There are three traditional parts to a bris: the Milah (circumcision), the naming, and the seudat mitzvah (celebratory meal). There are certain required elements for a proper bris ceremony, yet there is ample opportunity for embellishment and creativity. I strive to make each ceremony unique and truly special. My ceremony is both traditional and enlightening with a nice blend of appropriate humor. The principle participants are introduced and the blessings are recited both in Hebrew and English. What follows below is a general overview of what may occur.
The Milah (circumcision) Ceremony
Prior to the start of the formal ceremony, I will prep the baby in a back room. This includes examining him, placing the anesthetic block, and cleansing the area. By administering the anesthetic before the ceremony, it has time to take effect.
The bris ceremony typically begins with your child being brought into the room by a honored participant called the “kavatterin” (godmother) and “kavatter” (godfather). These are purely ceremonial honors and have no religious significance. Once the child enters the room, everyone stands and says the traditional welcoming blessing “Baruch Haba” (Blessed he who enters”). The baby is then placed on the chair of Elijah.
The mohel recites a prayer honoring Elijah and reminding us of his significance.
The baby is then placed on the lap of the “sandek” which is the person responsible for watching over the baby during the circumcision procedure. This is considered to be the most honored position of the ceremony. This honor is often given to the grandfather.
The parents recite some blessings and then are asked by the mohel if they wish for him to serve as their proxy to fulfill the commandment to have their son circumcised.
The mohel then recites the blessing for the circumcision just before the cut is made.
After the circumcision is completed, the parents recite the prayer recognizing that they have fulfilled their obligation to enter their son into the covenant of Abraham.
The assembled guests recite a prayer of hope for the child expressing their desire for him to become learned of Torah and Jewish ways, to get married and procreate, and to have a life full of good deeds.
The Naming Ceremony
Once the circumcision has been completed, the naming ceremony follows. A parent holds the child and the mohel announces the child’s Hebrew name followed by the English name. The parents offer some words as to the names derivation and its personal meaning.
The Shehechayanu is recited by all those gathered.
The mohel offers the Priestly Benediction.
The ceremony concludes with the singing of “Siman Tov U’Mazel Tov”.
The Seudat Mitzvah
As the ceremony concludes, the guests are invited to partake in the celebratory meal.
Preparations Needed for the Berit Mila
Please do not feed the baby for 60 – 90 minutes before the bris. I want him to be hungry. You may feed him immediately afterwards.
1. A sturdy, waist-high table where the actual circumcision will take place. At least a 3×4 foot table is required. Card tables are not generally suitable
2. Non slippery table cloth
3. One standard sized sleeping pillow.
4. Two chairs (one for the sandek and one for Elijah the prophet).
5. Kosher grade sweet wine for Kiddush
6. A kiddush cup
7. Several disposable diapers, wipes and a plastic bag
8. Large tubes (2) of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
9. Gauze pads 4×4 inch (50)
10. Bright lamp or light
11. Infant Tylenol
1. Shabbat candles, candle holders and matches
2. Challah bread and knife
3. A tallit for the father and sandek
4. Yarlmekas for the guests
5. Camera, fresh batteries, empty memory card
6. Pictures of relations who have departed, especially those whom the baby is named after
Care of the Circumcision
The newly circumcised penis generally heals within one week. However, keep in mind that everyone heals differently.
After the circumcision I will place Vaseline on a sterile gauze pad and place it over the penis. I will inspect the site and monitor for any residual bleeding. The gauze pad with the Vaseline should be used for the first 48 hours. This helps to prevent the fresh wound from sticking to the diaper.
Afterward, apply Vaseline to the area with each diaper change. The Vaseline can be applied directly to the penis. Continue this until the site has completely healed. I recommend that the baby only receive sponge baths during this time.
During the healing process yellow patches or dried crusted blood may be seen. These patches are a type of scab and are associated with normal healing. The head or glans of the penis may appear swollen or purplish for several days. This is again part of the normal healing.
Once the penis doesn’t have yellow crusting or a red appearance it is alright to bath your baby.
If at any time there is marked swelling, tenderness, fever, pus or bad smell, please call me or your pediatrician.
It is preferable to contact Dr. Ellenbogen prior to giving birth to your son. This allows for the parents to have peace of mind that everything will be in order prior to the excitement of going to the hospital.
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