History of Brit Milah


History of Brit Milah


The sacred practice of traditional circumcision was first performed by the Jewish Patriarch Abraham, and the tradition has continued in every generation of the Jewish people. The Torah states that the Brit Milah ceremony is to take place on the eighth day of life. The Torah does not explain why the eighth day was chosen, so we follow it as a matter of great faith. The ceremony takes place even if that day falls on the Sabbath or a holiday, including Yom Kippur. The only reason the ritual would not be performed on that day is if the child is ill or too weak to safely undergo the procedure. In which case, the Mohel and family physician work together to determine the earliest date that is safe for the child to undergo the ceremony.

The word Bris (or Brit) literally translated to covenant. The Brit Milah ceremony reaffirms the original covenant between G-d and Abraham, our forefather, over 3,500 years ago. The reason we perform this ceremony, for the Jewish people, has nothing to do with health or medical reasons. It is the sign of the covenant and it identifies one as a member of the Jewish people. The Torah places the primary obligation of performing the traditional circumcision on the baby's father. However, he may delegate a qualified Mohel to be his agent to perform the Bris.

The Brit Milah Ceremony

The Brit Milah Ceremony

A Bris is a beautiful religious life cycle event, the baby's Jewish name is announced and a festive meal is served following the ceremony.

A minyan is not required for a Bris. The only people who are required to be present are the father, Mohel, and a sandek - the person who holds the baby while the circumcision is performed. The baby is placed on a specially designated chair called the Chair of Elijah. We welcome Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) as a guest of honor at all Bris's. He is called the "Angel of the Covenant" and is considered the guardian of all the children. According to Jewish tradition, Elijah will someday announce the coming of the Messiah.

The Brit Milah ceremony is composed of three main parts:

  1. Blessing and Circumcision - We welcome the baby to the Brit Milah ceremony with the same words that we welcome a groom to the wedding canopy: Baruch HaBah!

  2. Kiddush & Naming

  3. Seudat Mitzvah - It is customary to explain for whom the baby was named and to offer a few words of Torah in honor of the Bris.

Some Bris honors include:

  • Gefaterin (God mother)

  • Gefater (God father)

  • Kiseh Shel Eliyahu (Chair of Elijah)

  • Sandek (holds baby during Bris)

  • Standing Sandek (holds baby during brochos and naming of baby)

  • The brochos and naming of the baby is usually reserved for the Rabbi

The ceremony is brief and lasts about ten minutes. The actual Bris takes approximately thirty seconds and should never take any longer than that. At a traditional Bris, the baby is placed on a double pillow on the lap of the Sandak, not on a table or strapped down. A Mohel is obligated by Jewish law not to do anything that increases the discomfort or difficulty to the baby. Conversely, the Mohel must have the quickest, most gentle and most compassionate way to perform the Bris. 


After the Bris

After the Bris

Please schedule the baby’s feedings so that he will be ready for a feeding after the Bris. Instructions for the care of the baby after his Bris will be given to you by Rabbi Dr. Friedman on the day of the Bris.

It is recommended to contact Rabbi Dr. Friedman the day before the Bris. Please also do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns at any point in the process.

Before the Bris

  • Please finish feeding your baby 1.5 hours before the bris.

  • Please arrive at shul with the baby 30 minutes before the bris and please start feeding him the sugar water from the bris bag.

  • Please bring with you to the bris:

  1. Bottle of sweet red kosher wine, non-carbonated with a twist-off cap (Manischewitz, Kedem, etc.)

  2. Kiddush cup.

  3. Two pillows.

  4. Vaseline, large tub.