Mazel tov on your baby boy!
One of the most important and sacred mitzvos (commandments) is the circumcision of every Jewish male. Your baby’s bris milah is more than the circumcision procedure; it’s a symbol of him joining the special relationship between G-d – Hashem – and the Jewish nation.
The mitzvah of Bris Milah was first given to our forefather Abraham – Avraham Avinu. Translated as the Covenant of Circumcision, it is a sign of the unique connection we have with Hashem. Avraham promised to teach his descendants to serve Hashem, and Hashem vowed to Avraham that as long as there are people in the world, the Jewish nation will live on. The mitzvah of the bris milah is the physical manifestation of the agreement. Avraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised, and his son Yitzchak, our forefather Isaac, was the first to receive his bris milah at eight days old as commanded.
When is the Bris Performed?
On a healthy baby boy, the bris should be performed when he is eight days old. The day the baby is born counts as day one and the days go according to the Jewish lunar calendar. Therefore, if the baby was born on Sunday before sundown, his bris should be performed the following Sunday, on the eighth day. If the baby was born after sundown on Sunday evening, it is considered Monday according to the Jewish calendar and the bris should take place the following Monday.
An experienced Mohel will check the baby a few days before the bris to ensure that he is cleared for the circumcision. If the baby’s doctor or the mohel thinks that the baby is not ready to undergo the bris, it will be delayed until he is ready. If the baby is unwell, premature, too small, has high bilirubin levels, or has other medical issues, the bris may be delayed until the baby is well. Once the baby is well, the bris should be performed as soon as possible.
Although we perform the bris on the baby when he is eight days old because that is our commandment, studies have shown that on a baby’s eighth day of life, his blood clotting is at its peak level which helps speed up the recovery time. It’s inspiring to get a glimpse of the meaning behind the details of the Torah.
The Bris Ceremony
When a boy receives his bris milah, he is carrying on the chain of the Jewish nation. It is a time of pride and celebration and family and friends are commonly invited to attend. At the bris milah ceremony, the baby is circumcised and receives his Jewish name. It is customary to serve a celebratory meal after the bris.
The mitzvah of bris milah was actually given to every father to circumcise his son, but it can be performed by an experienced and trained mohel.
Some families have the tradition to give out honors during the bris ceremony.
● Kvater – Brings the baby out to the ceremony
It is considered an honor to be the one to carry the baby out to the mohel. Many people
dress the baby in white and carry him out on a pillow. The honor is given to a couple,
often the baby’s grandparents, close relatives, or to a couple who wants to have
children, as it is believed to bring the good fortune of children.
● Kisei Eliyahu – Elija the Prophet’s chair
Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet, attends the circumcision of every Jewish boy. It is traditional to reserve a chair for Elijah and it is an honor to be the one to place the baby on Elijah’s chair before the bris.
● Sandek – Holds the baby on his lap during the circumcision
The honor of holding the baby on his lap during the bris is considered to be the greatest honor of the ceremony. It is often given to the Rabbi or the baby’s grandfather.
● Standing Sandek – Holds the baby during the blessings and the naming ceremony
After the circumcision, the baby is held while the blessings are recited and he receives his Jewish name.
● Blessings and naming the baby
An honor is accorded to someone to recite the blessings during the bris and to hold the baby when his name is announced.
The Bris Milah
Before the Bris, the Mohel will discuss with you what to expect and if there’s anything you will need to bring.
You will usually be asked not to feed the baby for an hour before the bris and to dress the baby in an easy-accessible outfit, such as a tunic or gown, or a two-piece outfit with separate pants.
The Mohel will check the baby before the bris, and prepare him for the circumcision.
The Mohel, who performs the bris milah, is highly trained and skilled. All of the tools are sterile and the circumcision itself is very quick. As part of the mitzvah, the Mohel will suction the blood from the incision site. The baby is then bandaged, the blessings are recited, and the baby will receive his Jewish name and be welcomed into the Jewish nation.
Mazel tov! To quote one of the blessings at the bris, “Just as he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah, marriage, and good deeds.”
May he grow up to give you lots of nachas and make you proud.