- The mitzvah of Bris Milah rests primarily on the father. However, if the father fails or refuses to fulfill this mitzvah and the child has entered adulthood (thirteen years of age and older) he is obligated to fulfill the commandment of Bris Milah himself.
- The Bris must be performed on the eighth day from the baby’s birth, taking into consideration that on the Jewish calendar, the day begins with sunset of the previous day. (For instance: If the child is born on Sunday before sunset then the Bris is on the following Sunday. However if the child is born Sunday after sunset then the Bris is performed on the following Monday).
- If a circumcision was done prior to the eighth day, or at night, it is considered invalid and a special procedure must be performed by a Mohel called “Hatofas Dam Bris,” drawing a drop of blood. A competent Rabbi should be consulted in such a case.
- If the baby is born premature, weak, or ill in any way, or if he is diagnosed with a health condition such as jaundice or having an eye infection, the Bris is temporarily postponed. We wait for the child’s full recovery before performing the Bris. In some conditions we wait seven full days after his recovery before performing the Bris. One should consult a Mohel on this matter.
- Once the father designates an individual as the Mohel for his child’s Bris, he should not choose another Mohel, unless it was quite clear that the father would have chosen the second Mohel first had that Mohel been available.
- At the morning prayers prior to the Bris, the “Tachanun” supplication is omitted in the presence of the father, the Sandek, or the Mohel, even if the Bris will take place at a different location.
- If the Bris will be held on a day that the Torah is read in the synagogue, we honor the father, the Sandek, and the Mohel with reciting the blessing on the Torah.
- We consider the position of Sandek more honorable than that of the Mohel, giving the Sandek preference in being called up to the Torah. The position of the Sandek is also considered to be one of merit for long life and prosperity.
- It is customary to set aside a chair for Elijah the Prophet who is called the “Angel of the Bris”. He attained this honorable position due to his zeal in upholding this great mitzvah. God therefore promised him that he would be present at every Bris. When this chair is used, we announce, “This chair is for Eliyahu Hanavi.”
- It is customary not to formally invite people to participate in the Bris. Instead we merely announce that the Bris will take place at such a time in such a place. This is done so as not to seem disrespectful to Elijah the Prophet as Elijah participates in every Bris.
- It is a great mitzvah to be present at a Bris and partake in the festive meal. Some say that in honor of this great mitzvah, and in respect for Elijah the Prophet, all those who are present at the Bris are purified from their sins.
- It is customary that the father, Mohel, and Sandek wear a tallit at the time of the Bris.
- It is traditional that the child be placed on a pillow throughout the duration of the Bris, from the time he is carried out and handed over by his mother until he is returned to his mother after the Bris.
- Some emphasize that the Kvatterin be the wife of the Kvatter and not pregnant.
- Everyone should stand during the Bris Milah, except for the Sandek who sits and holds the baby on his lap during the time of the Bris.
- At the Bris Milah we bless the child and say, “Just as he has entered into the covenant, so too may he enter into Torah, into marriage and into good deeds.”
- At the Grace After Meals we recite the additional Horachamans (“The Merciful One”) associated with the Bris Milah. Some give the honor to six different people to say the six different Horachamans.
- Some have a custom to make an advance payment on tuition fees for the boy’s Jewish studies.
- A Bris is performed on the eighth day after birth, even if that day is Shabbat or a Jewish holiday. If, for whatever reason, the Bris is postponed and cannot be done on the eight day, or if the child was born through caesarean, the Bris may not be done on Shabbat or a Holiday but rather on the next immediate weekday.
- If there is a doubt as to whether the baby was born on Shabbat such as between sunset and nightfall, the Bris has to be postponed to the day AFTER the following Shabbat.
- All preparations of utensils and items needed for the Shabbat Bris must be done prior to Shabbat. Only essential functions to the Bris itself may be done on Shabbat. Consult a competent Rabbi.
- In a community where there is no “Eruv” the Bris is performed at home, for we don’t carry outside on Shabbat.
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Rabbi Ephraim Simon
Executive Director, FoL, Bergen County