Tuesday, July 16, 2019

If the father is not present, who recites his blessing?

The father's role at the bris is significant, as he is one of the 3 baalei brit. The blessing he recites is noted as the third bullet-point in the link at the beginning of this paragraph.

While it is uncommon for the father to not be present at the bris, here are a few examples of how it could be that he is not present.

* He is away on business and his wife unexpectedly gave birth early
* He is sick and out of commission
* He has passed away (R"L)
* He is in prison
* He is not Jewish.

In the latter case he might be physically present, but halakha does not recognize his role in the child coming into the Jewish people, as the non-Jewish father does not transfer Jewish-ness to the baby. Certainly, the non-Jewish father has no mitzvah and is not to recite a blessing over a Jewish ritual!

Here are the options of who can recite the blessing in the father's absence (Sefer HaBris p. 254).
1. The sandak
2. The baby's grandfather
3. Anyone present
4. The mohel

The blessing means that we acknowledge God who has sanctified us with His mitzvot and has commanded us 'to enter the child in the covenant of Avraham our forefather.'

The question is what does that mean? Is entering into the covenant a one-time thing? Or is a longer-term commitment? That distinction is what determines whether the mohel may or may not recite the blessing!

The sandak is a baal bris, so he seems the most obvious choice to say the blessing.
The baby's grandfather has a responsibility to help in the child's education in the event that the father is not present (for any of the reasons outlined above), and one can argue that the longer version of the mitzvah is to raise the child within the framework of the covenant. If that is the case, he might be the best candidate. His candidacy grows if he is also serving as the sandak.
Any person who is present may play the role as the community may take the responsibility on itself to help raise the child.
Finally, the mohel. The question is whether it is appropriate for the mohel to say 2 brachot on the same mitzvah. In light of the explanation given above for the grandfather, the argument can be made that if the mohel is the father he can say both blessings. But of course, if that is the case, he is present at the bris! In cases where the mohel is a service provider, one can certainly argue that his mitzvah is the circumcision alone and not the acknowledgment of his role in the child's upbringing into the covenant.

Best option - in my opinion - is the sandak, especially if he is also the grandfather of the baby.

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