What does he do with it?

Ok this is a squirmy subject. The other day at the dinner table (I believe it was a yomtov meal) the kids were discussing circumcisions. The older three know exactly what happens at a brit, and are of an age where the grosser the subject the better. It was explained to the younger one exactly what a brit is, that it is not just a party. So now, he wants to know, what does the mohel do with the piece of skin he slices off? Does it have to be buried or is it thrown in the trash?

(I went through four brittot for my boys and not once did I stop to think about this.)

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  1. From the site of April Rubin, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., Mohel (Mohelet) at dcmohel.com :

    “By custom, it is placed in earth or sand. Some will do this in their yard and plant a tree in the same spot. They may then cut a branch of this tree to be used in the huppah when that son marries. If you would like to bury the foreskin after your son’s brit, please let me know and I will give it to you. Otherwise, I will dispose of it in an appropriate manner.”

  2. mrsmelissasg says:

    i actually know people who insisted they had to keep it personally so it could be buried with them.
    totally don’t know if thats halacha or chumra or just crazy (or some combo) – but ya…..

  3. Canuck says:

    Just on Sunday at a dinner, my Rabbi was discussing one of the grossest stories he knows.

    Long story short: it’s about burying the ‘it’ and the absolutely-true, yes-someone-did-this punchline is “You should see my vegetable garden now!”

  4. mekubal says:

    As a mohel, who did his own son, typically the mohel gives it to the father, wrapped in a piece of gauze, to bury it. There is a tradition to sweep up dust from the floor of a beit midrash to cover it in that before one buries it. But yeah that is typically how it is done.

    • haim says:

      Wow! Are you a very experienced Mohel?

      • mekubal says:

        No. But I don’t do it alone at this point either. My teacher, who is a mohel of 15yrs experience and who learned under the chief mohel of Jerusalem, accompanies me, and supervises. He’s done tens of thousands and has quite literally written the book on mohelut.

        He supervises the sterilization of the instruments, the pre-brit check, the brit itself, as well as the after brit check(assuming parents will allow an after check some don’t to their detriment, or rather their child’s).

        That situation will continue for a year to three depending on the amount of experience in between. Even then he will accompany me on any brit in which there is an anatomical anomaly which I haven’t previously dealt with. Those can be interesting.

        • Ilana says:

          Why would parents not want you to do an after-check?

          • mekubal says:

            You know, I haven’t actually figured that out. However, it is near impossible to get most to return your calls, let alone schedule a time to meet with you(at their own home) the next day.

            Quite honestly getting parents to follow the medical advice of the mohel is near impossible in and of itself. So even if they do allow a followup visit, it usually involves telling them how their negligence is harming their child. Most follow advice of family members and friends over that of the mohel, which can result in the wound reopening and infection.

            However the parents not allowing the followup has lead the Israeli rabbinate to begin to reconsider how the initial hemostasis(staunching the bleeding) is performed. Ideally an initial bandage(much like a butterfly) is applied and then over wrapped with gauze. This should be changed in about 1/2hr to 45min(just getting that done is a 50/50 as most parents want to party and not be bothered). Then hopefully the parents change the child’s diaper every hour and apply baby oil(good luck with that) to keep the bandage soft and from adhering to the wound and also to prevent infection. So then the next day, preferably within 24hrs the mohel will followup with a visit and remove the bandage and wrap what should not be a closed wound with a piece of gauze which should be removed the next day. There is also a special ointment that should be applied(most parents opt against advice for something else again on the advice of others). Everything done right the child should be completely healed within 10-14 days.

            Unfortunately, at least in Israel, many parents feel they know better than the mohel, so what this has lead to is high rate of UTI amongst infants. The rabbinate believes that if we change the hemostasis procedure to that often used by medical professionals it will allow for the parents’ negligence and thus protect the baby. The down side is healing time is greatly increased(up to 4-6weeks from what I have heard and read in medical journals).

          • haim says:

            How is the bandage done?

            I heard it is important to allow it to evacuate the urine, otherwise it will cause an infection, but that many parents bandage over the “hole”

          • mekubal says:

            To start if the the parents allowed a follow up visit it wouldn’t be a problem, as the mohel would re-bandage the child and that would be that. It need only be bandaged for 48hrs.

            Bandaged properly it is only wrapped around the shaft, allowing the crown(glans) to be fully exposed.

            For the same reason it is important to change the diaper hourly.

          • I wish that I had reason to disbelieve you.

            Unfortunately, when my son was an infant, he received another child’s medication at daycare. (No harm done – it was amoxicillin and he was not allergic, thank God.) My son’s name is William; the other child went by the name Aaron, but his legal first name was William. Of course, the medication was prescribed under his full name. Easy mix up, right?

            I suggested, after that, that the daycare use paper wristbands (the hard-to-tear kind) that the parent could write on, to contain child’s name, medication name, and proper dosage. The director thought that was a splendid idea (after all, let’s get real – if my son had been allergic to penicillin, I could’ve owned the daycare chain).

            Unfortunately, the parents could not be bothered – and got angry at the inconvenience of doing this for their sick children as they dropped them off and hustled to work.

            It’s sad – these are people who were happy to pay top dollar for a top-notch daycare, but could not be bothered to spend a few minutes a day (or write out a week’s worth of wristbands at night) to protect their children and others from a medication mix-up.

  5. jean says:

    If nothing else, there’s that old (bad) joke about how the mohel doesn’t get paid much but he get to keep all the tips. (I did NOT make this up!)

  6. Schvach says:

    The mohel saves the foreskins until his retirement, whereupon he takes the collection to a leathercrafter who sews them together into a wallet, which can then be conveniently and quickly transformed into a suitcase. It’s an old joke, and always has been in poor taste.

  7. Lady-Light says:

    When my sons had their brit, I never even thought about it (they are 33 and 26, with families of their own now). Since that time it’s become ‘fashionable’ or ‘cool’ (-or something, I don’t know what–”the IN thing?”) to bury the foreskin.
    And I also have heard similar minhagim about the placenta. I haven’t researched it, so I don’t know whether or not there is any ancient historical basis for doing so.

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