Hayim Leiter
Rabbi, mohel, misader kiddushin, beit din member

Message in a bottle

Photo: YouTube

This may seem ridiculous, but the other day was a significant turning point in my career. No, I didn’t perform a Brit Milah for a famous family, nor did I have five Britot in one day. The truth is, I didn’t even have a Bris.

So what happened? The soap bottle I’d been using my entire career thus far — the cap finally broke. 

Let me explain.

Much like a football player’s lucky socks, I rarely change the supplies I use. My feeling has always been, if it ain’t broke… I use the same materials for bandaging, and the same mouthwash for cleaning the baby (my teacher was a dentist, so sue me). I even go as far as positioning my tools the same way on every table.

So, this bottle’s demise marks a day of real consequence.

I’m not just talking about the replacement of a physical object; this bottle and I had a history. Prior to every ceremony, I spend three minutes washing my hands before donning latex gloves. At that rate, I’ve spent almost 100 hours with the bottle.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

I was blessed to learn a profession that’s still taught by apprenticeship. My teacher, Ari Greenspan, is a master mohel and was exactly the mentor I needed. He was clear, concise, to the point — an open book. But his teaching went beyond just the ins and outs of Brit Mliah, and this bottle was representative of that fact.

As my formal learning came to a close, I began deciding how to organize my Bris Kit (pun intended). The medical soap I use comes in a rather cumbersome bottle. Sill, I figured I’d just bring the whole thing to each event. When Ari heard this, he handed me a somewhat more innocuous bottle, saying, “It’d be a lot easier to bring this instead and refill it from time to time.”

This interaction represented the crux of his teaching. This tiny plastic bottle was not only a symbol of my preparedness but it was also a symbol of what type of mohel I was to be. There are teachers who model our sacred ritual in a rigid way, as a completely unbroken, unchanged tradition from Avraham Avinu. And there certainly was an element of this to my learning. But Ari showed me that there are always ways to fine-tune the craft and gave me the confidence to do so.

To the plastic bottle, I bid you farewell. You served me well. It is true that your glass replacement is sleeker and more durable, but the lessons learned from you will not be forgotten. Although ours is not a tradition that focuses on reincarnation, in this instance, I’m thankful for recycling. O plastic one, I hope your next incarnation will be as meaningful as your time spent with me.

About the Author
Rav Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant, and member of a private Beit Din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization committed to protecting both our sacred ceremony of Brit Milah and the children who undergo it. He made Aliyah in 2009 and lives in Efrat with his wife and four children.