From the Sandek to the Mohel, from the Kvaterrin to the Seudah – there is so much to do and remember for your son’s Bris/Brit Milah. Fill in the form below and we will send you a guide to the Brit Milah ceremony!
So much to do – so little time! Here’s a 13 point “to do list” for your Brit Milah to help you out!
1. When - The brit milah is on the eighth day of your baby’s life, most often in the morning. The Jewish day begins at nightfall of the previous day. For example, if your son was born late Tuesday night, his brit will be scheduled for the Wednesday of the following week.
2. Choose a mohel - You can ask friends, approach your local synagogue or do a search on the internet. The mohel will examine the baby to make sure that he is healthy enough to undergo the brit at the required time. There may be a need for a medical opinion in case of complications which might lead to a delay until the baby is well. Often people find that the mohel is more cautious than the doctor. Every mohel has his own requirements and guidelines for what happens during the ceremony and it would be wise to be guided by him, however, if you have any questions, requests or expectations you should feel free to share them with him.
4. Where - you will need to decide where to hold the ceremony. For a large gathering you may want to have it in your synagogue or in a hall, however you can also have a more intimate ceremony in your home (and that may be easier in terms of moving your newborn around). Make sure that the room in which the bris will take place has good lighting.
5. The honors – you will need to choose the Kvaterim – a man and a woman who will bring the baby into the ceremony, and the Sandek who is like the spiritual godfather of the baby. He will hold the baby during the ceremony. This is the highest honor and is often given to one of the grandfathers.
6. Chose a Hebrew name – for more guidance on this issue read here.
7. The celebration - traditionally after the Brit Milah there is a festive meal. You may want to decorate the location, and find a caterer for your event. This festive meal is part of the commandment of the Brit therefore you should have bread or challah to give it an important meal status. Bagels, rolls and pita bread are all fine – you should say the blessing over the bread at the beginning of the meal and say Birkat HaMazon (grace after meals) at the end of the meal.
8. Letting people know – because there is not a lot of notice before a Brit, you are not expected to send out invitations – let people know by phone, emails, SMS, etc. it’s a good idea to delegate the job of letting people know to some close friends or family members.
9. Don’t forget - For the blessings during the ceremony you will need kosher wine and a kiddish cup. You may want to provide kippot (head coverings) for those who do not wear them regularly. The mohel will give you specific information about what you will need for the ceremony but as a basic guideline you will need a washcloth, some diapers, a sturdy waist-high table that won’t wobble, another table for the mohel’s instruments, a pillow, Vaseline or other petroleum jelly, disinfectant ointment (as instructed by the mohel), and some type of baby Tylenol. Dress the baby in something that can be easily pulled up above his waist and then lowered again. If your baby takes a pacifier don’t forget to bring it.
10. Something extra – a nice idea is to provide a guide or handout that will explain the ceremony to your visitors who may not be familiar with it. For a free Brit Milah handout, click here .
11. Feeding your baby - ask your Mohel what is his opinion about feeding the baby before the Brit. On the one hand it may help keep him calm, on the other hand a full stomach isn’t the best idea if he screams a lot. At the end of the ceremony when everyone goes to partake in the meal, it is a great time to calm your baby with a feed. Although guests may want to admire the baby, in reality he will often be eating or sleeping after the ceremony.
12. Sharing some meaningful thoughts – during the celebration, parents may want to make a short speech or Dvar Torah. You may want to discuss the meaning of the event, the baby’s name or tie it in to the Parsha. Drop us a line to find out about our speech and Dvar Torah writing service.
13. Aftercare -Follow your mohel’s instructions for caring for the baby in the days after the circumcision
Finally – a comforting thought – the Brit Milah ceremony is only around 15 minutes and the actual procedure is over in less than a minute. Most importantly, keep in mind that although parts of this ceremony will be difficult for you (not to mention your baby), you are connecting with a Jewish law which is close to 5000 years old. It is a joyous honor to be entering your son into the Covenant of Abraham, so try to enjoy and really live the special moment.
A copy of the Brit Milah ceremony with all the blessing translated into English can be found here.
The blessings and prayers have been translated into English, in the ceremony they are said in Hebrew and can be found in the siddur.
–The baby is brought into the room–
At the beginning of the ceremony, the mother hands the baby to the kvatterin. Everyone present stands and greets him with the words “Barukh haba” (“May he who comes here be blessed”). The kvatterin then hands the baby to the kvatter. Some people choose to give the honor of being kvatter and kvatterin to a couple who have not yet had a child.
