Monday, March 5, 2012
We use wine at the bris for the blessing over wine and to sanctify the ceremony.
There is a custom to give some of the wine to the baby after the ceremony.
I don't know how this custom came to be, but it is clearly stated in Jewish law discussions that when a bris takes place on a fast day, when the mohel, sandak and/or person reciting the blessings are fasting, that the wine (over which the blessing for wine is recited) is tasted by the baby. [This goes into a different discussion about a bracha l'vatala – a wasted blessing – which we try to avoid saying. Once the blessing is recited over the wine as part of the ceremony, someone needs to drink it.]
On regular fast days, the baby's mother is usually not fasting on account of her recently giving birth, so she can be the one to drink if she is present or close by. But if the bris is on Yom Kippur or Tisha B'Av, the mother does participate in the fast – leaving the baby as the closest available candidate to drink the wine.
Some will say in shock, "You mean you actually give the baby wine?"
Yup. Not a lot. Very little, in fact. But the sweetness of the wine makes it easy for the baby to handle, and the low-alcohol content helps soothe the baby.
I have seen many a smile light up on the faces of those watching as the wine touches the lips, sometimes when baby is crying (in which case he stops), and he does the cutest lip-smacking you have ever seen in your life.
How is it given to the baby?
As far as how it is administered, I have found dipping a clean gauze pad in the wine and putting it in the baby's mouth to suck on to be the best way to go (I usually use two – to alternate between the different dippings and moments when we give the wine to the baby). Some people dip the pacifier in the wine, but very little wine is retained on it in the process.
There are some mohels who dip their pinky in the wine and put it in the baby's mouth. The wine does its job, and the pinky stays in for the baby to suck on. If your mohel does not wear gloves, it might be worth asking him how he gives the baby the wine. [In other words, if you don't want your mohel putting his finger in your baby's mouth - no matter how "clean" it might be, better have this discussion in advance!]
What kind of wine is to be used?
Kosher (of course), sweet, low-alcohol content. Think Concord Grade (Kedem, Kesser, Manischevitz, etc)
I've had fathers bring in wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, to my chagrin. These wines may be good for wine connoisseurs, but babies hate them!
It is certainly appropriate to have good wine during the celebratory meal afterwards. But when we're trying to give a little bit of it to the baby to calm him post-bris, the sweet stuff is the way to go.