The Brit Milah (the "Bris") is one of the oldest traditions in Judaism. The term Brit Milah translates to "the Covenant of Circumcision", which refers to the covenant between us and G-d. It is a binding pledge between two parties. By performing the mitzvah of Brit Milah, we perpetuate the covenant by passing it on to the next generation.
Over 3,500 years ago, G-d appointed Abraham as his chosen person to spread kindness and monotheism in the world. G-d commanded Abraham to circumcise himself to demonstrate loyalty to the covenant they had entered. Since that point, the Brit Milah became a symbol of the spiritual connection between the Jewish nation and G-d.
"And G-d spoke to Abraham saying: This is my covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and thy seed after you -- every male child among you shall be circumcised."
Brit Milah is the ultimate affirmation of Jewish identity. In every country where Jews have lived, they have practiced this ritual to pass down Jewish tradition to their kin. Even the most secular Jews and those in interfaith relationships overwhelmingly perform Brit Milah as the one Jewish ritual they will undertake, more than Shabbat or kosher.
The mitzvah of Brit Milah is unique in that it is the only mitzvah given to the Patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The fulfillment of Brit Milah by Abraham and his descendants, even before the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, is an indication of its eternal essence to the Jewish faith.
The circumcision is done specifically on the male reproductive organ. G-d chose the male place of gender as the part of the body to impart his covenant, because from there begins the process of bringing new life into this world. By removing the foreskin, which represents a physical blockage, the body is made complete with purity and holiness.
Performing the Ceremony
The Bris traditionally takes place on the 8th day following the baby's birth. Medical studies have shown that the eighth day of a baby's life coincides with elevated levels of Vitamin K and prothrombin, which reduce the risk of hemorrhaging. A Bris is never performed if it poses any danger to the baby.
Before the Bris, Dr. Rumbak will always perform a full medical exam of the baby to make sure the baby is healthy to proceed with the circumcision. This is where her experience as a Pediatrician and Mohel is very valuable to ensuring your baby is always safe in her care.
The Bris ceremony is a mitzvah that is done with tremendous happiness, as it is a sign that we have an unbreakable bond with our creator. The circumcision ceremony may be performed at home, in a synagogue, or at a social hall.
G-d changed Abraham's name from "Abram" to "Abraham" at the time of his circumcision. In keeping with tradition, a Jewish baby boy is given his Hebrew name at the time of his Bris. Similarly, a Jewish baby girl is given her Hebrew name during the Simchat Bat Naming Ceremony.
The Sages say that a baby’s name signifies its special character and unique path in life. In our lives, the only thing that we are given at birth and take with us at the end is our name. It is our job not to merely live up to the identity, but to transcend it with integrity of a good name.
The Talmud says that parents receive 1/60 of prophecy when selecting a name. It is said that an angel comes down to whisper to the parents the baby’s Jewish name – a holy embodiment of who he is and will be. It is a profoundly spiritual and enriching experience to choose a name for your baby.