What is A Bris Milah?
BRIS MILAH: THE COVENANT
Bris Milah, ritual circumcision, is one of the most fundamental precepts of the Jewish religion. It is referred to in the Torah as the covenant of Abraham, since our forefather Abraham was the first to receive the commandment concerning circumcision from G-d. “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations” (Genesis 17:12). More than any other Jewish ritual, Bris Milah is an expression of Jewish identity. Its fulfillment symbolizes an affirmation of faith in Abraham’s ancient, and still vibrant, covenant with G-d. Through ritual circumcision, parents create with their precious child yet another link in the continuing chain of our people that has proudly survived the challenges to its physical and spiritual existence for thousands of years.
Traditionally, the parents engage a mohel (pronounced: moy-el) to perform the Bris. A mohel is a person who is specially trained in the medical and surgical techniques of circumcision. In addition to being an expert in his field, the mohel is also an expert in the Jewish laws pertaining to Bris Milah. A doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital within the first few days after birth, does not fulfill the requirements of a Bris Milah and is not considered valid according to Jewish law. The Bris must be performed by a Jewish person who understands, upholds and practices the tenets of the Jewish religion and is specially trained to function as a mohel.
The Bris of a healthy baby is done on the eighth day of life (counting the day of birth). This is so even if the eighth day falls on Shabbos, Yom Kippur or any other Jewish festival. However, in the case of a baby born by Caesarean section, the Bris is not performed on Shabbos or on a festival, but on the day following. Bris Milah may not be performed before the eighth day or at night. In the event that a baby is not in perfect health — even if not seriously ill — the Bris is delayed until both the doctor and the mohel are in agreement as to the healthy status of the baby. A common example of this situation is newborn jaundice. However, in the case of serious illness, a delay of one week following full recovery is required.
THE BRIS CEREMONY
The Bris (or brit) ceremony is a very special occasion and is accompanied by much happiness and rejoicing. The ceremony usually takes place at home, in a synagogue or at a catering hall. There are several honors to be conferred during the ceremony, usually bestowed upon the relatives and close friends of the baby’s family. A brief description of the ceremony is as follows: A couple enters with the baby and the baby is placed on a chair designated as the Chair of Elijah. The baby is then placed upon the lap of the Sandek (most often a grandfather) who holds the baby during the circumcision procedure. After the appropriate blessing is recited, the circumcision is performed by the mohel. Immediately following the Bris, another blessing is said over a cup of wine, and the baby receives his official Hebrew name, which he will proudly carry throughout his life. The newborn child is often named after departed relatives, a symbolic source of continued life for those no longer with us. The ceremony ends with the resounding wish of “Mazel Tov!” followed by the serving of refreshments or a light meal which includes bread and wine.
WHAT IS A COVENANT?
The English word “covenant” comes from the Latin “convenire” which means coming together. A covenant is when two or more persons come together to make a contractual agreement. For example, in a real estate contract the two parties come together to buy and sell a home. There are important and necessary ingredients such as commitment and consideration that are part of the contract. However, in almost all cases the contract will not be binding without the SIGNATURES of both parties. It is precisely the same with the bris milah or covenant of the ritual circumcision. When a baby is born the parents witness the awesome and special miracle of life and miracle of birth otherwise known as GOD’S SIGNATURE on his side of the contract. When the baby undergoes the bris commandment he is essentially placing his INDELIBLE SIGNATURE so to speak on his side of the contract thus forging a very special relationship that he will proudly carry throughout his lifetime. A covenant usually includes commitments and responsibilities. Covenants are intended to be very personal, lifelong and irrevocable.
A JOYOUS BEGINNING
The Bris ceremony is a very special occasion and is accompanied by much happiness and rejoicing. The ceremony usually takes place at home, in a synagogue or at a catering hall. There are several honors to be conferred during the ceremony, usually bestowed upon the relatives and close friends of the baby’s family. A brief description of the ceremony is as follows: A couple enters with the baby and the baby is placed on a chair designated as the Chair of Elijah. The baby is then placed upon the lap of the Sandek (most often a grandfather) who holds the baby during the circumcision procedure. After the appropriate blessing is recited, the circumcision is performed by the mohel. Immediately following the Bris, another blessing is said over a cup of wine, and the baby receives his official Hebrew name, which he will proudly carry throughout his life. The newborn child is often named after departed relatives, a symbolic source of continued life for those no longer with us. The ceremony ends with the resounding wish of “Mazel Tov!” followed by the serving of refreshments or a light meal.
“WE THANK YOU, G-D, FOR THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF NEW LIFE AND FOR THE BLESSING OF PARENTHOOD WHICH ALLOWS US TO SHARE IN THE MIRACLE OF CREATION. PLEASE GRANT OUR CHILD A LONG, HEALTHY LIFE FILLED WITH HAPPINESS, THAT HE MAY PURSUE THE PATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, TRUTH, HUMILITY AND LOVE FOR ALL. AS WE CELEBRATE OUR SON’S BRIS TODAY, WE DEDICATE OURSELVES TO PROVIDE ALL THAT HE WILL NEED TO GROW IN THE TRADITIONS OF TORAH AND JEWISH VALUES, TO ENTER INTO MARRIAGE AS A CARING HUMAN BEING, AND TO BECOME A COMPASSIONATE PERSON WITH A DEEP CONCERN FOR FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.”
