I share this 13 years after this post
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Thursday, November 10, 2022
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
There are plenty of sources for the idea that the celebration for the Bris should take place at the time of the Bris.
However, I have had the opportunity to preside over brisses where the parents were understandably quite nervous about the whole idea, wanting to give their son undivided attention at the time of the bris, not wanting to "spoil" this incredibly intimate family moment with the challenge of being hosts for a party.
The Bris, of course, was not delayed, as that is described in the Torah as being the 8th day of life (unless there are medical conditions which cause a delay). But the PARTY isn't Biblical... right? Or is it?
The source for having a celebration is the verse that Avraham made a big party on the day that הגמל את יצחק. Is that the bris? Is that a weaning? Is that a 'bar mitzvah'? (All of these are possibilities laid out in Midrashim and commentaries.)
Chasam Sofer writes this:
תורת משה בראשית פרק כא פסוק ח
ועתה כשהי' יצחק בן כ"ד ונגמל מאליו ברי אולם, אז עשה סעודת ברית מילה על יום הגמ"ל את יצחק בנו והיתה סעודת מילתו ביום כ"ד חדש
When Yitzchak weaned himself from his mother at 24 months and was clearly healthy and fully recovered from the Bris, that's when Avraham made the party for the Bris.
I don't know how many people would be interested in waiting 2 years - but this is certainly a novel idea, to wait until the child's second birthday to celebrate his bris!
Thursday, August 25, 2022
This note is long overdue. I've written to the husband, to the grandparents, and given instructions to the dad (I am well aware that the husband and the dad is the same person - the notes were very different in their message).
The new Mom, or the Mom of the new-baby (who might be a veteran Mom), has a day ahead of her with the pending (or recently completed) Bris. So here goes.
Dear New Mom,
You truly are amazing. You carried this baby inside you, nourished him, and took care of him. He grew inside you as your body essentially created this child, with a lot of help from God, and a little help from that wonderful husband you've got.
And now, you are faced with having your precious little boy circumcised. You'll be taking him out of his zone of comfort, peace, quiet, and bringing him into the mark of the covenant of the Jewish people through an act which seems far less than comforting, peaceful and quiet.
So, firstly, I salute you. This may not be very easy for you, but you are going ahead with it anyway.
While I will meet you for a short period of time, you likely fall into one of the following categories of the moms I've met through the years. Read through them, see which is you, and we'll regroup afterwards.
Put-Together-Mom: The bris will be fine! Nothing to worry about! Baby is in great hands. Every Jewish boy and every Jewish man I know has had a bris. Yes - he will cry. But I am on it! This baby will be loved even more than he was before and I have nothing but confidence that this is what God wants and therefore it is good!
Experienced Mom: I was nervous the first time, but I learned from my previous son's bris that all is going to be OK. Nothing like the school of hard knocks!
Nervous Mom: I don't about this. What if we're doing the wrong thing? Is my baby going to be OK? Won't he cry? Isn't it going to hurt? Maybe we should just get a doctor. I don't know. I just don't know!
Freaking out Mom: I just want to run away with my baby! This is so barbaric! I can't believe we are doing this in the 21st century! How long is this going to take? How do I know my baby will be fine? Can't something go wrong? I don't even know this mohel. He might seem nice, but I am not in a frame of mind to have some stranger man 'splain things to me about my baby!
To put it a different way, there is a woman I have done two brisses for (her other children are girls) and before the second bris she said to me, "Avi, I hate you today. Tomorrow we will be friends again."
It is impossible to unravel the nervousness that comes with the prospect of the bris. BUT every woman who was having a difficult time before the bris has had a serious turn of mood for the better once it was over and she saw that her baby was fine. In other words, the woman had gotten herself so worked up about what was going to happen in her own mind, the concept of everything being fine didn't even make it into her scope of possibilities.
This is why I encourage you to find out as much about circumcision as you can beforehand, to ask all the questions you can, and to empower yourself with the knowledge you need so that the experience you have through your son's bris will not be debilitating to you.
We have been doing this for thousands of years. Our track record, especially in the age of sterilizing surgical instruments and the amazing bandages we have, has never been better. And if you have done your homework and have discovered that your mohel has an excellent track record of delivering great results plus a pleasing manner, then your nervousness is in your mind.
This is not a dismissal of your feelings. This is not accusing you of being emotional. This is not suggesting your concerns are unfounded.
This is a thoughtful minder to you to breathe, to be trusting (assuming you're confident in your choice of mohel), and to know that you will feel SO MUCH BETTER WHEN IT IS OVER AND YOU SEE YOUR SON IS FINE.
May it be the case that all cases of anxiety (in this case quite justified) are so easily remedied by just having the clear cause of our anxiety being over.
I hope you will have found our overall experience together to be a pleasant one, even with the natural tension that accompanied the advent of the bris. And I hope you will come to see that your son is not worse for wear, and that you are grateful that we took care of this so early in his life, so that he, and hopefully you as well, will not remember the difficult portions of this day, and only the happiness that accompanied the simcha of the bris, and your joy at participating, along with your husband, in fulfilling this mitzvah.
With honor and respect
Thursday, August 11, 2022
In his Meshivas Nefesh on Shemos chapter 3, Rabbi Yochanan Luria has a lengthy piece on various topics related to Bris Milah. One short paragraph aims to give a little clarity to a mysterious tale in the Torah, when Moshe and Zipporah are on their way to Egypt shortly after the burning bush story, and something happens and someone almost dies, and the tragedy is averted when Zipporah circumcises her son.
