The Brit Milah (Bris): What You Need to Know

Brit milah, also referred to as bris, is a circumcision ceremony that is an important part of Jewish tradition. Seen as a way to connect families with previous generations, the ritual symbolizes the relationship a male has with God. While other partnerships he has in life may not last, this relationship is treated as a covenant.

The actual circumcision on the physical body acts as a reminder of the most important partnership of all. This is also something that will last throughout the person’s lifetime. Whether you’ve just had a baby boy and need to plan this religious event or are simply curious to learn more, here is everything you need to know about the brit milah (bris).

When to have the brit milah?

A common way to celebrate the newborn baby boy’s arrival into the world, the brit milah occurs once the baby reaches their eighth day of life. During the event, the foreskin of the baby boy’s penis is removed. It is seen as a way to create perfection in an incomplete world that God created. Signifying the completion of the body, the circumcision involves a number of rituals, prayers, and traditions.

According to the Jewish tradition, the mitzvah takes place early in the day. After the mohel examines the baby, he decides whether the baby is healthy enough to go on with the procedure. In cases where the baby boy’s health does not allow for the event to take place on the eighth day, the bris is then postponed.

Where do you have the brit milah?

When it comes to the actual location of the event, the rules aren’t that strict. In fact, this is something parents of the baby boy have some control over. Usually, the bris ceremony will take place during the morning service while at the synagogue. This is according to Jewish tradition and a preferable way to have the brit milah.

However, some parents may decide to hold the ceremony elsewhere. Sometimes, the event will take place at the house of the baby boy’s grandparents. This is much more comfortable and far less complicated for the parents and the baby since you won’t be moving your baby around a lot. Other times, the event may even take place at the hospital. This is the practice in cases where there are health complications but the parents don’t want to postpone brit milah.

How do you find a mohel?

After choosing the location and the timing of the event, you want to give some thought to finding a mohel. This is the person who will perform the circumcision. In Orthodox Judaism, the mohel has to be male.

Whether you go for a full-time mohel or an MD who is trained to be a mohel is completely up to you. What’s important is that the person you choose for a mohel is qualified for this procedure according to Jewish laws. Given the many options you have, you can opt for a local mohel, find one online, or ask for recommendations. Just be sure to read up on post-circumcision care before the ceremony so you can help your newborn boy heal.

How do you plan the brit milah?

While not all Jewish boys’ parents decide to have the brit milah, those who do need to do a lot of planning and organizing. First, you need to prepare the venue for the event, be it a house or a synagogue. Consider the decorations you’re going to use, as well as the dress code that needs to be followed. Some may want to wear kippot at the event, so consider providing the head coverings as well. 

Think about the child’s attire, too – go for something that’s celebratory and easy to remove. You’ll also need to decide on the photographer as well as the food to serve at a bris. At minimum, you’ll need some kosher wine, a loaf of challah, along with a kiddush cup.

What does brit milah look like?

When it comes to the actual event, it lasts for 15 minutes, after which the baby gets a Hebrew name. The parents choose the name, and oftentimes, they will say a few words about it. The mohel will recite a blessing prior to the circumcision, while the father/parents take on this role during the event.

The guests will then join in, and after that, the mohel will finalize the ceremony. They’ll do so by saying prayers for the baby and blessing the cup of wine for the father/parents to drink. The ceremony is then followed by a festive meal as a way to celebrate the newly circumcised baby boy.

Wrapping up

For parents who choose the traditional path and decide to have the bris, this can be an amazing celebratory experience. With strategic planning and organizing, you will be able to throw a memorable feast that you and your family will surely remember for years to come.

Taylor Parker is an American based writer and blogger. She is very passionate about family, fashion, health, and lifestyle. Taylor writes mostly lifestyle articles, but also you’ll find her in home improvement and other niches.