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The celebration of the birth of a child is an awesome, transcendent spiritual experience. The Talmud reminds us that there are three partners in the creation of a child – the mother, the father, and God. Jewish tradition seeks to celebrate this partnership in creation, the miracle of life, and the ongoing commitment we share with God as partners in the covenant of Israel.
When expecting a child, we invite you to call us and let us know where you plan to deliver the baby, as we like to visit families and newborns in the hospital for a blessing. In addition, any questions you may have regarding planning the naming or bris can be answered for you. Also, please let us know when the baby is born, so we can come pay a visit.
If the baby is a girl, you may choose to have a baby naming for her. This ceremony usually takes place sometime within the first year of the baby’s life. This ceremony includes special blessings as well as the announcement of the child’s Hebrew name.
If the baby is a boy, the Torah teaches us that we celebrate his entrance into the covenant on the eighth day. The celebration on the eighth day is one of the oldest traditions of our people, and part of the core of Jewish life. Tradition teaches, however, that if the child is not healthy enough for the circumcision on the eighth day, then the family should wait until their physician determines that the child is ready.
A Bris ceremony has two different components – the circumcision and the naming. The Hebrew word Bris is the same as the Hebrew word Brit – which means covenant. This ritual celebrates the birth of the child and his entrance into the covenant of Israel.
In the first part of the ceremony, the child is welcomed in a procession, passed from his parents, to his godparents, and then to a person called the Sandak, who traditionally holds the baby during the circumcision. The honor of the Sandak is often given to the baby’s grandfather.
Traditionally, a specially trained person called the mohel performs the circumcision. There are several very good mohalim in south Florida. Some people ask if it is better for a physician to perform the circumcision. While that choice is a personal one, the mohalim we work with are all highly trained and proficient. There is some debate over whether it is advantageous to use local anesthesia, which can be done only by a practicing physician. If you need any help or guidance, Temple Beth El’s rabbis can offer whatever assistance or referrals you need.
The second part of the ceremony includes the official blessing and announcement of the child’s Hebrew name. In Ashkenazic, or European, tradition, the child is named for a loved-one who has passed away, whom the family would like to honor or remember through the child. Customs vary concerning choosing the name. Some take the actual name and pass it along to the child, and others will use the first letter of the name and choose a different name that begins with that letter. Sometimes a loved-one had a Yiddish name, and so it is appropriate to adjust it to the Hebrew. In Sephardic custom, some name the baby after the child’s grandfather. Still others will choose a name based on a particular characteristic they hope the child will possess or, if the child is born during a holiday, there are names that stem from that celebration as well. The rabbis at Temple Beth El are glad to meet with you to help you choose a Hebrew name.
While the circumcision is performed by the mohel, the rabbis at Temple Beth El always look forward to sharing in the celebration, celebrating the naming of the child, and offering blessings for the child and family.