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The Bris Ceremony

The bris will be a memorable event for you and your family.

The main element of a bris–also called a brit milah–is the removal of the foreskin from an eight-day-old baby boy’s penis. But a bris is actually more than just a snip; it is a ceremony that includes various traditions, rituals, and prayers. Here’s a rundown of the main events.

Welcoming the Baby

Before the ceremony, the baby is usually placed on a large pillow and carried into the room where the circumcision will take place. In some families and communities it is considered a great honor to carry a baby to his bris, and parents choose someone (or more than one person) special in their lives for this job.

The baby is handed to the sandek, which is the name given to the person who holds the baby during the circumcision. This is often one of the baby’s grandfathers, but parents can also choose to honor other people with the role.

When the baby arrives, the mohel–a professional specially trained in circumcision–welcomes him with the words: Baruch Ha-Ba. This means “blessed is the one who has arrived.”

The Procedure

Before the circumcision, the mohel recites a blessing acknowledging that the mitzvah (commandment) of circumcision is about to be fulfilled.

The mohel uses a shield to protect the penis and to guide the knife to make sure only the foreskin is cut. There are different kinds of shields, some tighter than others. Some mohalim (plural for mohel) use a tighter shield that functions like a clamp, which they believe eases the baby’s pain. Jewish legal authorities debate the permissibility of these different shields. The general concern is the act of circumcision must immediately draw blood; some tight shields delay blood flow.

Similarly, Jewish legal authorities debate the use of local anesthetic. Mohalim who do not use anesthetic give the baby sugar water or wine as a mild form of sedation. When choosing a mohel, it is worthwhile to ask what his policies are regarding clamps and anesthetic.

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