Procedure of the Ceremony
The baby’s father, mohel, and sandak wrap themselves in their tallits, and stand on the platform, where the brit will take place. If the brit takes place right after Shacharit and is not on Shabbat, the baby’s father will also be wearing his tefillin. The mother of the baby carries the baby, on the brit pillow, to the place of the ceremony, and places him in the hands of the kvaters. The kvaters pass him, on the pillow, one to another, and finally to the baby’s father. The father remains on the platform throughout the entire brit, during the course of which, he will recite aloud various verses. The baby’s mother does not have any official role during the ceremony, except for her initial carrying of the baby, and the recitation of birkat hagomel. Thus, it is left to her discretion whether to stand next to the mohel and her husband during the brit or whether to stand with the rest of the guests.
The brit begins with the recitation of various verses, which mention brit in scripture or relate to belief in and gratitude to God, and prayers for redemption and success. The guests assembled recite the first few verses as a way of welcoming the baby to the ceremony. The father then recites other verses, including ‘Shema’, while carrying the baby in his hands. The baby (on the pillow) is then placed on the knees of the sandak, who is sitting on the Chair of Elijah. The mohel, while reciting the next group of verses, removes the baby’s lower garments, wraps him in a cloth diaper and prepares him for the brit. Though a baby will often cry already during this stage, in actuality this undressing and diapering is no different or more painful for him than usual.
There are several steps to the circumcision process: removal of the foreskin, ‘periah’ – moving aside the remaining skin, and hatafat dam brit (metzizah- drawing out the blood), which the mohel does with his mouth, a test tube, or another sterile tube. After the completion of each of these few-second steps, the mohel soothes the baby with a pacifier, a finger, or gauze pad dipped in wine and wraps or bandages the place of the circumcision. The mohel places the foreskin in a jar with sand, which he buries in the ground, after the brit. After the physical circumcision, other verses are recited, and the child is given his name.
Nusach of the ceremony
Though the brit milah procedure is uniform, Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Yemenite traditions reflect different variations of the texts recited at the ceremony. The two main traditions appear in this booklet, though in their shortest forms. Some mohels may add certain psalms, piyuts (hymns), and other prayers, and you and your family members may also add a personal touch to the brit.
Click here for the ceremony in Nusach Ashkenaz and Sefard Achid (Hebrew)
Click here for the ceremony in Nusach Edut Mizrach (Hebrew)
Speeches and Thank You’s
After the brit and during the course of the meal, the baby’s parents, relatives or friends usually deliver a few words of welcome and thanks. One may speak about Torah or poetry and literature, which relate to the brit, the parsha, the birth itself and being a parent, or to the baby’s new name.
The infant’s mother – Birkat Hagomel
Birkat Hagomel is a blessing that a person recites after emerging safely from certain perilous situations: eg. Crossing a sea, traveling through a desert, recovering from an illness, or being released from jail. This bracha was established in place of the Thanksgiving sacrifice that was offered in the Temple, and its purpose is to express one’s feelings of gratitude for one’s recovery or rescue, as it is written in Psalms 107:8: “Praise the Lord for His beneficence, and for His miracles for man.” As birth is considered potentially dangerous to the mother and child, Jewish tradition requires a new mother to recite birkat hagomel. The woman may recite birkat hagomel anywhere a minyan (ten men above the age of thirteen) is assembled.
The new mother: Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe who bestows goodness upon the accountable, who has bestowed every goodness upon me.
Congregation: Amen, He who has bestowed goodness upon you, may He bestow every goodness upon you forever
יולדת: בָּרוּך אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַגוֹמֵל לְחַיָּבִים טוֹבוֹת, שֱׁגְּמָלַנִי כָּל טוֹב
הקהל: אַמֵן. מִי שֶׁגְּמָלֵךְ טוֹב, הוּא יִגְמָלֵךְ כָּל טוֹב, סֶלָה
Grace after meals
If you are serving a meal after the brit milah, and afterwards you will be saying grace after meals, note that there are a few additions to the standard text, in honor of the brit.
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