’t match. Shabbat candles or fancier, if you like.
  • 2 firm bedroom pillows (standard length, not king-size)

Also:

  • The baby should be wearing a loose gown or sack, nothing with buttons or legs.
  • The baby should be 90 minutes hungry; i.e., no feeding from 90 minutes before the scheduled Bris-time. You will be able to feed him immediately after. This is quite important. Please do your best to accommodate.
  • We will start on time (unlike most Jewish events!) so tell everyone to arrive 15-20 minutes before the scheduled time. If you have friends or family who are chronically late, tell them 30 minutes before. Remember: the baby is hungry and we don’t want him to be uncomfortable.
  • Plan on the following honors (we’ll review them further on the phone): Sandak (the one who actually holds him during the surgery, usually one of the grandfathers); Seat of Elijah (who holds him during the processional part; usually the other Grandfather); Godmother (kvaterin) and Godfather (kvater)… you can have more than one of each, especially to keep peace in the family! The Grandmothers are, of course, also included in the ceremony, as are older siblings and any Great Grandparents. All of these people should be at the Bris location 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the Bris.
  • Plan on video and still pictures. Oh — turn down your air conditioner thermostat early to cool off the room.
  • Ask the Jewish men to bring a Kipah (yarmulke) with them. I’ll bring a special one for the baby!

Contact if you have any questions, please call me at (305) 654-9888 or on my cell at (305)798-5088 . I will get back to you as quickly as possible. You can also ‘text’ me at my cell phone.

Mini-Bris-Kit or Bris Bag

If you need help gathering everything you need, here are two easy solutions:

Option One

If you have everything you need from around the house, and only need the gauze pads, povidine, dibucaine and A&D, call Emerald Hills Pharmacy in Hollywood at 954-983-3336. They have packaged these four items into a Mini Bris-Kit. Pay $25.00  by credit card (below market cost) and they’ll have it delivered to your door, for no extra charge, or they’ll deliver it to me and I’ll bring it with me. 

Option Two

If you want many of the additional items as well, just call click www.877BRISBAG.COM or call 877-Bris-Bag (274-7224) and tell them Michael Andron is your Mohel.

The Bris-Bag includes the following items:

  • A Box of 24 3X3 sterile gauze pads
  • A tube of plain povidine ointment (or equivalent)
  • A tube of nupercainal ointment (or equivalent)
  • 2 cloth diapers
  • 2 disposable diapers A baby bottle with glucose water Baby Wipes
  • A pacifier

And it all comes packed in an attractive fabric diaper bag!

You still need to provide the card table with cover, the wine and kiddush cup, the candles, 2 firm bedroom pillows, and the brown paper bag!

The cost will be $48.00 plus shipping (2-day, ground, overnight, etc.) They even accept Visa and MasterCard. Talk to the nice people at Bris Bag and they’ll give you the details. Be sure to let them know it’s the Bris Bag for Michael Andron.


Mazal Tov again, and see you next week. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call (305)654-9888 or my cell (305)798-5088

FAQ
How do you calculate the ‘eighth day’? You count the day on which he is born: if he’s born on Monday, the Bris is the following Monday. If he’s born on Monday after sundown, the Bris is the following Tuesday. That is, the day changes at sundown and not at midnight.

What if the baby is born on Shabbat or Jewish holiday? Jewish law states that, baby’s health permitting, we make every effort to do the Bris on the 8th day. You are allowed to do a Bris on Shabbat if the baby was born on Shabbat (unless it was a C-section). You are NOT allowed to get into a car and GO to a Bris on Shabbat… or cook… or smoke… or take pictures… or turn on lights.

Therefore, in Orthodox neighborhoods, when the Mohel is within walking distance of the Bris and Shabbat is observed according to Jewish law, we do the Bris on Shabbat. But it makes little sense to fulfill one mitzvah by violating another. When a Bris can’t be performed on Shabbat or holiday, we do it on the next available day or as soon as possible afterwards.

