Brit Mila (Covenant of the Word), is a key life cycle observance for a Jewish Family. By performing the circumcision we are celebrating and remembering G-d’s covenant with Abraham and his people.
The Mohel (the ritual circumciser) will gather everyone together and explain the significance of the Brit. The baby will then be carried in to the room by his Kvaterin (or Godmother) and handed to his Kvater (or Godfather), whilst the opening prayers are said. The baby is then passed to the Sandek, who will hold him on his lap whilst the circumcision is performed.
Usually the Sandek has a pillow on his lap, covered by a towel and will sit opposite to the Mohel on two dinning room chairs (without arms). A small table next to the chairs for the Mohel’s instruments and the Kiddush wine would be useful.
The circumcision usually takes two or three minutes only, including the time to put a small dressing on.
After the circumcision, further prayers are said, including a blessing over wine and the naming of the baby.
Who can do what.
The choice of who does what, is that of the baby’s parents. Traditionally, the Sandek is a Jewish Male, often a grandfather or uncle of the baby (not the father). The honour should be shared out, if a suitable male has not been a Sandek before, he should be offered the honour before a repeat performance by an experienced holder. (Although many grandfathers will want to hold all of their grandsons).
The Kvater and Kvaterin, are usually a Jewish couple who have not as yet had their own children. Again, grandparents often get in on the act at this point (Anglo tradition).
An all male affair?
Traditionally, only men attend the ceremony. Liberal and Reform communities would encourage all to be present regardless of gender, but this would be an individual’s choice. Similarly, mums and dads need to choose if they stay in the room or leave. Most who stay feel that the realities was less distressing than their imagination and were glad that they had stayed.
Hebrew or English?
The prayers will combine Hebrew and English, parents can choose their parts or can follow the Mohel.
The baby’s names?
The Hebrew name of the baby will be given at the brit, some thought before hand would be helpful.
Do we have to make a party?
The brit is a simcha (a joyful event), guests are usually fed and watered. However, the key objective the welfare of the baby and his parents. Parents are well advised to delegate the catering and entertaining (grandparents again) and leave themselves free to comfort each other.
I hope that these comments are helpful. I would be happy to answer any other questions that might arise.
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