'Hey Dad! What’s A Moyel?'

By Larry Centor

Published by
 The Jewish Magazine, August 2011
The New York Times ['Health'/Comment/Condensed], August 27, 2011

[For Gabe]

So there I was – at my first double circumcision. I say “my,” but you know better. It was really “theirs” – the seven-day-old twins. I was just an invited observer. And I’m thinking this is the 21st century. We live in a nation without sand dunes, scarcely a camel – and few tangible signs from the omnipotent idea many of us regard as a Supreme Being.

People entered the synagogue, greeted people they knew, congratulated the parents – “Mazel tov! Mazel tov!” Have to say it twice – twins, you know. They glanced at the babies, muttered platitudes like, “They’re beautiful,” “How much do they weigh?” and “Tcch, tcch,” and of course the occasional “Bugga, bugga.”

Which all may be beside the point. I was thinking. I may even have been in a bit of sympathetic pain. So I got to thinking.

Imagine, if you will, if a baby could speak, then we might have an imaginary conversation between a four-day-old male Jewish baby and his father that goes something like...

“Dad, what’s a moyel?”

“What?” thinks Dad. “How am I going to answer that? What if he panics?” Then he rationalizes.

“What can he do? He’s 7-1/2 pounds, and wearing a diaper.” Just a little “poop” humor there. “Really, how am I going to handle this first delicate father and son, man to infant – make that man to ‘as yet un-moyeled’ infant – conversation?"

“Where did you hear that word?”



The boy-child with as yet no name responds, “There were so many people those first few hours. It could have been anyone.” He pauses. “But there was definitely a Bronx accent involved.”


“’Moyel’ first. Then you can explain ‘Zedda.’”

“Wait a sec. How did you know it was a Bronx accent?”

“That’s another story. I’ll tell you about it later – after I find out what a moyel is, and then a zedda.”

“Not a zedda. That was your Zedda.”

“You’re stalling!”

“You’re right!”

“Moyel, Dad! What’s a moyel?”

“Maybe I should start at the beginning.”

“I am at the beginning – my beginning. What’s a moyel?”

“The Bible tells us...”

“What’s a Bible? Forget I asked. WHAT’S A MOYEL?”

“Calm down. You’re getting excited. You’ll have an accident.”

“Of course, I’ll have an accident. I’ll have a lot of accidents. I’m four days old. WHAT’S A MOYEL?”

“In the Bible, Abraham...”



“I’m not Abe! For God’s sake, WHAT’S A MOYEL?”

“I’m getting to that.”

“Get to it faster!”

“A moyel is someone who circumcises young Jewish male babies. Satisfied?”

“That’s a big help. ‘Young’ and ‘babies’ I understand. What’s ‘Jewish’? What’s ‘male’? And – God help me – what’s ‘circumcises’?”

“You and I are male. Mom’s female. There are differences.”


“Well, females – girls – like Mommy, are mommies. Males – boys, like you and me – are daddies. At least most of the time.”

“Are you kidding me? I’m a baby – a ‘boy’ baby. I had that figured.”

“You’re also Jewish. Don’t interrupt. ‘Jewish’ means your family – Mommy, me, most of your relatives – are Jewish. Don’t interrupt! And all Jewish males have to be circumcised when they’re one week old. In your, case that’s on Tuesday, July 12.”


“The moyel is the Jewish rabbi who snips off a tiny piece of your weenie.”


Dad thinks, near panicking himself, “I have to calm him down. He just pooped again. And he’s squirming all around. He really seems upset.” Then he thinks, “Maybe the thought of it is frightening,” And he unconsciously clenches his knees together.

“I’ve decided I don’t want to be Jewish!”

“You have no choice. You’re just a baby. A boy baby. And a handsome one at that.”

“Yeah? Well I don’t want to lose part of my handsome. I think I’ll convert to – let’s see – I’ll convert to vegan.”

“Vegan isn’t a religion. It’s a lifestyle.”

“It’ll be my religion. When I’m able to eat meat, I’ll convert to something else.”

“It doesn’t work like that. You don’t have a choice. You just have to trust me. And besides, you’ll be fershnickered.”


“That means you’ll be given a little bit of wine, so you won’t feel anything.”

“Wine. What’s ‘wine’?’ Is he going to pour it on my weenie? You want whine, I’ll give you whine. I’ll give you whine,and holler – and scream. I’ll pish on the moyel. I promise. I’ll get him good. I’m a good pisher.”

“Wine is something to drink. It’ll make you feel – well, fuzzy – fershnickered!”

“This really doesn’t sound good, not good at all.”

“I know you don’t think so, but this is special occasion....”

“Oh boy, is it ever special. I get to be deweenied. Are you deweenied, Dad?”

“Yes, but I have no memory of it, probably because I was...”



“He’s not going to circumcise my nads, is he Dad?”

“No. You’re nads’ll be fine.”

“Thank God for small favors – no pun intended. Dad?”

“Yes, son.”

“Tell Mom I’m hungry. And...”


“I’m gonna poop again.”

                                                                                                                               © Larry Centor 2011