What is a Bris Milah? - All information on an Orthodox Jewish Bris

What is a Bris Milah

The word Bris is the Hebrew translation for covenant. Milah is the Hebrew translation for circumcision. Thus Bris Milah (also written: Brit Milah, Brit Mila, Bris Mila) translates to "Covenant of circumcision". When Abraham was 99 years old Hashem (God) commanded him to circumcise (Genesis 17:24). In Leviticus (12:3) Hashem commanded the Jews that every newborn boy should be circumcised when he is eight days old. This brings the infant in the covenant of Hashem (God).

What is a Bris Milah ceremony?

An orthodox Jewish Bris is usually done in a synagogue in a nice Brit Milah ceremony. The Jewish circumcision ceremony is usually led by the mohel. The mohel is a specially trained rabbi who does the actual biblical circumcision. There are special bris prayers recited by the Jewish circumcision ceremony.

After the circumcision the gathered crowd of family and friends will wish the parents "Mazel Tov"! A meal will be served in honor of the Bris.

Circumcision rituals

Now that you know already what is a Bris Milah, let me explain some in more detail the circumcision rituals practiced by orthodox Jews. The Brit circumcision has three parts: chituch (the cut), priah (uncovering, peeling off the epithelium) and metzitzah (oral suction). All three are done by the mohel. There has been recent great controversy over metzitzeh. While the origin of this circumcision ritual is found in the Mishnah (Shabbat, 19) there is many responsa regarding this requirement. Modern orthodox rabbis ruled that the mohel should use a glass tube between the wound and the mohels mouth. Hasidic and Yeshivish orthodox Jews continue to require that the circumcision ritual should be done with metzitzeh b'peh (orally, without a tube).

What is a Bris Milah pillow?

By a Jewish circumcision ceremony the baby is usually brought in to the synagogue on a nice decorated pillow. Some people call it a bris pillow. The baby is also dressed in nice bris apparel to celebrate the special time.

Naming the baby boy

By a Jewish bris there is a special bris prayer recited by the rabbi of the synagogue or by another honored family member. At this special bris prayer, the newborn receives his name for the first time. What a nice way to celebrate his covenant to Hashem (God) and the Jewish faith.

Reasons for circumcision

Although the bible doesn't state any reason for a Jewish bris, there are some reasons for circumcision. Maimonides in his book "Guide for the Perplexed" writes that circumcision weakens sexual drive. This will help an orthodox Jew fight all forbidden adultery and thoughts forbidden in the Torah. There are some scientific studies today backing this opinion, although it is subject for controversy. The WHO and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) stated, that male circumcision is an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention.

So, I'm sure you got to know what is a bris. Now browse the rest of the pages to learn more on the unique customs and traditions of Orthodox Jews.

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