Hayim Leiter
Mohel, Activist, and Educator

Mohalim: The True Chosen People

Picture the scene: Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore watch as Jon Lovitz belts out one of the worst renditions of “Ladies Night” in disco music history.  This is the famous scene from The Wedding Singer where Drew Barrymore’s character is looking for a wedding band for her upcoming nuptials.  It’s a classic for two reasons.  One reason is that wedding bands tend to be cheezier than cheezy, and no one pours it on better than Jon Lovitz.  The second reason the scene works is because it is true to life.  Everyone checks out their wedding band before hiring them.  It would seem insane not to.  Why should Brit Milah be any different?

In truth, it shouldn’t be any different.  In an ideal world parents would meet with their mohel (or potential mohalim) well in advance of the Brit Milah.  You can’t wait until the baby is born, things are too crazy then.  So to help you plan your meeting, here are….

Top Ten Things To Ask Your Mohel

1. How long have you been practicing?

This may seem irrelevant, but at least it will give you a sense of how long the mohel has been at this.

2. How many Britot have you done?

This may seem identical to question number one, but it is 100% different.  A mohel could live in the middle of nowhere and have been practicing for years and have only done a small number Britot. Time doesn’t equal experience.

3. Who were your teachers?

This will help you get a sense of how the mohel practices and what his qualifications are.  For example if the mohel is trained by mohalim that are doctors he may have stronger qualifications in the medical area.

4. What style of service do you perform?  A lot of singing?  Not so much?

This end could also be achieved if you really treat the mohel like a wedding band and went to see how he performs a Brit.

5. What is your native language?  Or how is your English/Hebrew

At first this may seem unimportant or even completely obvious, but the language barrier may be very important to the grandparents.  At the same time, it may be a factor for you as well. Many emotions surface during this experience and hearing instructions or other advice not in your native tongue could be an added stress you may not want.

6. How many visits do you make?  Do I have to take down the bandage myself?

There is no standard here.  Some mohalim come once before and once after, while some come only once, and still others come three times.  This is really dependent on what you are looking for in a mohel.  Most mohalim visit 24 hours after the Brit Milah to take down the bandage.  But there are still those that do not.  It would be advisable to know what you’re getting yourself into.

7. What’s the average number of Britot you do in a day?

This will give you a sense of how rushed the mohel will be at your simcha.  A good follow-up question is: how long do you remain after the Bris is done? The standard length of time is 15 minutes to be sure that all of the bleeding has stopped.

8. Do you sterilize your tools in an autoclave after each usage?

This may seem like a ridiculous question, but unfortunately it’s not.  Almost all mohalim clean their tools, as doctors do, in a machine called an autoclave.  This machine uses high pressure steam at very high temperatures that gets rid of 99% of all germs.  Alcohol only get rids of 70-80% of all the germs.  Mohalim who don’t have multiple sets of tools sometimes cut corners (no pun intended) when they have multiple britot and just use alcohol to clean the tools.  You as a parent want to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

9. Do you use gloves?

Unfortunately there is no standard here either.  But just like the cleaning of the tools, this is an important way to make sure that the Brit Milah is as clean and safe as possible.

10. Do you use a tube for metzitzah?

This is a deal breaker.  Children can contract herpes or hepatitis from the mohel’s mouth and while these diseases tend not to be life threatening for an adult, they are for a newborn.  So it is imperative that you only hire a mohel who uses a tube for metzitzah.

Recommendations from friends are a great start to finding your mohel, but it can’t end there. You should treat this like any other surgery.  You have to know the ins and outs of the procedure and find the best person for said procedure.

I’m not sure that all mohalim will welcome these proposed interviews, but it’s not up to them; it’s up to you.

About the Author
Hayim Leiter is a Rav and a Mohel in Israel , as well as an activist, and a Jewish Educator. 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 Jerusalem with his wife and children.
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