Hadas Kuznits, Dan & Geffen Reinherz: The Bris
I was so excited to share in this exciting day, and grateful I was allowed to capture most every moment (a week ago today.) The Rabbi asks that no photos be taken during the snip part of the ceremony.
The main element of a bris–also called a brit milah–is the removal of the foreskin from an eight-day-old baby boy’s penis. But a bris is actually more than just a snip; it is a ceremony that includes various traditions, rituals, and prayers.
Before the ceremony, the baby is usually placed on a large pillow and
carried into the room where the circumcision will take place. In some
families and communities it is considered a great honor to carry a baby
to his bris, and parents choose someone (or more than one person) special in their lives for this job.
When the baby arrives, the mohel–a professional specially trained in circumcision–welcomes him with the words: Baruch Ha-Ba. This means “blessed is the one who has arrived.”
The baby is handed to the sandek, which is the name given to
the person who holds the baby during the circumcision.
This is often
one of the baby’s grandfathers, but parents can also choose to honor
other people with the role.
Before the circumcision, the mohel recites a blessing acknowledging that the mitzvah (commandment) of circumcision is about to be fulfilled.
The mohel uses a shield to protect the penis and to guide
the knife to make sure only the foreskin is cut. There are different
kinds of shields, some tighter than others. Some mohalim (plural for mohel)
use a tighter shield that functions like a clamp, which they believe
eases the baby’s pain. Jewish legal authorities debate the
permissibility of these different shields. The general concern is the
act of circumcision must immediately draw blood; some tight shields
delay blood flow.
The actual circumcision consists of three separate acts. First, the mohel uses a special knife to remove the baby’s foreskin. Then the mohel tears off and folds back the mucous membrane to expose the glans. The final stage is called metzitzah, which means suctioning the blood from the wound.
If you’ve been holding your breath up to this point, you can relax. Surgery is over.
In traditional communities, the father recites a blessing for
fulfilling the commandment to bring one’s son into Abraham’s covenant.
In liberal communities, both parents recite this blessing.
Then all the guests respond: “Just as this child has entered into the
covenant, so may he enter into (a life of) Torah, the marriage canopy,
and into good deeds.”
The mohel then takes a cup of wine and recites over it a special prayer that announces the baby’s Hebrew name. If the name has been kept secret until this point, this prayer can be an especially poignant part of the bris.
After the naming, a drop or two of the wine is placed in the baby’s
mouth, the parents drink some of the wine, and the ceremony is over
Gorgeous in tradition. Not so hot video. Need more practice.