Jewish Bris Ceremony: All You Need to Know
The Jewish Bris ceremony is a significant religious event that symbolizes the covenant between God and Abraham. It involves the circumcision of a baby boy and the naming of the child in accordance with Jewish tradition. Ideally, a "minyan" a quorum of ten men over the age of 13 should be present for a Brit, although this is not a pre-requisite.
The bris ceremony has many customs and practices that are unique to different Jewish communities around the world. In this article, we will delve into the details of the ceremony and provide you with everything you need to know.
The circumcision is the first part of the Jewish Bris Ceremony. It involves the removal of the foreskin from the penis of a newborn male. This is typically performed by a trained professional called a Mohel. The procedure is done with great care and precision, and there are specific guidelines that must be followed to ensure the health and safety of the baby.
After the circumcision, the baby is given his Hebrew name. This is a significant moment in the ceremony, as the baby's name is believed to have a powerful impact on his life.
Holding the Baby and Honors
During the bris ceremony, family and friends are invited to participate by holding the baby at various stages of the ceremony. The baby is brought into the room by the kvatter and kvatterin, who are considered the godparents by many. It is customary to have two chairs set up for the ceremony: one for the Sandek and the other for the spirit of Elijah the Prophet.
The Sandek is the person who holds the baby on their knees during the circumcision. The lap of the Sandek is considered as the altar of the Temple itself, and it is a great honor to be the Sandek. In many instances, one of the grandfathers serves as the Sandek. According to Kabbalistic tradition, the soul of the Sandek is linked to the child, making the Sandek the spiritual mentor of the child.
Elijah the Prophet
The second chair is dedicated to the spirit of Elijah the Prophet, who according to Jewish tradition, comes to every circumcision to testify before God of the Jewish people's commitment to this great mitzvah throughout the generations. During the ceremony, just before the circumcision, 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.
Food and Drink
A festive meal is typically served after the Bris Milah. This is known as the "seudat mitzvah", part of the mitzvah. (Obviously all food served should be kosher). And it is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate.
The Ceremony Begins with a Procession
The ceremony starts with a procession led by a couple known as kvatter and kvatterin, who escort the baby into the room where the bris will take place. This couple holds a special honor of bringing the baby into the ceremony.
The Father Hands the Baby to the Honoree
The Dedication and Circumcision
The honoree places the baby over the chair of Elijah while the mohel recites the dedication. Then, the baby is returned to the father by the honoree, who takes the baby from the Throne of Elijah. The baby is then placed on the Sandek's lap, where the bris will take place. The Sandek, a person honored with holding the baby during the circumcision, holds the baby while the mohel performs the circumcision.
The Blessings and Naming
After the circumcision, the baby is swaddled and given to the Sandek Me'umad, the person honored with holding the baby during the blessings and naming ceremony. The person reciting the blessings and naming the baby holds a cup of wine during the recitation.
The Naming is Concluded
Once the naming is concluded, the baby is escorted back to the mother by the original couple kvatter and kvatterin. At this point, the baby can be fed, which is usually very calming and soothing for the baby. The ceremony concludes with the singing of Siman Tov u' Mazal Tov or cheerful congratulations.
The bris is traditionally followed by refreshments or a celebratory meal known as Se'udas Mitzvah. This meal is an opportunity for family and friends to come together and celebrate the new baby's arrival into the Jewish community.
The Jewish Bris Ceremony is a sacred and significant moment in Jewish culture, marking a baby boy's entrance into the Jewish covenant. This article has highlighted the key moments of the ceremony, from the procession to the circumcision, blessings, and naming, and Se'udas Mitzvah. While the bris ceremony is a tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years, its meaning and significance continue to hold true in Jewish communities worldwide. If you are unsure of your custom, then do ask the Mohel or your local Rabbi, as they will be happy to guide you through the process.