Bris Basics

Mazal Tov on the birth of your child! This is an exciting time for you and your extended family. The Bris Ceremony, or Brit Milah, will represent a significant event in the life of your child. The literal meaning is "covenant of circumcision". But the Bris represents much more than a circumcision. It is a joyous experience that represents our Covenant with G-d, a connection to our Jewish past, a celebration of the birth of your child, and the hope for a bright future. Each of these themes will be represented at your child's Bris.

It is the obligation of every Jewish father to circumcise his son, but since most are not versed in the appropriate Jewish laws or trained in circumcision, they are permitted to designate a Mohel to perform the ceremony.

A Mohel is someone who has studied the texts, laws and customs of Brit Milah and is experienced in the techniques of circumcision. A Mohel is considered so vital to a Jewish community that a scholar is forbidden to live in a community that does not have a Mohel (Sanhedrin 17b).

The Brit Milah is to occur when the infant is eight days old (with the day of birth being day number one). This mitzvah is so important that the bris itself can supersede the "laws of Shabbat" and even the holidays including Yom Kippur (presuming no laws are desecrated to attend or arrange for the bris). The ceremony can only take place during the daylight and should not be delayed for convenience. Nor can it occur before the eighth day. Only certain circumstances justify delay, such as the health of the child.

The Bris ceremony contains two parts. The first part concerns the ceremonial aspect of the Bris as well as the actual circumcision. This part lasts between 20 to 30 minutes. The act of the circumcision within the Bris is a very short period, usually two minutes or less. The second part of the service involves the baby naming. This is usually an emotional part as the parents are encouraged to talk about the person (people) that the baby is named after and the characteristics that they hope their baby will have in common with them. After the ceremony, it is customary to have a Challah for the motzi followed by the festive kosher meat meal (se-udat mitzvah) for all of your guests although some prefer dairy earlier in the day.

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