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Mohel Urges New Dads to Help Make the Cut at Circumcision

The kindest cut of all might be the one that new father makes at his son’s circumcision.
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Are you a new father read to help circumcise your  son? Above: Brit Milah in Paris.

Are you a new father read to help circumcise your son? Above: Brit Milah in Paris.
Photo Credit: Flash 90

Natan Zaidenweber thought the mohel was kidding. His wife, Linda Raab, thought it was some kind of religious formality and didn’t give it a second thought.

But the mohel, Cantor Philip Sherman, was serious. Though most fathers demur when he invites them to perform the bris on their sons by clipping their foreskin, preferring to delegate the task to someone professionally trained in the procedure, Sherman finds that about 5 or 10 percent of dads agree to do the cut.

“It is the father’s mitzvah to actually perform the bris as Abraham did for his son, Isaac,” Sherman said. “Many fathers have told me what an incredible moment it was for them to do the actual bris and enter their sons into the covenant of Abraham.”

The Mill Valley, Calif., couple realized the cantor wasn’t joking only once the ceremony was underway. Sherman began with a naming ceremony for Jay Hilay and his twin sister, Sivan Rose. Then he again offered Natan the option of making the cut.

The new dad stepped forward, and as his startled wife screamed his name in a tone that she says was intended to say, “Are you crazy?” a friend reassured her it would be easy.

“I then took a deep breath, surrendered to the faith I had in Phil and motioned that they had my blessing to proceed,” Raab said.

Sherman, who says he has performed more than 20,000 circumcisions, set up what was needed, gave the baby some sugar water, put a clamp in place and offered Zaidenweber some direction. Making the cut, Zaidenweber said, was a powerful bonding experience.

“I’m glad I did,” he said. “I’m glad I have that connection with my son. Your love is equal for both [twins], but it’s special that we have that bond.”

For Raab, too, the experience was a positive one. Sherman had told the gathering that a baby’s cry during a bris is like the sound of the shofar opening the gates of heaven.

“I closed my eyes, heard Jay’s cry and actually was able to experience it as deeply spiritual and beautiful,” Raab said, noting her pride that her husband took on the role.

“He stepped up, fearlessly, with a faith in himself that I wouldn’t have had in myself,” she said. “I have since been aware of how much his modeling has helped me to muster more courage as I face the tasks of mothering.”

If the couple were to have another son, would Zaidenweber make the snip again? Yes, say mom and dad, without hesitation.

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5 Responses to “Mohel Urges New Dads to Help Make the Cut at Circumcision”

  1. So what you're saying is that if I wasn't circumcised, I'd be hung like a horse? And for what? So I wouldn't have all sorts of nasty bacteria growing inside my foreskin in a moist environment? Totally not worth it. For the record, I don't remember the pain when it happened, and I never missed my foreskin, but I thank you all for being so concerned with the well-being of my penis' sex-life. I'm guessing that many of the critics don't really care about the child though…it's more about sticking it to the Jew. If Jewish people didn't do it, less people would complain about it. And if you're not a racist and you seriously care about the health of the world's penises and their sex lives, good for you…you are truly enlightened, and while children go hungry, you're fighting the good fight against skinned penises. I skinned my knee when I was a kid, but you guys never said a word…if only my knee were a penis, you would have shed a tear. If only there were more people in the world looking out for all the pricks…of course, it's usually the pricks who are looking out for themselves, but I have no idea what I'm saying. I need to clean my mouth out with soap now…my mouth wasn't circumcised so it needs cleaned more often.

  2. Dan Silagi says:

    A baby's crying during a bris means that no Bupvaricaine or numbing cream was used, turning the procedure into unnecessary torture. But there were, and still are, some rectal orifices of rabbis who believe that pain is a necessary component of the procedure.

  3. Andrew Gross says:

    Circumcision is possibly the most universally observed commandment in Judaism. While circumcision opponents consider it to be mutilation, child abuse, a human rights violation, in Judaism the brit milah is considered a great celebration. It is the sign of the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham. Jews are not ashamed of the brit milah — we celebrate it. Throughout the past two thousand years, various tyrants have sought to prohibit the brit milah. But the Jewish people, faithful to God, have performed the brit milah regardless of any threatened punishment.

  4. Keith Rutter says:

    No matter who wields the knife, it is still immoral, unethical, ignorant, and wrong.

  5. Keith Rutter says:

    There is no doubt that a slavish devotion to religion will make a believer do all manner of evil!

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