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Brit Milah and Baby Naming


Mazal Tov! Congratulations on the new addition to your family! 
Of course, welcoming a child into the world in the Jewish tradition brings many questions. Our clergy are here to lovingly and supportively help you celebrate this incredible moment. 

A Name
In the Jewish tradition, one's name bestows personal identity and familial and religious connection. A name can honor a deceased relative or to the virtue of a biblical figure. Eastern European Jews often follow the custom of naming a child after a deceased relative. Many Jews of Sephardic descent have a custom of choosing a name of a living relative. Some couples choose a Hebrew or Yiddish name with the first letter reflecting the person they would like to honor. 

A child’s Hebrew name is their first name, which may include a second name (e.g., Chanah or Chanah Leah), ben or bat, meaning the son or the daughter of, the first name of each of their parents (e.g., Chanah bat Yonatan v’Sarah).

Brit Milah (or “Bris”)
Bringing a male child into the covenant of Israel includes a physical sign of the bond between the Jewish people and God. This is a brit milah, the covenant of circumcision, a religious obligation performed on boys. Be aware that a medical circumcision is not considered a brit milah because it is not done with a religious intention or in a spiritual atmosphere.

The brit milah takes place on the eighth day of a healthy baby’s life, regardless of Shabbat or Yom Kippur. It may be postponed in case of illness or weakness but cannot be rescheduled on holidays or on Shabbat. Mornings are customary for the event, so the mitzvah is not delayed, and guests can attend before going to work.

Although guests are often invited, the only required participants are the parents, the baby, the mohel (the specially trained officiant who conducts the circumcision), and the sandek (an honored assistant), often a grandfather, whose function is to hold the baby. Other ceremonial roles may be distributed among family and close friends, such as carrying the baby from and back to the mother. (Note: A mohel may need advance notice of the approximate time and day he is needed, so call ahead to see if he is available a week after your due date). The rite can be as simple as brief few minutes or as involved as a family would like to plan.

In the case of an adopted infant son, circumcision should be done as soon as possible. If the child has already been circumcised, but is not Jewish, the mohel must draw a drop of blood at the site of the circumcision before he is taken to the mikvah (ritual bath). 

Once the circumcision is complete, a kiddush or blessing over the wine is made, and the baby is given his name. Parents often explain the reason for naming the child as they did. The event concludes with a celebratory meal, the se’udat mitzvah.

Brit Ha-Bat
Because a girl does not go through circumcision, there are more options for the type of celebration to welcome and name a daughter. There are different terms for such celebrations, including, Simchat Bat and Zeved Ha-Bat, and others. Brit Ha-Bat connotes the daughter being brought into the covenant (brit). 

With a Brit Ha-Bat, there is no obligation to perform it on the eighth day after birth, as with a boy. One may schedule it on the eighth day or at a time most convenient for family and friends and mother and daughter. This can take place at home or at the synagogue on Rosh Hodesh, Shabbat, or at a Havdalah.

There are different ceremonial options to discuss with the rabbi for a Brit Ha-Bat, such as a candle lighting ceremony, a tallit ceremony, or a handwashing ceremony. After the ceremony, the baby’s name is announced and explained by the parents. The event concludes with a celebratory meal, the se’udat mitzvah

Sat, June 15 2024 9 Sivan 5784