–The sandak holds the baby–
Two chairs are prepared for the Brit. The first is for the Sandek, the individual who holds the baby on their knees during the actual circumcision. It is considered a great honor to be the Sandek because there is a Kabbalistic tradition that links the soul of the Sandek with the child. In this way, the Sandek is considered the spiritual mentor of the child. Often, one of the grandfathers is asked to serve as the Sandek.
–The chair of Eliyahu–
The second chair is set aside for the spirit of Elijah the Prophet. According to Jewish tradition, Elijah comes to every circumcision to testify before the God to the commitment of the Jewish people to this great mitzvah. During the ceremony, just prior to the Brit itself, the baby is placed on the chair of Elijah, and the Mohel recites a special prayer asking for the spirit of Elijah to stand over him as he performs the Brit.
The mohel recites: “This chair is devoted to Elijah the prophet, may his remembrance be for the good. For Your salvation I have waited, O Lord. I have hoped for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your commandments have I fulfilled. Elijah, the angel of the covenant, is before You. You stand at my right and sustain. I have hoped for Your salvation, O Lord. I rejoice at Your word, as one finds great truth in Your words. Great peace have they who love Your law; and there is no stumbling for them. Happy are they whom You choose and bring near that they may dwell in Your courts.”
The mohel recites: “The Holy One, praised be God, said to our father Abraham: ‘Walk before Me and be perfect.’ I am ready and willing to perform the precept which the Creator, source of all blessings, commanded us concerning circumcision.”
Those present respond: “May we be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holy place of Your temple.”
If a table is used, the mohel then places the child on the pillow, with the sandak assisting by holding the child’s firmly.
–The blessings of Brit Milah–
The mohel recites: “Praised be You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us by Your commandments, and commanded us concerning the rite of circumcision.”
The mohel determines the place where the cut should be made and puts a shield in place. A special knife called izmal or, more frequently now, a surgical scalpel is used. One or both parents may hand the knife to the mohel and stand beside the baby as he performs the circumcision. A sterile dressing is then applied.
The parents recite: “Praised be You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us by Your commandments and commanded us to enter our sons into the covenant of Abraham and Sarah, our ancestors.”
Those present respond: “As he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into a life of Torah, to the nuptial canopy and to good deeds.”
–Wine and Hebrew name–
After the Mohel has performed the brit, a special blessing is recited upon a cup of wine, and the baby is given his Hebrew name.
The mohel holds up a kiddush cup and recites:
Praised are You, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.
Praised are You, O Lord our God, source of all blessings, who has sanctified the well-beloved (Isaac) from the womb and has set Your statute in his flesh and has sealed his offspring with the sign of the holy covenant. Therefore, because of this, O living God, our Portion and our Rock, deliver from destruction the dearly beloved of our flesh, for the sake of the covenant You have set in our bodies. Praised are You, O Lord our God, who has made the covenant.
Our God and God of our ancestors, preserve this child to his father and to his mother and let his name be called in Israel __________ son of ________. Let the parents rejoice in their offspring, and let them be glad with their children; as it is written: “Let the father and the mother rejoice, and let them that bore this infant be glad.” And it is said: “And I passed by you, and I saw you weltering in your blood, and I said unto you: ‘In your blood you shall live.’ Yea, I said: ‘In your blood you shall live.’” (A drop or two of wine is put in the mouth of the infant.) And it is said: “God has remembered the covenant forever, the word which God commanded to yours and all generations; (the covenant) which He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a statute, to Israel for everlasting covenant.” And it is said: “And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God commanded him.” O give thanks unto the Lord; for God is good; for God’s loving-kindness endures forever. The little child, ____–____, may he become great. As he has been entered into the covenant, so may he be introduced to the study of Torah, to the nuptial canopy, and to good deeds.
The mohel then continues:
Creator of the universe. May it be Your gracious will to regard and accept this (performance of circumcision), as if I had brought this boy before Your glorious throne. And You, in Your abundant mercy, through Your holy angels, give a pure and holy heart to ___________, the son of ________, who was just now circumcised in honor of Your great Name. May his heart be wide open to comprehend Your holy Law, that he may learn and teach, keep and fulfill Your laws.
May He who blessed our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and our mothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, bless this tender infant who was circumcised, and may He grant him a perfect cure. May his parents deserve to raise him up to the study of Torah, to the nuptial canopy, and good deeds. Let us say, Amen.”
–The baby is taken out the room and a festive meal is held–
The kvatter then takes the baby from the sandak and hands him to the kvatterin, who hands him back to the mother.
