Brit Milah

1. When should the Bris (or Brit Milah Ceremony) be held and what is the 8th day rule?
A Bris is performed on the eighth day of life. The day of birth counts as the first day only if the birth occurs before sundown.  Thus, if a child is born before sundown on a Wednesday, the Bris would be held on the following Wednesday.  If the child was born after sundown on Wednesday, the Bris would be held on the following Thursday.  Notably, a Bris may be postponed for medical reasons.

2. What happens if my ceremony falls on the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday?
A Bris is of such importance that it supersedes the laws of prohibiting work on Shabbat or a Jewish holiday (including Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah).  Thus, if the 8th day of life occurs on Shabbat or a Jewish holiday, the Bris should be held on that day.  However, if a Cesarean Section delivery was performed or if there are complications regarding the baby’s health then according to Jewish law, a Bris should be postponed so that it does not fall on Shabbat or the Jewish holiday.  It is always best to consult with the Mohel or Rabbi before confirming the day of the Bris.

3. Would you perform a Bris for the son of an Interfaith couple?
Absolutely! I strive to make all parties feel as included as possible in my warm and joyous ceremony.  A Bris should be a celebration for all who attend.  Participation is welcomed and highly encouraged.

4. Do I need 10 people for the Brit Milah ceremony? 
A minyan (group of 10) is preferable, but not mandatory.

5. What should my baby wear at the bris?
An outfit that is easily raised over the baby’s waist (a gown works well).

6. What anesthesia do you use during the circumcision?
My preference is to give the baby oral sucrose solution and EMLA Cream. This topical anesthetic cream is applied 2 hours before the onset of the ceremony. This combination is very effective in minimizing the discomfort associated with the procedure.  I am more than happy to discuss various anesthesia options with parents at any time prior to the day of the ceremony.

7. What “instrument” do you use when performing the circumcision?
I have been trained to use both the Mogen and Gomco clamps when performing a circumcision. I prefer to use the Mogen clamp because it is the fastest and least traumatic way to perform a circumcision. There is minimal bleeding or discomfort experienced using this instrument.

8. What happens to the foreskin?
Traditionally, the foreskin is buried after the Bris — covered in dirt or sand. This custom may relate back to the Jews wandering in the desert for forty years.  Others believe that the soul of the individual who your son is named after will be brought back to this earth with the burial of the foreskin. Another tradition, is that the mohel gives the foreskin to the parents (after the ceremony in a sealed pouch) and they plant the foreskin in their yard under a new plant or new tree; thus symbolizing a new life that has been brought to this earth. 

9. How do we choose a Hebrew name for our baby?
It is traditional for the Hebrew name of your son to be given to him and announced at the Bris.  The Naming Ceremony is  the second part of the Bris. One custom that Jewish people follow is that Ashkenazi Jews usually name their baby after a deceased relative and Sephardic Jews name a baby after a significant living relative.  If you do not have a Hebrew name for your son, I will gladly assist you in selecting an appropriate Hebrew name.

10. Where is the Brit Milah ceremony held?
Most commonly the Brit Milah ceremony is held in people's houses, but is frequently performed in synagogues or larger rooms that are available.

11. How long does the ceremony last?
I will be in your home for approximately 1 1/2hours of which time the ceremony takes approximately 25-30 minutes.

12. How long does the actual circumcision take?
The actual circumcision takes less than 2 minutes.

13. Can we personalize the ceremony?
Yes, of course!  Parents are encouraged to personalize their ceremony.  It is an excellent way to reflect your warmth and spirituality.

14. If a Jewish child was circumcised in a hospital, does he still need a Bris?
Yes. A circumcision is not a Bris. If a baby was circumcised in the hospital on the first or second day, even if someone recited prayers and blessings, that child still needs a Bris because it took place before the eighth (or proper) day.  A traditional Bris Milah ceremony is held, but since the baby is already circumcised, a Hatafat Dam Brit is also performed. The blessings are recited and the baby is named.

15. What is a Pidyon Haben ceremony?
Pidyon Haben is a ceremony performed to redeem first-born Jewish males. According to the Torah, first-born males are obligated to a life of serving Hashem, teaching man to dedicate his very first achievements to G-d. To free them from this obligation, they must be redeemed by a Kohen at a month of age. Pidyon Haben is a short (5 to 10 minute) ceremony where the baby's father and a Kohen say special blessings, and 5 silver shekels (silver dollars) are exchanged from father to Kohen to symbolize the redemption. Baby boys who should be redeemed include all first-born Jewish males who are the first issue of their mother's womb. Excluded are those born by Cesarean Section and those born following a still-birth or late miscarriage. The ceremony can be arranged by your rabbi, or directly with a Kohen you may know.

