Reuveyn Fraser M.D.
20 years experience performing Jewish Circumcisions in greater Boston & Massachusetts
Naming ceremony Hatafat Dam Brit
Brisses Ritual Jewish
Richard Fraser MD · Westwood, MA · 781 - 690 - 1339 (voice) · 775 - 703 - 1031 (fax)
I offer the option of using novocaine (lidocaine) for the circumcision and STRONGLY recommend its use. Routinely I find that the baby to be much more comfortable during and after the circumcision. Most of the time the babies just lie quietly sucking on a pacifier and do not even cry during the circumcision!!
The novocaine is given as a subcutaneous injection just under the skin at the base of the penis, called a "dorsal penile nerve block". I use a 30 gauge needle which is one of the smallest and least painful needle. The novocaine takes about thirty seconds to administer and lasts between fifteen and thirty minutes. The use of novocaine does not violate Jewish law. During the time of the Talmud there was a topical anesthetic known as "Rah" and no mention was made in the Talmud prohibiting its use.
Complications from the anesthetic lidocaine are extremely rare even when given in high doses in an intensive care unit (probably less than one in a hundred million!) Nevertheless, whether potential or more theoretical, they can include palpitations, seizures, low blood pressure, nerve injury and allergic reactions. Again, these reactions are extremely rare and almost unheard of when the drug is given subcutaneously in a low dose.
Complications from the injection can include swelling and ecchymosis (a small black and blue mark). Rarely the swelling results in the circumcision taking an extra minute or so longer. Many doctors and mohelim do not use novocaine, citing little difference in comfort (which I strongly disagree with), the use of novocaine is not traditional, that the injection hurts as much as the circumcision (which defies common sense) and the potential for side effects.Perhaps a component of their concerns about novocaine is their lack of experience with the injection and therefore may not feel comfortable with its use.
Please feel free to call me or your pediatrician to discuss this matter further.
Reuven Fraser M.D.
FYI: A Mohel, also pronounced Moyl or Moyel, comes from the Hebrew root M-L "to circumcise" and is the same root as the word Milah referring to the covenant of Milah. Milah means circumcision. The various pronunciations of the word Mohel/Moyl/Moyel come from the various East European/Ashkenazi dialects and modern Hebrew. Also the correct term for the ceremony is Brit Milah. The terms Brit and Bris also reflect different dialects and have come to be accepted into English over the term Brit Milah.