The Initiation Society
A Bris Milah is an affirmation of Abraham's ancient covenant with God and an expression of hope in a future redemption. The Torah teaches us that a Bris Milah is a reminder that just as we perfect our physical being through the act of circumcision, we must strive also strive to perfect our soul. A Bris is a celebration of the birth of your son and of the continuing endurance of the Jewish people and our glorious heritage.
The Bris Milah ceremony has two parts: the circumcision and the naming. There are wealth of different customs surrounding a Bris Milah many of which are unique to different communities or families. If you are unsure of your custom, then please ask the Mohel or your local Rabbi beforehand and they will be happy to discuss the matter with you.
It is customary to honour family and friends to participate by holding the baby at various parts of the Bris. A description of some of these honours are as follows;
Kvatter/Kvatterin: These carry the baby from the mother to the Bris and return him afterwards. This honour is often designated to a couple who are not yet blessed with children.
Sandek : At every Bris Milah one man is honoured with the role of Sandek, and holds the baby during the circumcision. This is considered the most prestigious honour of the ceremony and is often performed by a grandfather or esteemed Rabbi. The role of the Sandek is not only a technical one, but is also an symbolic of the child taking his place in the chain of continuity that ensures the existence of the Jewish people. The Torah teaches us that the role of the Sandek is of such prominence that it is compared to the role of the Kohen (priest) burning incense on the temple altar.
Sandek Me’umad : Once the circumcision is performed, the Sandek rises to his feet and passes the baby to the Sandek Me'umad, or "standing Sandek". He will then hold the baby for the subsequent naming ceremony.
Mezamen : It is customary to have a special Se'udas Mitzvah, or festive meal on the day of the Bris. One man is designated to lead the special grace after meals for this occasion. Many other honours may be designated.
Make sure to prepare a Hebrew name prior to the Bris. Tradition dictates that the name of the child is of the utmost importance and contains defining spiritual characteristics which will influence the personality of the child. It is customary, although certainly not obligatory to name a child in one of these three contexts.
i) After a relative. Sephardic communities have the custom of naming the child after a living grandparent, whereas Ashkenazic communities name only after the deceased.
ii) After an historical event. For example, one who witnessed the helping hand of God may choose the name Eliezer (my God has aided me), a refugee fleeing a country and finding a new home may call a child Noach (rest).
iii) In relation to a Jewish Holiday, for example Mordechai at Purim or Rachamim at Yom Kippur. Your Mohel or Rabbi will be happy to advise if you want appropriate suggestions