Mazel Tov! What an exciting and special time for your family! By partaking in a Bris & Ceremony, your newborn son becomes a celebrated member of the Jewish community. This ceremony is your baby’s first lifecycle event; a tradition that was first recorded in the Torah. Originally appearing in Genesis 17: 9-14, Abraham is commanded by God to enter into a mutual and conditional promise by the act of circumcision:
“God further said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days…Thus shall My covenant be marked in your flesh as an everlasting pact.”
We continue this sacred ritual thousands of years later, with your son serving as the newest link. This pact between the Jewish people and God is very holy and symbolic, and serves as a physical representation of this ancient mutual promise. Abraham was blessed by God; he would become the patriarch of a monotheistic nation and given land in exchange for his obedience in following this mitzvah. This covenant is remembered and honored at each Bris Milah. After Abraham circumcised himself (at ninety-nine years old, oy!) and all of the males in his household, he obeyed God’s command by circumcising his son, Isaac, on his eighth day of life. Following in Abraham’s footsteps, it is the responsibility of the father to circumcise his son. Because this is a medical procedure, the father may choose to have a Mohel perform the circumcision instead. This is where I come in!
A Mohel is a medically trained clergy member who performs the religious act of circumcision. Health permitting, the Bris takes place when the baby is eight days old. A “day” on the Jewish calendar is counted from sunset to the following sunset. For example, if the baby is born before sunset on Saturday, the eighth day falls on the following Saturday. If the baby is born after sunset on Saturday, the ceremony would take place on Sunday. The Bris is so important, if the eighth day lands on Shabbat and/or Yom Kippur, it is still performed on that day.
We conduct the Bris on the eighth day because that is what the Torah commands; however, the Torah leaves no explanation. Some scholars believe that by having the Bris on the eighth day, it would ensure that no matter what day the baby was born, he would experience the sacredness and peacefulness of Shabbat. Others interpret that this is a pact made between God and the Jewish people; therefore it is performed very early on in the child’s life and lasts a lifetime. Scientific research suggests that the baby’s blood is able to clot effectively by the eighth day of life. One cannot have a Bris Milah before the eighth day, but arrangements can be made after the eighth day for specific health and family circumstances.
It is customary to have the Bris & Ceremony in the earlier part of the day, allowing for the most amount of time to celebrate this joyous simcha! The procedure and religious ceremony takes place wherever the parents feel most comfortable, such as in their home, in the synagogue or another location where family and friends can easily gather. The ceremony is relatively short; it is participatory with several honors, reading parts, and blessings which we will discuss to make the ceremony personal and meaningful to your family.
The other essential piece of the Bris is the naming of your newborn son. He receives a Hebrew name during the ceremony, and is publicly announced and introduced to the Jewish community at this time. If you need assistance in choosing a meaningful Hebrew name, it would be my honor and pleasure to assist you with this process. At the conclusion of the ceremony, you will receive documentation of your son’s Bris in the form of a beautifully framed certificate, which includes his Hebrew name. He will also receive his very own kippah!