Your Brit Milah

All ceremonies in Judaism bear the mark of the Jews who perform them.  Some congregations have their own Brit Milah services.  If your rabbi is co-officiating, dicuss whether he or she prefers to use the congregational ceremony, or if you can use mine if you prefer. My Brit Milah ceremony is designed to be flexible.  You can choose to have more or less Hebrew; only a few of the blessings need to be be said in Hebrew.  Please read through the Click this link to download a pdf of my service and decide which readings you would like to use.  At the beginning (pages 1-3), there are three readings (labeled I, II, and III). You may choose one of these, or substitute another reading if you prefer.  At the end (page 8), there are two blessings: the traditional parental blessing and one labeled “A Blessing.” You may choose one of these as well.  If you want to add other readings, please let me know.

After you have read though the ceremony, please contact me by phone or email to let me know your choices.

There are roles for individuals you wish to honor, and items you can use which may enhance the beauty and meaning of the ceremony.

Kvatter (male) and kvatterin (female):  Often translated incorrectly as godparents. In the days when Brit Milah occurred among men only, the kvatterin would walk the baby from his mother to the doorway of the room where the ceremony would take place and hand him to the kvatter.  Traditionally the honor was given to a married couple, especially one who wanted to have a baby.  Nowadays, this can be any one or two people (even three, if you really need to spread the honors). For example, it can be the two grandmothers or siblings of the baby’s parents. This is not a speaking part.  Participants don’t have to be Jewish.

Sandek:  The circumcision takes place on the lap of the sandek.  This role was traditionally given to someone of piety and learning.  Nowadays, it is seen as someone who can serve as a Jewish role model for the baby, often a grandfather or other relative. This is not a speaking part.  The sandek does have to be Jewish.  While traditionally given to a male, this honor can also go to a female.

Besides these traditional roles, you may wish to honor others with assigning them readings in the service.

Items

You may wish to display photographs of the person(s) after whom your son is named.

Elijah’s Chair:  In Jewish tradition, Elijah the prophet is thought to be present at each Brit Milah.  Just as a cup of wine is reserved for him at the Passover Seder, a chair is reserved for him at the Brit Milah.  This chair can be decorated by simply draping a tallit (prayer shawl) over it, or it can be festooned with flowers, ribbons and ornamental pillows.  There has to be enough of a flat surface for the baby to be temporarily placed on the chair.

Wimple:  In German communities, it was customary for the baby to be swaddled in a length of cloth which was later sewn into a ceremonial band used to tie up the Torah.  You may buy new material (muslin or silk) and make a wimple, which could be used at your son’s bar mitzvah.

Kiddush cup: This is used during the naming ceremony.  You could use your Shabbat kiddush cup or another cup with special meaning to you.

Food

It is customary to serve a festive meal after a Brit Milah, unless it occurs on a fast day such as Yom Kippur or Tisha’ B’Av.  This can be as simple as cookies and coffee, or an entire lunch or dinner.  This meal should start with HaMotzi (the blessing over bread), for which you may want to use a challah, but you can use any other bread.  While I recognize that many Jews don’t keep kosher, I encourage you to serve a vegetarian meal or serve meat that is kosher, in keeping with the fact that this is a religious ceremony.

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