16. How do I explain the Bris to his older sibling(s)?
I would suggest that you say that this is a ceremony where “your brother will meet with his Jewish family and relatives.  All Jewish boys have a Bris on the 8th day of life.”  There is also a wonderful book entitled "Rosie and the Mole. The Story of a Bris."  It explains the Bris ceremony in words and pictures that children from ages 2 to 15 should enjoy. It is available through Amazon.com.  The authors are Judy Silverman and Katherine Janus Kahn.

17. When should we announce the Bris date and time?
WAIT until we have spoken and agreed upon a specific date and time. Also it is best not to announce the Bris until the baby has been examined by the Pediatrician and cleared for discharge. Sometimes babies will develop jaundice and or mild temperature elevations prior to discharge from the hospital that may postpone the Bris.

18. What is a brit milah l’shem gerut?

This is a bris for the ‘sake of conversion.’

The ceremony is very similar to a traditional bris with the addition of a few prayers that is part of a process to convert the baby at the time of the bris. It is performed in the case when the mother of the baby is not Jewish or underwent a non-orthodox conversion (prior to the birth of her child) or in the case of adoptive parents. It should be noted that the standards of conversion between the Conservative, Orthodox, Reform and Reconstructionist are very different and subject to many interpretations. Please speak with your Rabbi regarding this matter.

19. How do We Prepare for the Ceremony?
* First, please complete the Brit Checklist and send it to me.  It is a series of questions that permit us to design a Bris ceremony that is inclusive and reflects the parent’s individuality.

* Second, gather your thoughts together regarding how you’d like to make this occasion special.

    * Any family or friends who you would like to participate should be given their honors ahead of time. This would include the Sandak (usually the grandfathers) and the kvatter/kvatterin  who will bring the baby into the room.

    * I will need one (1) sturdy, medium sized table for the circumcision. It’s a nice touch to enhance the front of the table with family objects, providing not only an attractive setting but also a bit of privacy for your son during the Bris. I suggest a table cover (a table cloth or family chuppah), family photos (especially of namesakes or special old relatives), a small vase of flowers and Kiddush cups are family treasures that many parents have used in the past.

    * A sturdy chair will need to be placed next to the table to serve as kisei shel Eliyahu...the chair of Elijah.

    * Finalize the baby’s Hebrew name (I will also need both parents’ Hebrew names...if you don’t know them, please refer to your ketuba).

    19. What Should We Do The Day of the Ceremony?
    * Feed the baby 30 minutes before the ceremony.

    * Apply the EMLA Cream (prescription only) to the foreskin 1 hour before the onset of the ceremony. Wrap the penis in cellophane wrap so that the diaper does not absorb this topical anesthetic agent.

    * Dress the baby comfortably...no long pants.

    * Have people with honors arrive a bit earlier than the other guests.

    * Disconnect house and mobile phones during the ceremony.

    * Place "Ceremony in Progress. Please enter quietly" sign on the door.

    * Prepare an extra bottle of breast milk or formula available for the baby during ceremony if needed.

    * Let guests know that the ceremony will start on time...your son will appreciate everyone being timely!

    * I will arrive 30-40 minutes prior to the scheduled time. During this time I will examine the baby and review the roles of any honored guests and the prayers that you as parents will recite (these can be read in either Hebrew or English).

    * Following the ceremony I will examine the baby again, and answer any final questions that you may have.

    20. Does insurance cover your fee?
    * Please understand that my services are for a Bris Milah ceremony only. Insurance plans do not cover the fee for a Bris Milah ceremony or a Ritual Circumcision. Therefore, a receipt for these services will not be issued.

    The Bris Milah Ceremony is a wonderful beginning for a newborn child. It is a memorable experience, filled with significance and meaning for all those involved. We pray that this will be the first of many happy occasions to be joyously celebrated during your child’s life.

 

It would be my honor to attend your son’s Brit Milah.

*****

Dr. Richard I. Roberts - Certifed Mohel
TheRoyalMohel.Com
Cell: 516.455.2374