Thank you for visiting my web site.

Here you will find a wealth of information about the Brit Milah (or Bris) ceremony for boys, and the Baby Naming (Simchat Bat or Zeved Habat) ceremony for girls. Much of this information is repeated in different ways throughout the web site. I hope it will give you a good sense about my philosophy and approach to these beautiful rituals.


Covid-19 and Brisses

Update 3/30/20

Dear Parents and Parents-to-Be:

I hope you and your families are safe and well.

Normally, I receive many emails every day from parents who are expecting a baby or who had a baby and would like to schedule the Bris with me. There has been a significant drop off in the number of inquiries and requests for Brisses.

I am very worried. I have dedicated my life to this beautiful mitzvah. I think many parents are simply opting not to have a Bris for their son. Instead, they are having the baby circumcised in the hospital, having a circumcision performed by a doctor or not circumcising their baby at all! Unfortunately, there are many articles being published about how many families are not having Brisses which is confusing and scaring new parents and only presents one side of the story.

A decision like this should not be made when one is upset, scared or confused. Having a baby and planning a Bris should be a joyous time in one's life. The articles that are not being written are the ones about the families who are having Brisses during this time and what they are doing to continue this mitzvah despite the challenges of the day. There have been times in recent Jewish history that have presented even greater challenges than today. Whether it was in the Soviet Union or in Germany during the Holocaust, people went to great lengths to have a Bris for their son, often risking their lives to do so. Thank G-d, that is not the case today. If one follows the guidelines that have been established, one can have a Bris in the safety and security of the home. Parents are making this decision out of fear or a simple lack of understanding of how important a traditional Bris is and what the ramifications are of not having one.

How can I convey to parents the great significance of having a proper and kosher Bris performed by a traditional, certified Rabbi or Cantor mohel?

It's rather simple.

What if you don't give your son a Bar- Mitzvah? All of your friends will have Bar Mitzvahs for their sons and all of your son's classmates will have a Bar Mitzvah, as well. Your son will be invited to all of those Bar Mitzvahs. But your son is not going to have one. No invitations will be sent out. He won't be called to the Torah. There will be no candle lighting ceremony with the grandparents. There will be no funny speech by the younger brother. There will be no photo album or video commemorating the event. There won't be a large celebratory meal or party to honor this thirteen-year old year young man. How will that make you feel?

That's the same feeling you should have when deciding not to have a Bris for your son. However, the differences are many and the consequences much greater.

  • Many hospitals are no longer performing circumcisions as they are considered elective surgery.
  • The circumcision performed by a doctor in the hospital can take anywhere from ten to forty-five minutes with the baby strapped down to a board. The parents are not allowed to be present. The Bris that I perform takes under 20 seconds with the baby resting comfortably on a pillow held by the warm, loving hands of the Sandek.
  • The doctor who performs the circumcision is probably still working in the hospital and/or seeing patients in his or her office. Their potential exposure to the virus is much greater than mine. As a mohel, I'm going into homes where it's only the parents and the baby who have been quarantined for the past 3 weeks or longer.
  • The Bris and the entrance of the child into the Covenant of Abraham is a major Torah commandment.
  • If a Jewish baby is circumcised in the hospital by a non-Jewish doctor or a non-observant Jewish doctor before or after the eighth day, he will need a second procedure to correct that. That means at some point later on in his life, the child will have to have a hatafat dam brit to turn that circumcision into a Bris. A hatafat dam brit is the drawing of a drop of blood from the circumcision site to formalize the Covenant of Abraham.
  • If you don't do it, your son will have to take care of it himself when he becomes an adult. And even though you may not be a Sabbath observant, kosher keeping family, your son may decide to pursue a religious Jewish path later on in life and not ever having had a Bris will cause him considerable problems.

Let's review:

Every effort should be made to have the Bris on the correct or proper day performed by me or any certified, religiously observant rabbi or cantor Mohel.

The Bris ceremony is a profoundly significant and beautiful Jewish life cycle event to enter your Jewish child into the Covenant of Abraham. Brisses have been performed for over 3,500 years throughout Jewish history. Your son or grandson represents the next link in the chain of Jewish history and Jewish continuity depends on you preserving and maintaining this ancient ritual.

The Bris takes place on the eighth day or later depending on either the birth scenario or the Jewish calendar. (For example, a baby born by C-section can never have a Bris on the Sabbath or Jewish holiday.) Also, Brisses are never performed before the eighth day or at night.

The most qualified individual to perform the Bris is a religiously observant, certified Rabbi or Cantor mohel. Traditional, religiously observant non-medical mohels are the super-specialists. Traditional mohels may perform more Brisses in one month than a doctor might perform in an entire year. Most of my referrals come from doctors to perform the Brisses for their children, grandchildren or their patients' children.

If a child is circumcised in the hospital before the eighth day, that is merely a circumcision and does not qualify as a valid Bris.

If a child is circumcised by a doctor either before or after the eighth or proper day who is not a Sabbath observant, kosher keeping individual that, too, does not qualify as a valid Bris.