It is customary to serve refreshments or a meal after the brit, and this is considered a seudat mitzvah, part of the mitzvah.
At the meal, one of the parents may choose to give a speech or dvar torah in which s/he may chose to discuss a topic from the parashat hashavua that is relevant to the occasion. They may want to share with their guests the reason why they chose the specific name, as well as their hopes for the child’s future.
After having three beautiful girls, my fourth baby was a boy. Many of my girlfriends had experienced the “trauma” of bris’ing their boys – but I hadn’t – until then…! A day before my bouncing baby boy’s big day arrived; a friend called. She gave me some unsolicited advice that turned my attitude to bris’ing my little boy on its head, and now I am burning to do you a favor and share her words with you!
She said to me simply “Tali, if you are worried about the bris – forget about it!” (“Yeah sure, easier said than done” thought I!) She then said “Tomorrow your son is becoming a Jew; this is a magnificent moment that will happen only once! Instead of losing yourself, and the precious moment to fear and anxiety, focus on the honor and privilege that you have as a parent to enter your son into a 3000 year old unbroken covenant of Abraham. Focus on your hopes and prayers for his Jewish future, focus on your gratitude to God for being able to celebrate this special day! ”
So yes, Moms out there – I did cry during my baby’s bris! And no, I can’t say that I would want to repeat the experience in a hurry! But when sympathizing friends ask me if I was nervous, and intimately reveal to me that this too was the worst day of their lives, I do not identify at all! My baby boy’s bris was a magnificent moment that I embraced with all my emotional and spiritual energy, and now it is a precious memory that I have stored away so I can refer to it in years to come!
So Moms (and Dad’s, grandparents and friends) – give it some thought – do you want to remember your son’s bris as the most traumatic event in your life, or as a crowning moment for you as a Jewish parent?
One tip: if you plan on re-framing the Bris experience, then I advise you to find somewhere quiet to think, meditate, pray or whatever, while all the well-intentioned and overly sympathetic friends and family are arriving, and ask someone special to call you to the ceremony just before it begins!
Good luck, Mazal tov – and a special thanks to Debi for all the times you have offered your unsolicited pearls of wisdom!
You’ve got a new baby and your life has turned upside down! You don’t have the time or resources to write a speech or Dvar Torah for your son’s Bris. Don’t worry you’ve come to the right place!
- Provide you with a unique and meaningful speech/Dvar Torah. We will not recycle or used pre-written speeches!
- Discuss YOUR needs with you, and write a speech which expresses what YOU want to say, based on our Jewish learning and public speaking expertise!
- Provide last minute personal speeches and Divrei Torah!
I wanted to stand up in front of my guests and give a Jewish message, but I needed help clarifying the message in my own mind. I couldn’t believe it when I read the speech that Tali wrote for me – it sounded like me speaking, and it expressed an idea that I really related to. I looked forward to giving over the speech, and got phenomenal feedback from our visitors. If you are looking to share some meaningful words on the occasion of your child’s bar mitzvah – I really recommend contacting YourJewishSpeech! (RK, Boca Raton, Fl)
If you have a Bris coming up soon, and would like to discuss your speech, please contact us through the form below:
You don’t need to feel lost with all the Hebrew words and technical terminology that will be thrown about at your son’s Brit Milah. Here’s a list of common words and phrases that you may find helpful.
Brit Milah (or bris) – circumcision, literally means “covenant of words”
- the woman who takes the baby from the mother and brings him to the ceremony
Kvater – the man who takes the baby from the kvaterin and gives it to the father
Sandek – the “god father” who holds the baby during the brit. According to tradition, his soul is connected to the baby’s.
Mohel – the person who performs the Brit.
Kiseh Shel Eliyahu – a chair that is traditionally present for Elijah the Prophet to sit on and witness the Brit
Beracha – Blessing, what the mohel recites before and after the Brit
Baruch Habah – A Phrase meaning “may the one who has entered be blessed”. This is recited by the congregation as the baby is brought into the room.
Baruch atah Adonai elohanu melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav ve’Tzivanu le’hachniso le brit shel Avraham Avinu – This is the phrase that the father recites just before the cutting in order to fulfill his commandment of giving his son a Bris. It means Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who sanctified us by Your commandments and commanded us to have our sons enter into the covenant of Abraham our father.
K’shaim she’nichnas la’brit, kain yikanais l’torah u’l'chupah u’l'ma’asim tovim – a phrase meaning “just as he entered the Brit(covenant), so he should enter the life of Torah, Huppa (canopy) and good deeds”. This is recited by the congregation after the Brit has been performed.