"During nursing school, I observed dozens of circumcisions and Rabbi Rappaport's procedure on our son was the most relaxed and least traumatic one I have ever seen."
“I was delighted to be present at a Bris performed by Rabbi Abraham Rappaport. The couple was from Israel and spoke fluent Hebrew, but many of the guests were American with no knowledge of Hebrew. Rabbi Rappaport made all present feel at ease with his humor and caring demeanor. He switched back and forth from Hebrew to English so everyone present was aware of the importance of this ceremony. His skill and speed during the ceremony was also evident. If I ever have another boy, I would be honored to have Rabbi Rappaport perform the Bris.”
"We are so thankful that we chose Rabbi Avraham Rappaport to be the Mohel for both of our boys. He was everything we could ask for. His ceremony was inspiring, accommodating and even a bit humorous. He made everyone feel so calm at such an anxious moment. The actual circumcision took a few seconds and our baby hardly cried. Our pediatrician raved about Rabbi Rappaport’s work and we hope other expecting parents are privileged to engage Rabbi Rappaport to perform their son’s Bris."
"Rabbi Rappaport brought great kindness and warmth to the bris he conducted for our son, Reuben, and the naming ceremony of Reuben's twin sister, Anabel. The Rabbi's words contained both wisdom and humor--necessities if you're embarking upon a journey with twins--and we believe that both children received the best of sendoffs to a rich, happy Jewish life. We're very lucky that Rabbi Rappaport with his expertise was there to help share in our simchas."
"We found the time leading up to the actual circumcision very stressful. We had two main concerns. First, were we taking an unnecessary risk having the circumcision performed by mohel who wasn’t also a doctor? I did a little research and found that mohel’s are experts at the circumcision procedure. Even the royal house of England chooses a mohel over a doctor for the circumcision of its boys. Second, was our little boy going to be in pain? Prior to the ceremony I was comforted by the fact that I did not remember my circumcision. Having watched Rabbi Avraham Rappaport perform my son’s circumcision with such swiftness and professionalism, I can attest to the fact that our baby seemed much more disturbed by diaper changes than the circumcision. We were also so grateful for Rabbi Rappaport’s personal follow up to the Bris. We had a second son and did not need to think twice about reserving Rabbi Rappaport for his expert service once again."
For those of you as new parents, looking for a Mohel, allow me to introduce you to Rabbi Avraham Rappaport.
I am an anesthesiologist with 41 years of experience and now a grandfather. Rabbi Rappaport performed the Bris for my grandson. Simply put, he was excellent. Put aside your stress, anxiety and worry. He is personable and very professional both medically and rabbinically. Watching the procedure first hand, holding my grandson, I can tell you that his sterile technique and surgical dexterity was first class. My brother, a dentist and another anesthesia colleague were in attendance. We all agreed that he was top notch. His care of the child throughout the ceremony was calming. His instructions before the ceremony, during and aftercare instructions were great. He is available, if needed, after he leaves the Bris. This was very reassuring. A Bris can be very nerve wracking for everyone. Rabbi Rappaport was excellent in all areas and you will find yourselves at ease with him. I heartily recommend him as a Mohel without reservation.
"My son was circumcised in the hospital the day after he was born just as my older son was. This time, the circumcision was horribly executed. We feared he would be teased as he got older. Our pediatrician (whom we greatly respect) advised we “give it a few months”.
We were a bit nervous before our son’s Brit Mila. Luckily, our experience with Rabbi Rappaport was very positive. He immediately put us all at ease with his professional yet relaxed approach, kindness and thoughtfulness to everyone in the room, including the children who constantly approached him to see what he was doing. We highly recommend Rabbi Rappaport for new and experienced families who wish for a wonderful and relatively stress-free experience for their young ones.
"Rabbi Avraham Rappaport did a wonderful job at each of our 3 son’s Bris’s. His pleasant smile, kind words, and quick hand made us nervous parents at ease. We recommend him to all rookie and veteran parents!"
"We have nothing but the highest praise for Rabbi
Rappaport. He made a potentially stressful event both
meaningful and inspiring. The Rabbi was very flexible
and allowed us to incorporate our own words into the
ceremony so that it would feel more personalized. His
follow-through was above and beyond the call of duty
-- he visited our son both before and after the
ceremony. Perhaps most importantly, Rabbi Rappaport
is very skilled and we are very pleased with his
"We were so happy and fortunate that our good friend Rabbi Avraham Rappaport was able to fly out to Chicago to perform our son Eli’s Bris. Having two other sons born in other states with other Mohels we really feel that Rabbi Avraham Rappaport is “a cut above the rest”! His knowledge, his ceremony and his medical care and expertise were so reassuring to us."
"Having Rabbi Rappaport perform our son's circumcision was a wonderful blessing. Not only did he demonstrate utmost professionalism in his surgical skill, his words and actions showed a genuine care for our son and family. Given our experience with Rabbi Rappaport, there is no doubt in our mind that we made the right decision to avoid having the circumcision performed by a medical doctor. We cannot recommend him highly enough."
"After 4 girls we were quite excited and anxious to celebrate our son's Bris. We had already been to dozens of Brisses that Rabbi Rappaport performed so we had nothing to be concerned about. He was so patient, calm and reassuring and visited us at our home before after the Bris. The procedure was completed before I even realized he actually did it. He is absolutely "a cut above the rest!"
18681 Queen Elizabeth Drive,
Brookeville, MD 20833