One of the common interpretations of the story is that Moshe almost died, having been mostly consumed by an angel (or angels) in a serpent-like fashion. Zipporah says two things after she circumcises her son, in verses 25-26 below (taken from Chabad.org)
|24Now he was on the way, in an inn, that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.||כדוַיְהִ֥י בַדֶּ֖רֶךְ בַּמָּל֑וֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁ֣הוּ ה' וַיְבַקֵּ֖שׁ הֲמִיתֽוֹ:|
|25So Zipporah took a sharp stone and severed her son's foreskin and cast it to his feet, and she said, "For you are a bridegroom of blood to me."||כהוַתִּקַּ֨ח צִפֹּרָ֜ה צֹ֗ר וַתִּכְרֹת֙ אֶת־עָרְלַ֣ת בְּנָ֔הּ וַתַּגַּ֖ע לְרַגְלָ֑יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֧י חֲתַן־דָּמִ֛ים אַתָּ֖ה לִֽי:|
|26So He released him. Then she said, "A bridegroom of blood concerning the circumcision."||כווַיִּ֖רֶף מִמֶּ֑נּוּ אָ֚ז אָֽמְרָ֔ה חֲתַ֥ן דָּמִ֖ים לַמּוּלֹֽת:|
Zipporah saw that Gehinnom has no dominion over Milah, when Moshe Rabbenu was consumed by angels trying to kill him over delaying his son’s circumcision (Rashi 4:24, Nedarim 32a), but the angel stopped at the Makom HaMilah. Zipporah thought Moshe was to die for having violated the prohibition against a circumcised man having relations with an Aramis (herself) for which the punishment is death. However, when she realized that the angels left his Milah untouched, she realized the solution to the problem was to circumcise her son.
When she said “Chasan Damim Ata Li” it is understood that she meant “You are a groom whose blood is at risk on account of me!”, as Rabbi Luria puts it “he is being punished for having had relations with an Aramis.” As Targum puts it “Because of the blood of Milah (that he underwent) the rule is that my groom should never have married me.” But when she saw that Milah was so significant, she circumcised her son, causing the angel to withdraw. Then she said “A groom of blood to circumcisions” after she understood that the punishment coming to her husband was due to having delayed his son’s circumcision, and not because of his relationship with her.
וראה שאין גיהנם שולט במילה שהרי במרע"ה שבלעו מלאך המות מראשו ועד ירכו ומרגליו עד אותו המקום ולא היה [יכול] לשלוט במילה אז היתה סבורה ציפורה שבעלה הוא חייב מיתה על שנימול ובועל ארמית ולא מפני שנתעצל (במצות) בנו ואבר זה ניצול מפני חשיבות המילה להציל את בנה מדינה של גיהנם ומלה אותו ולא על דרך שידעה שבעלה נענש על ככה, שהרי אמרה חתן דמים אתה לי ומתרגמינן שכוונתה שהוא נענש על ככה שבעל ארמית, ע"כ תרגום בדמא מהולתא הדין מתחייב חתנא לנא פי' מפני שנימול לא היה לו לישא ארמיתא ומשראתה חשיבות המילה מלתה את בנה, וירף ממנה אז אמרה חתן דמים למולות, אז הבינה שנענש על שנתעצל במילת בנו וע"כ תרגם שבשבילו הוא נענש.
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Sunday, July 10, 2022
Milah (מילה) in our context refers to circumcision.
This is why the operator is called a Mohel (מוהל), as in "one who does Milah (one who circumcises)."
(In a different context, the word מילה literally means a "word," as in "don't say another מילה?" "Will you let me get a מילה in response?!")
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Bris - ברית - means covenant or agreement.
When we say we are "going to a Bris" we are speaking in American-ish, but we are not using the term correctly.
Whether we mean to say we are going to a circumcision (which is technically true), what we really mean is that "we are going to a Bris Milah Ceremony, a ceremony in which the Covenant made over Circumcision will be reenacted and reaffirmed."
Of course no one wants to say that, so we just say we are "going to a Bris."
Sunday, July 3, 2022
One element of the Bris ceremony includes the baby being placed on a chair that is designated as the Kisei Shel Eliyahu.
The term simply translates to "The Chair of Elijah" and is our way of giving homage to one of the staunchest defenders of the concept of the Covenant (Bris) in the Bible, Elijah the Prophet, a.k.a. Eliyahu HaNavi.
I am often asked whether this is a "respectable honor" to give to someone.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
The first two stages of a "Kosher" Bris include the removal of the foreskin and the removal of a mucosal membrane which is present directly below the foreskin.
Milah is the act of circumcision, which specifically targets the skin of the foreskin.
Priah (uncovering) is the act of the removal of the membrane.
While Milah is virtually done the same way by most practitioners, i.e. with a knife (though see below), Priah is done differently by varied practitioners, because some aim for what's called "Milah U'Priah B'vas Achas" (essentially doing both actions in one action), while others aim to make them separate actions. (see below as well)
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Most bris ceremonies include a number of guests present, beyond immediate family. Depending on how many guests, and depending on certain relationships beyond family and even with some rabbis, the ceremony could look very different from family to family in light of whom the parents of the baby might choose to have participate in the ceremony.
In Hebrew, the word כבוד (kavod) is often translated as "honor," thus the word for the honors given at a bris ceremony is Kibbudim. Those who are given these roles are the "honorees" in a sense, and every person in this category is described as "receiving a kibbud."