What Is A Bris? - The Bris
This question is one all new parents ask: What is going to happen to my baby? The answer is simple, and I will explain in two ways, one basic, and one more detailed.
The Basic Explanation:
The natural anatomy of a boy is different from what we are used to seeing. On a baby boy, there is a layer of skin surrounding the entire head of the penis (Also known as the glans). This is called the Orlah, or the foreskin, or the prepuce. There is a little hole at the top through which the baby urinates. The Orlah is removed by a Bris Milah, completely revealing the head of the penis. The baby is left with a bandage which is later removed. The wound will heal, and the head of the penis will remain revealed for the rest of the baby's life.
*The following section is not for the faint of heart*
The Detailed Explanation:
To understand the detailed explanation, you must know an important piece of information: In addition to the Orlah, there is another layer of skin underneath it which also surrounds the glans. This is called Or HaPriya, or the inner prepuce. It is not visible until after the cut. This, however, is different from the Orlah. It does not need to be removed by a Bris, but it must be folded back and pushed completely below the head of the penis, and it must stay and heal there, leaving the glans completely revealed. From a technical aspect, since the Or HaPriya is usually quite a tight membrane of skin, it must be torn open in order to remain below the glans, otherwise it's tendency is to go back up and re-cover the glans.
#2 Sterilization: The first step of any Bris is to clean the penis and to sterilize the area. This is completely painless for the baby.
The Steps of the Bris are as follows:
#1 Sandak: Before the Bris starts, the baby will be placed on the Sandak's lap, the Mohel will open the diaper and the Sandak will hold the baby's legs open. The baby might cry, but this is probably because he is uncomfortable without a diaper, cold, and most probably uncomfortable with the way the Sandak is holding his legs open.
#3 Hafrada: The second step is called Hafrada, or Probing. The Or HaPriya on a newborn is usually attached very tightly to the glans. This complicates the Bris, and to make it easier, the Mohel will stick a probe into the hole of the Orlah (not the hole of the actual penis!), and will seperate the Or HaPriya from the glans. This is somewhat uncomfortable for the baby, but it only takes a few seconds.
#4 Tfisa: At this stage, the Mohel will decide where he would like to cut, and will pull up the skin he would like to cut between his fingers, over the glans. He will then slide a Mogen (Shield) along the area where he will cut. The Mogen will protect the glans from getting cut. This part is probably the most painful part of the Bris, but it usually only takes a few seconds.
#5 Chituch: This is where the Mohel cuts the Orlah along the Mogen, and the Orlah comes off completely. There is obviously some pain, but this part literally takes less than a second.
#6 Priya: After the cut, the second layer of skin, the Or HaPriya, becomes visible. It surrounds the entire circumference of the glans. The Mohel will tear that membrane open on the dorsal side of the penis, which is the side closer to the baby's stomach. The Mohel will tear this membrane with his fingernails. This is the proper way to do the Mitzvah. After the Or HaPriya is torn open, it is much looser on the glans. It now can be folded back and pushed down all around the glans, revealing the glans completely. It is unclear how painful this is for the baby, but it should only take a few seconds.
#7 Metzitzah: This is where the Mohel will suck blood from the wound. Most Mohelim do this directly with their mouth, without a tube. The Gemora and Halacha were very insistent that this step be performed, and not doing so is life-threatening for the baby. The prevelant Minhag is to do it without a tube.
#8 Bandaging: The Mohel will bandage the wound, which performs several functions. It stops the bleeding, protects the wound, and holds the Or HaPriya below the glans so that it will heal there and not re-cover the glans. Most Mohelim dress the bandage with a liquid anesthetic, which has an immediate effect.
It is important to note that there are many techniques and ingredients that can be involved in stopping bleeding. Some of these are unhealthy and dangerous. To read more about this, read Choosing a Mohel carefully. You will find invaluable information on the matter there.