Brit Milah

The first rite of passage in the life of a Jewish male is circumcision, the ritual removal of the foreskin of his penis. This ritual is called britA covenant (or brit) is a mutual promise or compact between two parties. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covenant is of deep significance in describing the mutual relationship of God and the people of faith. The major covenants in Jewish scripture... milah, the “covenantA covenant (or brit) is a mutual promise or compact between two parties. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covenant is of deep significance in describing the mutual relationship of God and the people of faith. The major covenants in Jewish scripture... of circumcision.” It takes place eight days after his birth and is symbolic of the child’s entrance into the covenant GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. made with AbrahamAbraham is the patriarch, acknowledged as the father of the lineage of faith by the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. He is presumed to have lived sometime in the period 2000-1700 BCE. He is the father of Isaac by Sarah (Genesis 12.25), and the "... and his descendants. Traditionally a minyanA minyan (plural: minyanim) is the quorum of Jews, traditionally ten adult men, necessary to recite certain prayers., or quorum, of ten adult males is present at this ceremony, though it can be performed with only the father, the son, and the mohel, or circumcisor, present. Jews also believe that the prophetA prophet is one who communicates a divine message or vision, sometimes calling people to repentance or awakening, sometimes predicting future events. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all look to Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and Moses. Muslims believe ... ElijahElijah was a ninth century BCE Hebrew prophet and visionary. According to tradition, he did not die but was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2). Elijah’s periodic return to eart. has become part of the rabbinical and mystical Jewish traditi... is present as witness to the covenant, and they provide a chair and place of honor for him.

On a Tuesday morning in the Abrams’ home in downtown Chicago, the father of the newborn nervously moves around the living room greeting his parents and in-laws, his sister, his wife’s siblings and the small group of close friends who have gathered. As the group settles down and takes seats, the baby’s mother begins the ceremony by lighting the candles. When the baby’s aunt brings the son into the room on a pillow, the small congregation rises. They stand while the mohel, a man in his sixties who has been a member of the family’s congregation for many years, explains the meaning of the Jewish covenant with GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities. and gives a brief description of what is about to happen. Then the baby is placed in the arms of an uncle who sits with him on Elijah’sElijah was a ninth century BCE Hebrew prophet and visionary. According to tradition, he did not die but was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2). Elijah’s periodic return to eart. has become part of the rabbinical and mystical Jewish traditi... chair, symbolizing the aspiration and prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. that he will grow up in a world of peace and righteousness. Finally, the little boy is given to the sondek, or the man who has the honor of holding the baby while the mohel says a blessing and performs the circumcision. In this ceremony, one of the grandfathers has been given the honor. After the circumcision, the baby formally receives his Jewish name. The gathered family and friends adjourn to the dining room where a kosherKosher means, literally, “proper” or “correct” and refers to food that is permissible to eat under Jewish dietary laws (kashrut). These dietary laws prescribe what foods may be eaten, how animals must be slaughtered etc. brunch is laid out, a joyous feast ending with a special grace recited for the brit milah.

In America today, similar naming ceremonies for baby girls are becoming increasingly popular. Traditionally, girls would be named and presented in the synagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... thirty days after birth, but today many communities observe a ceremony marking entry into the covenant eight days after birth. Except for the circumcision, it is similar to the brit milah and is called brit ha-hayim, or “the covenant of life,” in the Reform tradition. Even OrthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. Jews have today devDeva or dev is a common term for god or celestial being. It is used variously by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists to refer to the multitude of divine or celestial beings. Sometimes it is also used as an honorific, such as “Gurudev,” which would mean rever...eloped similar celebrations, but as Orthodox writer Blu Greenberg summarized in How to Run an Orthodox Jewish Household: “The ceremony is so new that there is no standard procedure, not even a single name by which it goes. Simchat Habat, ‘the rejoicing of the daughter,’ is most widely used.”


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