Do you need a minyan for a Bris? No. Doing the Bris on the eight day is a Torah ordained law and the minyan is rabbinic in origin. The Bris, therefore is done on the eighth day with or without a minyan. If you have a quorum of 10 Jewish men, a different grace after meals can be said and Kaddish can be recited for someone in mourning.

How long does it (the surgery or the whole service) take? The surgery takes about 10-15 seconds. The service takes about 18-20 minutes. However, remember that the baby will be on his back, held still and be undressed for a few moments. He will likely cry for those non-surgical reasons alone.

Does it hurt the baby? Research shows that the technique a Mohel uses causes less distress that the technique used by most physicians. Distress is measured in change of heart rate, etc. Naturally, the difference for the baby of 10-12 seconds compared to 8-10 minutes with the Gomco or Plastibel clamps that physicians often use is going to make a big difference for the baby.

Do I use anesthesia? Yes, I personally use two topical sprays and an anesthetic ointment afterwards. There are babies that don’t cry at all. Most will cry but over 95% of them will stop crying as soon as they are diapered and picked up. In my opinion, most of the distress is caused by the position the baby is in… and must be in … for the surgery, and the slight pinch when I take hold of the skin to begin. When that is over quickly, the babies do fine.

Do I use EMLA? Recently in the news, EMLA cream is a topical anesthetic that needs to be applied about an hour before the circumcision. Aside from the problem that it can cause significant swelling of the tissue, it was not tested for use on newborns and therefore is not recommended for use on infants under one month of age. The following is a quote from the insert that comes with the EMLA cream: “Due to the potential risk of methemoglobinemia and the lack of proven efficacy, EMLA Cream is not recommended for use prior to circumcision in pediatric patients.”

Do I explain what is going on for those who don’t know much about it or who are not Jewish? Yes, I provide an ongoing explanation and commentary that most people find educational and enlightening. This is a simcha (a joyous occasion) and so it must be kept light but respectful of the oldest rite of our religion. I try to find that balance. A little medical, a little mystical, a few stories that deepen our understanding of a most remarkable ritual.

What do I need to get? The entire list of what you need is printed above under the heading Baby’s born? Instructions for Parents. You can copy it now and get a head start if you wish.

If I do the Bris in my house, what room should it be in? The largest room in the house is usually the best choice. Those that don’t want to be near the surgery … won’t ! The fact is the way I set the table up, no one can see the surgery unless they make a particular effort to do so. But, believe it or not, people are more relaxed when the surgery is not in another room, sequestered away. The ‘unknown’ is always more stressful that the ‘known’.

Should the surgery be in the same room as the service? Of the 18 minutes or so for the whole service, the surgery is about 2-3 minutes in the middle. We usher the baby in, do the surgery and then finish with the naming ceremony. It would add time and stress to all concerned to take him from the room for the 10-15 seconds of surgery. In all the years I’ve been doing this, I can tell you this: No parent who wanted to take him out of the room and then listened to me and did it in the main room EVER said afterwards: “I’m sorry I did”. Trust me. My job is to make the Bris as meaningful and as beautiful as possible for you.

How do I pick a Hebrew name for the baby? It’s a beautiful tradition to name a child after a relative (grandparent, great grandparent, close relative, even a dear friend.) The Ashkenazic Jews name after the deceased, the Sephardic after the living. The name should be chosen based on the person’s Hebrew name. If the relative was female, we choose a male name that is related either phonetically or by meaning. If the name was Yiddish or Ladino, it is common practice to alter the name slightly back to its original Hebrew (e.g., Yankel again becomes Yaakov). I will be glad to help you with this selection.

Will you teach us how to care for the baby? Of course. After the bris, I will meet with the parents and change the baby with them (and anyone else who will be helping out such as a nurse, grandparents, etc.) I will also go over written instructions with you. If those instructions should be misplaced, you will always have immediate access to me and to the instructions on line.

If you have any questions, please call me at (305) 654-9888 or on my cell at (305)798-5088 . I will get back to you as quickly as possible. You can also ‘text’ me at my cell phone.