When do I call to schedule a Bris?
Please call immediately after your son is born. If your call is answered by voice mail, leave all numbers including home and each parent’s cell. Please do not e-mail. When your call is answered, you will be asked:
- What time of the day was the baby born?
- Was it a c-section?
- Are you flexible on time or do you have preferences?
- What is the general location where the Bris will take place?
- Who is the baby’s pediatrician?
- Name of hospital and phone number directly to the mother’s room.
- Are you affiliated with a Synagogue or Temple, if you are and plan on inviting your Rabbi, what is their availability?
How is the eighth day determined?
The day of birth is counted as the first day. Jewish days begin and end at sunset. For example, a baby born on a Sunday will have his Bris the following Sunday. A baby born on Sunday night after sunset will have his Bris the following Monday. A baby born by caesarian section on Friday night or Saturday will have his Bris the following Sunday. A baby born by caesarian section where the Bris coincides the following week with a holiday will have his Bris on the next available weekday. A Bris must be performed during daylight hours. A Bris performed at night or before the eighth day is not valid.
Must the Bris be performed on the eighth day?
If a baby is ill the Bris must to be delayed because there is nothing as important as the baby’s health. Once the physician and the Mohel agree that the baby is well, the Bris may be performed. There may be other technical considerations that could delay the Bris beyond the eighth day. I would be happy to discuss your situation with you.
Does a Bris require a minyan present?
It is nice to have a minyan at the Bris, but it is not required.
Can a Bris take place at home?
Yes. However, a Bris can take place in any setting and many do take place at a Synagogue, local community center or someone else’s home.
What happens after I schedule my Bris?
You will receive an e-mail containing detailed information about the items you need to have available for the Bris as well as selecting individuals you may choose to include. It also contains information to help you with the selection of the baby’s Hebrew name. If the Bris will take place away from home, it will provide a comprehensive list of items that you should pack to bring with you for your baby’s comfort.
I will call you when you return home several days later to discuss with you how to prepare the baby for his procedure. I will outline the ceremony in the context of your own family and offer you options to consider.
What happens before the ceremony begins?
On the day of the Bris, I will arrive 30 minutes before. We will meet to discuss the details of the ceremony; to make sure it meets with your approval. At that time, I will also examine the baby. It is very important that parents always remain in the room when the baby is examined before his Bris.
Do I have to appoint godparents?
No. Godparents are optional. In Judaism there is no specific concept of godparents. This term alludes to guardians and is not needed at the Bris. The terms Kvatter and Kvatterin are used at a Bris and are sometimes translated as Godfather and Godmother. They generally refer to the role of all the baby’s aunts and uncles and their spouses passing the baby to his Bris. It is a very nice way of being inclusive and results in no legal responsibilities to the bearers of the baby.
How much pain does a baby feel?
This is the most important and most frequently asked question of me. One that I do not take lightly as a Mohel, who is judged every day by the sounds the baby makes both during and after the circumcision. The “success” of a Mohel is generally judged in three areas: 1. The baby’s comfort during and after the circumcision; 2. The ceremony; and 3. The Pediatrician’s evaluation of the circumcision.
Many studies have been performed to try to ascertain how much pain the baby feels. These studies however reflect the clinical experience of hospital circumcisions, not those performed by a Mohel. The Mohel is a specialist, an expert at his profession. An active Mohel will possess much more experience than most doctors. A doctor will strap the baby down on a molded plastic bodyboard placed on a table, use a very painful clamp and the procedure may take up to twenty minutes or longer, depending on the ability of the individual doing the circumcision.
The approach I use is to place the baby on a pillow and not strap him down. The instrument I use to perform the circumcision is not the same instrument used by a doctor. It is much more efficient with better results. Most importantly, a procedure should never take more than 30 seconds.
There are topical creams, ointments and penile blocks that are available, but all of them have some drawbacks on a newborn. As a Mohel with the technical expertise to perform adult circumcisions, as well as infants, I have utilized these approaches at various times. There is also a variety of non-pharmacological interventions that may be used very effectively, alone or in conjunction with the other approaches for treatment of procedural pain in neonates. It is my goal to provide the most effective pain management for your baby. I am familiar with most of the studies undertaken to determine the safety and effectiveness of interventions to relieve pain associated with neonatal circumcision. I would be happy to discuss each approach with you.
