Why do we do a Bris?
The heavens and the earth and all that are found in them exist and are preserved in the merit of the great mitzvah of bris milah, as it is written (Jeremiah, 33:25): “If not for my covenant, I would not have put in place the day and night and the laws of heaven and earth.” The word bris means “covenant” and the word milah means “circumcision”. Bris milah is a Jewish ritual which establishes a permanent covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. Jewish women are also included in the mitzvah in that they are, so-to-speak, already born circumcised -possessing this holy connection to G-d from birth. This act symbolizes the relationship between the Children of Israel with their Creator, thus must be a physical act done by us. Truthfully, one is able to appear circumcised even if one never had a circumcision, thus we must say that the bris milah is not a tribal identification mark rather the removal of the foreskin itself has important effects. Though G-d is perfect this His actions must be perfect, He created us imperfect with the intention that we perfect ourselves and the world around us. Similarly, the removal of the foreskin gives us power to remove our negativity and revealing our inner G-dly soul. Additionally, a bris milah gives the baby boy and his family enormous spiritual and physical blessings. Therefore, it is important to chose a mohel who is sensitive to the physical as well as spiritual needs of the baby.
Why can’t we just do it in the hospital or with a doctor?
There are many reasons why a medical circumcision in a hospital does not constitute a kosher bris milah. First, they may not do it at the proper time nor on the eigth day, both of which are necessary (see below). Second, the devices used in hospitals to perform circumcisions (such as the Gomco or Mogen clamps) are not kosher. These clamps are also very painful and not precise, as one doctor writes himself: “… a Mogen clamp is carefully placed…. waiting a moment to allow for tissue fusion.” You can view a video here, warning it is graphic. The medical profession must provide a procedure that can be taught to medical students, nurses, or PAs. As a result, their methods may be easy to perform but are lengthy, painful, thus require anesthesia. Additionally, giving injections of anesthesia to a small baby and using hemostats (medical pliars) are more painful than the actual bris itself. Doctors are great professionals, but a mohel is a specialist in kosher circumcision.
The most experienced, skillful, and pain-free choice is to use a full-time mohel. A traditonal bris is quick and done as the baby sits in the arms of a loved one in the comfort of your home or synagogue. Additionally no painful devices are used which clamp or harm the baby in anyway.
Every bris I do follows FDA regulations, US Health Department standards, and fulfills all American Board of Ritual Circumcision guidelines.
Why specifically on the eighth day?
The simple reason is this is what G-d wants, but there are many works of kabbalah and midrash that help explain this mitzvah. One, is that the baby needs time to grow and develop in order to be safe, but not grow too old where he will be in pain. Secondly, the eight days between the birth of the child and the bris always include at least one Shabbos: G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day — the Shabbos. It is the holiest day of the week and thus blesses all the other days of the week, we want the baby to have his bris after he gets this blessing.
Seven is a number found in the laws of nature, i.e. 7 days of the week, 7 notes on the scale, etc. The bris takes place on the eighth day, indicating that the act of circumcision represents something that is higher than nature. After having attained perfection with nature during the first seven days, now, on the eighth day, the child draws down their G-dly soul which is higher than nature. Thus, through the act of circumcision, the Jew is given the power and ability throughout life to overcome all obstacles in his service of G-d; he is able to rise above his own natural limitations.
Under no circumstance may a bris be performed before the eighth day. It is only delayed if G-d forbid the child is sick or there are other pressing circumstances.
What time of day should the Bris take place?
The bris may be performed any time of the day from sunrise until sunset. Since it is preferable to fulfill a mitzvah as early as possible, it is best to schedule the bris in the morning and not postpone it until the afternoon if possible. One should, at least, not use a less-qualified mohel in order to have the bris done at a time which is too early or late or before or after the 8th day.
Can we do a Bris on the Sabbath?
Although it would seem a violation of the laws of Shabbos, under certain conditions, a bris can be performed on Shabbos. First, the baby must be born on Shabbos, naturally. The baby must also be conceived naturally. The bris must not be a cause for others to violate the Sabbath. Pictures are not allowed by the ceremony, accommodations for guests should be available so they do not have to travel, and the baby must come to the bris in an acceptable way.
What is a Pidyon Haben?
This is a rare and often unknown mitzvah that some baby boys get the opportunity to have at 30 days old. This applies when a baby is born naturally and is the first born of the mother. Also this only applies if the parents are not Kohanim or Leviim. If you need an opportunity to invite friends and family for another mitzvah and celebration, this is it! For more information, go here.
We had a girl, what do we do?
Great, mazel tov! Please visit my page on having a girl.
Any other questions, please email them to me. I will be glad to answer all your questions, thank you.