Bris Milah, or ritual circumcision, is one of the most fundamental precepts of the Jewish religion. It is referred to in the Torah as The Covenant of Abraham, since Abraham was the first to receive the commandment. More than any other Jewish ritual, Bris Milah is an expression of Jewish identity. Through the Bris, parents create with their precious son another link in the continuing chain of a people that has proudly survived over thousands of years.
The Bris of a healthy baby is done on the 8th day of life (counting the day of birth.) This is the case, even if the eighth day falls on Shabbat, Yom Kippur or any other Jewish festival. However, in the case of a baby born by c-section, the Bris is not performed on Shabbat or on a festival, but on the following day. Bris Milah may not be performed before the eighth day or at night. In the event that a baby is not in perfect health – even if not seriously ill – the Bris is delayed until both the doctor and the mohel are in agreement as to the healthy status of the baby. A common example of this is newborn jaundice. In the case of serious illness, a delay of one week after full recovery is required. The baby’s health comes first!
While the Bris ceremony has several traditional elements to it, there are many opportunities to customize the ceremony to reflect your family’s tastes, values, and personality.
This is a happy and joyous occasion that usually takes place at home, in a synagogue or catering hall. There are several honors to be conferred during the ceremony, usually given to relatives and close friends.
A couple enters with the baby and the baby is placed on a chair designated as the Chair of Elijah (that’s the Elijah of Passover fame.) The baby is then placed upon the lap of the Sandek (most often a grandfather as this is a great honor) who holds the baby during the procedure. After the appropriate blessing is recited, the circumcision is performed by the mohel.
Immediately following the Bris, another blessing is said over a cup of wine and the baby receives his official Hebrew name, which he will proudly carry throughout life. The baby is often named after departed relatives, a symbolic source of continued life for those no longer with us. This is a good time for mom and dad to explain why they chose that name for their son.
The ceremony ends with the resounding wish of “Mazel Tov” followed by, what else? Food!
There are many opportunities to customize the ceremony
to reflect your family’s tastes, values, and personality.