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Brit Milah

Brit milah is Hebrew for the covenant of circumcision. Jewish boys are entered into the covenant of Abraham through the ritual removal of their foreskin.

Circumcisions are therefore customarily performed on healthy male Jewish children on the eighth day after birth, even if the day coincides with the Sabbath, or a holiday. If a child has an illness or health problem, however, the circumcision is postponed until such time as it is deemed safe.

Over the centuries, the pronounciation of certain Hebrew letters shifted in different communities. What Eastern European Jews pronounce bris is known as brit (with a t, instead of an s) in Middle Eastern and modern Israeli Hebrew. In some communities, notably the Yemenite, it's brith.

The occasion is a celebration of the whole Jewish community, which is welcomng the newcomer to the tribe, so it generally takes place in the presence of a minyan (quorum of ten), and is followed by a festive meal.

The circumcision is performed by a trained mohel (circumciser) who is versed in both the medical and religious requirements.

The person designated to hold the child during the circumcision ceremony is called the sandak. It is considered a great honor to be a sandak and it is traditionally the child's grandfather who performs this function. In some communities the woman who brings the child into the ceremony is called the sandakit.

The word sandak may be derived from the Greek word suntkenos, meaning "companion to the child."
The chair where the sandak sits with the infant on his lap is designated "the chair of Elijah." Elijah is regarded as the patron of brit milah, and it is said that his spirit is present at all circumcisions.

Before beginning, as part of the liturgy, the mohel proclaims, "This is the chair of Elijah, may he be remembered for good."

As he is readying himself to perform the ritual, the mohel says this blessing aloud:

Blessed are You, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, that you have made us holy through your commandments, and commanded us regarding circumcision.


Elijah earned his place at the circumcision through his struggle against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who made Ba'al-worship the religion of Israel and abandoned "the covenant" -- understood as the practice of circumcision. According to legend, God rewarded Elijah's zeal with the promise that "the Children of Israel will not perform any circumcision until you come and witness it yourself."
Upon completion of the circumcision, the child’s father says this blessing aloud (in the absence of the father, the mohel will recite):

Blessed are You, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, that you have made us holy through your commandments, and commanded us to enter him into the covenant of Abraham, our father.

The congregation, chanting in unison, bless the child:

As he has entered into the covenant, so let him enter into a life filled with Torah, a good marriage, and good deeds.

The child is then given his Hebrew name before the congregation and received as a child of Israel.

Introduction: Bloodletting

Covenant for girls

Brit milah: A choreography




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