Mazel Tov! This is such a happy and special time for you and your new family. By partaking in the mitzvah of Berit Milah, your new son becomes a celebrated member of the Jewish community. This ceremony is a tradition that was first recorded in the Torah, originally appearing in Genesis 17: 9-14 — Abraham is commanded by G-d to enter into a mutual and conditional promise by the act of circumcision:
“G-d 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 G-d is very holy and symbolic, and serves as a physical representation of the ancient mutual promise first established through Abraham by G-d. Abraham was blessed by G-d; 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 Berit Milah. After Abraham circumcised himself (at ninety-nine years old!) and all of the males in his household, he followed G-d’s command by circumcising his son Isaac when he was eight days old. Today we follow Abraham’s example, as it is the father’s responsibility to circumcise his son, although he may choose to have a Mohel perform the circumcision instead of himself!
A Mohel is a medically trained clergy member who performs the religious act of circumcision. Health permitting, the Berit Milah takes place on the baby’s eighth day of life. The “day” 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 Berit Milah is so important, that if it falls on the 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 does not explain why. 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 G-d and the Jewish people, therefore it is performed very early on in the child’s life, a sign of the covenant marked in flesh that will last a lifetime. Scientific research suggests that the baby’s blood is able to clot effectively by the eighth day of life. For whatever the reason may be, one cannot perform a Berit Milah before the eighth day.
It is customary to have the Bris 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 the synagogue, their home, or another location where friends and family can easily gather. The ceremony is relatively short; it is participatory with several honors, reading parts, and blessings which we will discuss in length to make the ceremony personal and meaningful to your family.
The other essential piece of the Berit Milah is the naming of your newborn son. He receives a Hebrew name, and is publicly announced and introduced to the Jewish community at this time. If you need assistance with 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 Berit Milah in the form of a beautifully framed certificate.