Birth & Brit
Judaism welcomes children into the world with many beautiful customs and rituals. Whether you are expecting, giving birth or creating a Simcha (Jewish celebration) for your baby and family, it is good to know everything about these special rites and celebrations.
If he is healthy, a Brit Milah (literally, “covenant of circumcision.”) is performed on the eighth day of a baby boy’s life. This commandment is so important that it must be done even if the eighth day falls on Shabbat (Sabbath, Saturday) or on any other holiday in the Jewish calendar. If, for medical reasons, the boy is not ready to be circumcised as early as the eighth day, then the ritual must take place as soon as possible thereafter.
The ceremony need not be done in a synagogue. Many make this simcha in their home or other appropriate rooms. The space need only be big enough for family and guests and the festive meal.
According to Jewish law, a father is required to perform the circumcision on his son. Abraham, the father of the Jewish people circumcised himself and his sons.
Since then, Jewish fathers have always been commanded to circumcise their male children. However, many are not trained in the ritual of Brit Milah. Therefore, most families request that a Mohel (literally, “one who circumcises”) perform the service. A Mohel is a Jew who has learned the physical and religious procedures of circumcision. The Judaica (religious items) needed for the ceremony are candlesticks, candles, kiddush cup, and a brit pillow. Brit pillows can be custom made or can be bought ready-made. Kippot (skullcaps) may be needed for guests.
Usually, the Brit Milah ceremony is performed in the morning, as the Mitzvah (literally, “commandment”) should be performed as soon as possible on the eighth day. The family of the child may wish to choose family or friends to participate in the ceremony of the Brit Milah. Before the ceremony, the Mohel may wish to share a few words of Torah or speak about the Mitzvah of Brit Milah. This can also happen after the ceremony is finished.
The Kvatter and/or Kvatterin (Yiddish for “one who brings in the child”, a man and/or a woman) escort the baby in to the room for the Brit Milah. This is seen as an honour and a Segulah (loosely, “ritual to attract blessings”) for couples or people who wish to have children. Also necessary to the ceremony is the Sandek (loosely translated as “godfather”) who holds the baby during his circumcision. The Brit Milah ceremony is performed and the appropriate blessings made by the father, Mohel and any other officiators. After the Brit Milah ceremony, the baby boy receives his name.
The service is followed by a festive meal with blessings over Challah (Jewish knotted bread) and much celebration. As the Brit is usually held in the morning, breakfast or brunch are usually served. Dessert and coffee should be present as well. Many families find it easy to have a caterer or restaurant make platters for the meal, as the new parents are often very busy with the baby. The parents may want to share a few words about the baby’s name at this point.Back_to_top_of_page
The celebration of a birth of a girl usually includes giving a daughter her name. While there is no time restriction for a naming (as there is with a Brit Milah), it is fine to name a girl at any Torah reading. This usually takes place in a synagogue on the mornings of Monday, Thursday and Shabbat. Ceremonies welcoming daughters can be called Simchat Bat, Zeved Bat or Brit Bat, depending on which denomination of Judaism.
While Zeved Bat is the traditional Sephardic tradition of naming Jewish girls, Simchat Bat and Brit Bat are more modern innovations. There has been recent interest in little known ceremonies for welcoming baby girls. Different communities have been inspired by these ceremonies and are designing creative, innovative rituals for themselves. Choosing a name for your baby can be exciting and sometimes challenging. We carry a host of baby name books to help you make that choice.
There is often a festive meal after services during which a baby is named. Guests eat, drink and bless the baby for a life of “Torah, Chuppah (literally “marriage canopy”) and Maasim Tovim (literally, “good deeds”)”. Because the baby must be named at a Torah reading, a baby naming ceremony and meal are often held in the morning. Breakfast or the like is usually served with dessert and coffee. Again, catering can be an easy way to prepare a festive table. It is at this point that parents like to share some words about the baby and her new name.
You will find that there are many prayers and customs for these special Jewish rituals. Being familiar with these practices can make the day more inspiring and joyful. It is helpful to read up on options of how to celebrate these amazing moments. Back_to_top_of_page
Keep in mind that being well-informed is one of the basic ingredients in creating a memorable Simcha. Back_to_top_of_page