Friday, September 18, 2009

The Beauty of a Bris

Why is a bris so special?

Aside from the obvious celebration of the arrival of a baby, a source of joy which is universal, the bris carries with it added significance which makes the Jewish experience of the baby's arrival unique.

Family

Not only do they call and make a big "hoo-ha" over the baby's arrival, but they also gather together for a celebratory meal in which all have a chance to spend time, 'catch up,' and enjoy each other's company for a 'surprise' occasion. The 'surprise' is the bris which has only been planned for a week, as opposed to other family gatherings, such as for holidays, bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, which are planned months in advance.

Jewish Heritage

Bris is one of the most widely practiced observances across all spectrums of Judaism. For most Jews, whether they have personal reservations and concerns or not, the bris still takes place - the circumcision of the sons is almost a 'given.'

The significance of the bris in Jewish tradition is that it is the mark of the Covenant between Abraham and God, in which God promised to be the God of Abraham and his descendants, and many other blessings, if Abraham would bear this mark in himself and his children.

You can read more about the significance of bris in this article from My Jewish Learning Dot Com.

Not Just a Circumcision

Bris is a circumcision, but it is not only a circumcision. In fact, according to Jewish law, if a baby were to be circumcised before the required eighth day, the "bris" is not valid and a ceremonial drawing of a minimal amount of blood - hatafat dam brit - is required in order to change the circumcision into a valid bris. [See the last section of this article]

[See this monograph on hatafat dam brit from Dr. Sam Kunin. With graphics!]

[The significance of blood at a bris will be discussed in a different post because it is beyond the scope of this one]

Timeless message

The bris is timeless and it is one component of what has set the Jewish people apart from the rest of the world for thousands of years. While many others might circumcise their children, the significance the Jewish people have attached to the "mark in the flesh" unique to our historical and national experience as a people.

With God's help, we will continue to observe this ritual with joy as we continue to bear witness to God's presence in this world and in our lives.

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