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Circumcision Customs

Circumcision Customs

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JEWISH CIRCUMCISION CUSTOMS

    1) It is customary to make a small party the Friday night after a baby is born. This is called a Sholom Zochor, which means we wish blessings of peace to the male child. (The blessing of peace is an all-inclusive blessing.) We also celebrate and thank Hashem for the baby’s successful entrance to this world. This celebration is held on Shabbos in order to honor the first Shabbos of the newborn baby. As the Medrash says, "The king decreed, let no one bring an offering to me, (the circumcision on the eighth day) unless you first pass my Shabbos." An additional reason is to comfort the baby, who is considered a mourner, because of the Torah he forgets upon his birth.

       2) The night before the Bris is called the "Vach Nacht" - the night of watching. Special portions of Torah are studied and children are brought to recite the "Shma" and "Hamaloch Hagoal" near the baby. (The children are rewarded with sweets.)

       3) On the morning of the Bris, Tachanun prayers are omitted. Even if only the Mohel, or the Sandek, or the father of the baby is present, and the Bris will take place elsewhere, we omit Tachanun.

       4) Some have the custom to perform the Bris before the Olainu Prayer, and not to remove the Tefilin before the Bris.

       5) In some places it is customary for the Mohel to lead the morning prayers on the day of the Bris, based on the passage, ”The praises of Hashem are in their throat and a two-edged sword in their hand" (Tehillim 149:6). This refers to the Milah knife which is made sharp on both sides of the blade. This symbolizes the two aspects of service to Hashem: thought and speech, and deed. (The Mohel does not take preference over a mourner).

       6) As the child is brought in, the Mohel announces Boruch Habo; Blessed is the one who is entering. (This alludes also to Eliyohu the Prophet.) At this point all those present rise and remain standing.

       7) Everyone should stand during a Bris Milah except the Sandek, who holds the baby on his lap.

       8) If possible, we try to have a Minyan (a minimum of ten men) at a Bris. (There are two reasons for this, 1 - in order to publicize the Mitzvah, and 2 - the baby is considered as one who has been released from prison who must thank Hashem in public. We therefore recite the phrase "Hodu" at the Bris. ("Praise (or thank) Hashem for He is good, His kindness is forever".) (Chochmas Odom 149:21)

       9) When the child is brought in, it is customary for a husband and wife to participate in this procedure. They are called Kvater and Kvaterin from the word Ketores (incense). The woman brings the baby to the doorway on a pillow and then the husband brings him in to the Mohel.

      10) It is customary to set aside a chair for Eliyohu the Prophet who is called the Angel of the Bris. He attained this honorable position due to his zeal in upholding this great Mitzvah. Hashem therefore promised him that he would be present at every Bris. When this chair is used, we announce "this chair is for Eliyohu Hanovi."

      11) It is desirable to perform as the Sandek, to hold the baby on one's lap during the circumcision, because it is a fulfillment of the passage "All my bones shall say: Hashem, who is like you?" (Tehillim 35:10). This refers to using all one’s limbs to serve the Creator. The Medrash says that King Dovid said that he used his knees to hold babies for circumcision. It is considered like one who builds a Mizbeach (Altar) and offers incense for Hashem.

       12) We consider the position of Sandek more honorable than that of Mohel, giving the Sandek preference in being called up to the Torah.

       13) It is customary for a father to use a different Sandek for each one of his sons.

       14) It is customary to make a festive meal in honor of the occasion of the Bris, inviting at least a Minyan, and this is considered a Seudas Mitzvah. We celebrate joyously this happy occasion that we have merited to celebrate this great Mitzvah. (Some have a 'fleshiga' (meat) meal with meat and wine)

       15) We recite the Harachaman of Brit Mila.

        16) At a Brit Mila we say, "Just as he has entered into the Covenant so may he enter into Torah, into marriage and into good deeds".

       17) The Medrash states that all those who partake of the meal at a Bris are to be saved from Gehinom. (Tosafos, Psochim 114A) Those who refuse to participate are considered ostracized by Heaven unless they have valid reasons for abstaining. We do not, therefore, formally invite people to participate. Instead we merely announce that the Bris Meal will take place at such a time.

      18) Immediately after the bris it is our custom to make an advance payment on tuition fees for the boy's Jewish studies.

        19) After your son has been named, register him for a letter in the Children's Torah Scroll. This is also a good opportunity to register siblings or other children under Bar or Bat Mitzvah. For more on the International Torah for Jewish children click here.

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