Delaying the Bris a few weeks so it can be performed by a certified, religiously observant Rabbi or Cantor mohel is religiously preferred than any of those other options.

So please take to heart what I've written here for the sake of your son or grandson. Decisions that we parents make for our children can affect them in many ways that we cannot anticipate. Not having a Bris for your son is one of them.

Please visit my Facebook page (Cantor Philip L. Sherman, Mohel) or my web site (www.emoil.com) for previous postings related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finally, if you belong to a mommy blog or any other group that you think might benefit from my postings about Covid-19 and Brisses, please feel free to forward them to those individuals, groups or sites.

If you would like information about Brisses or Baby Naming ceremonies for girls, please email me and I will send you information to help you prepare for those joyous events. If you had a baby, Mazel Tov! If you are expecting a baby, best wishes for an easy delivery and a beautiful, healthy baby.

I look forward to seeing you soon at the next simcha (happy occasion)!

Cantor Philip L. Sherman
Mohel

For more information about Covid-19 and Brisses, visit my Facebook page


News

Passover 2020/5780

Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the freedom of the Jewish people. Scheduling Brisses can be very challenging in view of the Passover holiday. This year Passover begins on Wednesday night, April 8th and the first two days, which are holiday days, are Thursday, April 9th and Friday April 10th which is then followed by Shabbat. All emails received from Wednesday night, April 8th after 6:00 PM through Saturday night, April 11th will be returned Saturday night, April 11th after 9:00 P.M. I will try to respond to as many emails as I can before Passover begins on Wednesday, April 8th.

No traditional Sabbath observant mohel will be able to contact you until Saturday night, April 11th.

The biggest concern with a multi-day Jewish holiday that runs into Shabbat is that many non-observant families will panic and want to schedule the Bris on the Passover holiday or on Shabbat with a doctor mohel. If you want a proper and kosher Bris for your son or grandson—PLEASE WAIT! Don’t schedule the Bris on the first two days of Passover or on Shabbat with a doctor mohel. Your patience will be rewarded with a beautiful, quick, gentle and compassionate Bris performed by an expert certified rabbi or cantor mohel that will never be subject to question.

It is religiously preferred to delay scheduling the Bris or performing the Bris to obtain the services of a traditional, certified Sabbath observant rabbi or cantor mohel so that you son or grandson will have a proper and kosher Bris.

A baby born by C-section cannot have a Bris on the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday. Any babies born by C-section Wednesday night, April 1st through Sunday, April 5th will have their brisses on Sunday, April 12th which will be a “make-up” day. Four days of Brisses will have to be scheduled on that Sunday! I will be scheduling Brisses geographically on that Sunday in order to accommodate as many families as possible. Some Brisses may spill over into Monday. Many believe that the Bris must take place on the eighth day. That is not the case. There are many exceptions to the eighth day rule. Again, it is religiously preferred to delay the Bris beyond the eighth day to obtain the services of a traditional, certified Sabbath observant rabbi or cantor mohel so that you son or grandson will have a proper and kosher Bris. Patience and flexibility are very important and will be greatly appreciated.

The following week, the last two days of Passover, which are holiday days, are from Tuesday night, April 14th through Thursday, April 16th. All emails received from Tuesday, April 14th after 6:00 PM through Thursday night, April 16th will be returned Thursday night, April 16th after the holiday has concluded around 9:00 P.M. I will try to respond to as many emails as I can before the holiday begins on Tuesday, April 14th. Friday, April 17th will also be a “make-up” day. Only three days of Brisses will have to be scheduled on that Friday.

Again, a baby born by C-section cannot have a Bris on the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday. Any babies born by C-section Tuesday night, April 7th through Thursday, April 9th will have their brisses on Friday, April 17th which is another “make-up” day. I will be scheduling Brisses geographically on that Friday in order to accommodate as many families as possible.

Similarly, many families may be scheduled for those “make-up” days (or beyond) if they live outside of a certain area. Riding or driving on the Sabbath or Passover holiday is not allowed. The intermediate days of the holiday (April 12th through April 14th) are like regular weekdays with no restrictions related to C-sections or travel.

Please do not make any arrangements until you have confirmed with me the correct day of the Bris and make sure only one person is making arrangements with only one mohel.

Please email me only if you are willing to wait until after the Shabbat or holiday has concluded to make arrangements with me.

Waiting until after the Shabbat or holiday has concluded will ensure that your son or grandson will have a beautiful, proper and kosher Bris. It will be scheduled properly, performed on the correct day and it will be universally recognized by all the movements of Judaism and in Israel. The down side is that Bris arrangements made on the Sabbath (Shabbat) or Jewish holiday will result in a questionable and/or halachically problematic Bris. Although it may not be a concern for you, it may have significant ramifications for your son or grandson in the future. I look forward to hearing from you and would love to be part of your simcha. Thank you and best wishes for a joyous and sweet Passover holiday!