Monday, February 21, 2011

Convert Questions: What Does Hatafat Dam Brit Feel Like?

(Hatafat dam brit is the "drop of blood" drawn from an already-circumcised male as part of his conversion. It is the "completion" of brit milah, if you look at it as completing the original circumcision.)

This is a question that gets bantered around a lot, but no one gives an answer. I asked around and got a few answers, and maybe you want to share your knowledge/experiences in the comments! For those of you who are new to the blog, I'm female. I have no personal knowledge of this issue whatsoever.

The answers all boil down to "Not really." And usually, the anticipation was the worst part. Just like any other time you get blood drawn!

Interestingly, it was mostly described as "uncomfortable." Why? Think of getting blood drawn from a finger stick: sometimes the blood doesn't immediately come out. What do they do next? Squeeze your finger.

The other interesting answer shared that there may be two pinpricks because apparently there is an argument about where the drop of blood should come from. Therefore, don't faint if they say you have to get "stabbed" twice!

In summary, it gets built up as much scarier than it really is. If anything, it's uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing. It's certainly not anything to be afraid of. You can feel better by feeling sorry for those poor converting schmucks who have to get a full bris!


  1. LOL, I laughed at the 'squeeze your finger' bit! :D

    But truly, I'm glad I'm female. If there's one thing female converts have easier than males, it's not having to have a Brit.

  2. It doesn't hurt anymore than getting poked by a needle anywhere else. There's only more fear because it's, well, a very important body part for a man. So there's a lot of hullabaloo about nothing.

  3. I'm going through the conversion process now, and this is really one of the least of my concerns, but I'm wondering if I should make it an event, like a child's brit, you know, with lox and bagels, etc.

    1. ... You want your family to stand around watching a man stab at your... sensitive areas with a needle, while they enjoy bagles? You are a braver man than me, I will tell you that.

    2. hahaha thats funny, I don't know though... still sounds pretty painful to me... I'll just have to wait until I find out I've been blowing this thing out of proportion :P

  4. One can apply topical lidocaine about 1 hour prior to the ceremony to the area of interest. Usually the tip of a small scalpel blade is used, the "cut" is superficial, just enough to draw blood. With the lidocaine, the discomfort is none.

  5. My mohel explained that he'd say the first blessing then do the deed and say the second blessing. So i assumed the position, heard the blessing, felt him take hold, then he said the second blessing. My mind actually thought he forgot to take care of business. When I looked down to check, he was looking at the blood on the gauze and said, "that will do it".

  6. I went through the process as an adult since I was not circumcised on the 8th day of life, as tradition says, but in a hospital at one day, with no religious blessing or service. My reform rabbi said that I should get a Hatafat Dam Brit, since my father did not follow faith at the time. I decided to do this and even get a certificate. I did not know about applying lidocaine, and felt that since it was a simple light stab into the skin, it would be fine. The procedure or pain depends on the thickness of the skin in the specific area that is chosen. In my case, being apparently thick skinned where foreskin once had been, I had to be slightly cut five times before any drop of blood appeared. However, I had my male witness with me, and I was respected by both the mohel and the witness, and since they made me feel proud that I finally did it, there was no embarrassment for me. The few seconds of pain that I experienced after each attempt to draw blood was minimal, and we finally succeeded. I am not sorry that I went ahead with it, and the spiritual beauty of the moments out weighed any small pain. Real pain is when a man is not circumcised and is converting, and has two weeks of some pain after the procedure. Hatafat Dam Brit is not the trauma that some guys make it out to be, at all. The most uncomfortable part was when the Mohel uses the needed alcohol swipe, or pad. That was uncomfortable, and you feel that sensation of the rough pad more than the procedure that follows.