Since then, Bris Milah serves as the first mitzvah performed on every Jewish male. Our sages view the fulfillment of this special Mitzvah as being, in some way, equal to adhering to all the other mitzvos, as no matter where you are, and no matter what you are doing the bris constantly reminds us of our allegiance to the Jewish people and our covenant with G-d.
It’s a tremendous mitzvah not only to arrange a bris and perform the bris milah but also just to be present at a bris and to partake of the festive meal celebrating the welcoming of another Jewish boy into the covenant of Abraham and his relationship with G-d.
When Does a Bris Take Place?
Assuming that the baby is in good health, the bris is performed on his 8th day in this world, even if that day is Shabbat (Saturday). If, for example, the baby was born on a Monday, the bris would take place on the following Monday.
(Note that the Jewish day begins and ends at sunset, so if a baby is born after sundown on Monday, the bris would be performed on the following Tuesday, as from the perspective of the Jewish calendar, the baby was born on a Tuesday.)
- If a baby was born on Shabbat (Saturday), the bris would take place on the following Shabbat only if it was a natural birth. If the baby was born through a Caesarian section, the bris would NOT take place on Shabbat, but rather on the following Sunday.
- If the baby was born between sundown and nightfall of either Friday or Shabbat, and there is therefore a doubt of whether the baby was born on Shabbat, the bris is likewise postponed to Sunday.
- If there are medical circumstances wherein there is even a remote possibility that the baby isn’t strong enough to undergo a bris, the bris is postponed and a mohel should be consulted to find an alternative day.
Traditionally, a bris is scheduled for the morning, immediately following the morning Prayer Service to show our eagerness to perform the mitzvah as soon as possible. However, one may certainly schedule the bris for any time on the 8th day – for example, to allow time for a special guest such as a grandparent to arrive – provided the actual ceremony occurs before sundown. However, in Jewish tradition, a bris may not be performed at night.
Where to Hold the Ceremony
Although many arrange a bris in a synagogue, this is by no means an obligation. It is perfectly fine for a bris to occur in the baby’s home or a catering hall or anywhere else that allows for the greatest comfort of the baby and the guests. It is, however, preferable for the bris to be held in presence of a minyan (at least ten Jewish males over the age of thirteen).
Who Performs the Bris
The primary obligation is for the father to personally circumcise his son, just as Abraham circumcised Isaac. But in most cases, this is not recommended. Unless the father has been fully trained in both the laws of milah and surgical technique, he should instead hire a competent, experienced mohel to perform the circumcision. The father “appoints” the mohel to act in his stead, and thus fulfills his obligation.
The Festive Meal
Following the bris milah, the family, friends and community are welcome to partake in a festive meal. Bread or the like (bagels, challah, etc.) is traditionally served at this meal, and although some serve meat, the prevalent practice is to serve bagels and lox, coffee, and other dairy, breakfast foods. Many parents take the opportunity to address the guests during the meal to express their gratitude to G-d, their family and friends and to explain how they chose the name of the baby. Often a Rabbi, grandparent or other family members will offer additional words of blessing at the meal. In the Blessing after the Meal there are special additions for a bris milah which provide another opportunity to honor guests.
"Rabbi Dov Greer had come highly recommended by our friends and after our experience we understood why! From the outset, he explained everything patiently and in detail so we were calm and well prepared during the bris. Everything was done very professionally in a safe and clean manner and his insights and demeanor enhanced our experience. Our son healed quickly and even our pediatrician commented on how well he healed.