What is the ceremony like?
The Bris ceremony celebrates the arrival of the newborn child into his family and community. Family members and friends from near and far join to share in the joy of this new child. It is important for me to discuss with parents before the Bris all family members that will be attending the Bris so that no one is omitted and no one is offended.
The dynamics of families vary greatly in this day and age, and I have found that parents seek guidance relating to the hierarchy of honors and roles at the Bris. This consultation is important to recognize that all generations from great grandparents to the baby’s older sibling may be included in the ceremony. We also address special sensitivities such as step-grandparents and interfaith families to make it as inclusive as possible.
Each ceremony I perform is different, just as each family and audience is different. Specialized requests are honored, such as family songs and personalized greetings and poems. Each Bris warrants an introduction and brief explanation by the Mohel or family Rabbi who is present. Family members are offered optional readings from my selection to express their gratitude for this gift of life.
The Bris continues with the baby’s aunts and uncles passing him into the room. Additionally, if you know a couple that is trying to have children, it is considered a good omen for them to be included in the passing. It is said, “for as they are gracious in entering another couple’s baby to his Bris, they merit that they will be granted the thrill and honor of bringing their own son to his Bris”.
The baby is placed on a chair known as the Throne of Elijah the Prophet. The father then presents the baby to the Sandek, a Greek word, meaning person of honor. The Sandek, who holds the baby for the circumcision, is known as the seated Sandek, and the one who holds the baby immediately after the circumcision, is known as the standing Sandek. They are the highest honors bestowed at the Bris and are usually given to the grandfathers or great grandfather. The benediction for the naming also includes prayers for the well being of the parents and the baby. The naming ceremony that immediately follows the circumcision, affords family members the opportunity to prepare comments about the departed relatives for whom the baby is named. It is fitting to speak about the personality and wonderful character traits of the departed at this time. This is a moving and poignant part of the service.
How do we select a Hebrew name?
This is a very important decision you will have to make and one that I will be happy to help you with. A name is very important, it becomes you child’s identity, and it is how he will be known to the world. In most Jewish communities, names are chosen for departed relatives or friends. In Sephardic communities, names are often chosen from the living family members. Think about one or more family members whose memory you would like to honor. If they had a Hebrew or Yiddish name that you are fond of it, it is appropriate to use that name. If it is one you do not particularly care for, I can help you translate the name into something more to your liking. If the individual did not have a Hebrew name, I can help you select a name that is similar to the baby’s English name or a name that reflects a beautiful expression or thought.
Can we name our son after a female relative?
Yes. However some minor modification is made to reflect the masculine name. Usually, we attempt to use as many of the Hebrew letters of the woman’s name in naming the baby.
Is caring for the baby after the Bris difficult?
I have been told by nurses that my after care instructions are easier to follow than those for babies that are circumcised in the hospital and brought home. After the Bris, I will explain how to care for the baby first by demonstrating what you need to do and then providing explicit written instructions to reinforce what I have told you. I am always available to answer questions, and will follow up shortly after the Bris to see how everyone is doing.
Does the Pediatrician need to see the baby after the Bris?
Follow your doctor’s schedule. He does not have to return any earlier. My goal is to hear from parents that when they do return to the Pediatrician for the next visit, the Pediatrician will say, “this must be a Henesch Bris”.
What happens if I am having twins?
If you are having a boy and girl, we can have a Bris and Baby Naming at the same time. The Baby naming is first, followed by the Bris. If you are having twin boys, the older would go first followed by his baby brother.
Will I receive documentation certifying the Bris?
Following the Bris you will receive a certificate that is universally recognized. It contains the following information relating to your son: English and Hebrew name in both Hebrew and transliterated into English, date of Birth, date of the Bris, parents name, and the name of the Sandek. This Certificate will serve as a reference for future life cycle events.