Mazal Tov on the birth of your son!
The Torah states (Vayikra/Leviticus 12:3) that Brit Milah (circumcision) takes place on the eighth day inclusive after a baby boy is born, subject to the baby being fit and well. If the baby is not ready on the eighth day, the Brit Milah is ideally performed as soon as possible once the baby is ready.
Why is the eighth day the ideal day to perform a Brit Milah? We learn that the seventh day of creation, Shabbat, represents the unity between God and the Universe. The eighth day, the first day after the seven days of creation, represents values beyond nature and hence a metaphysical connection with God. Brit Milah, which combines a physical action with a metaphysical link to God and to God’s continuing involvement in history even after the seven days of creation, is therefore carried out on the eighth day.
As noted above, if a Brit Milah cannot be performed on the eighth day, it is postponed until the Mohel (a qualified person who performs the circumcision) has deemed it safe to do so. A postponed Brit cannot take place on Shabbat or a Yom Tov.
The Initiation Society, which operates under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi, trains and supervises many Mohalim (plural) to make sure that its Mohalim are fully trained with the relevant medical and halachic (Jewish law) expertise for performing a Brit Milah. We strongly recommend that you only use a Mohel who is licensed by the Initiation Society. Please click here for a list of such Mohalim.
The ceremony can be held either at home or in another place, such as a synagogue. The main factor is that the location should be convenient for the mother and baby! Often, the ceremony takes place in the morning, such as straight after morning prayers, but can take place at any time during the day before sunset, if early morning is not convenient. We set out below the standard procedure for a Brit Milah. If you have any questions about your circumstances, please ask your rabbi or Mohel for advice.
The service begins with the mother passing the baby to the ‘Kvaterin’, a lady who starts the procession to the area where the Brit Milah will take place. This honour is often given to a newly married couple but can be given to any family member or friend. Often, the baby is carried along on a special satin, or embroidered white pillow. If she is married, the Kvaterin then passes the baby to her husband, the Kvater, who completes the procession.
Two chairs are set out in the area where the Brit Milah will take place. The first is for the ‘Sandek’, who holds the baby on his knees during the Brit. This is considered the highest honour at the ceremony. It is often given to the baby’s grandfather or a rabbi. The second chair is known as the ‘kisei shel Eliyahu’ (Elijah’s chair). According to Jewish teachings, the Biblical prophet Elijah spiritually visits every Brit Milah to testify to the commitment of the Jewish people to this great mitzvah (commandment). After the Mohel has made the bracha (blessing) and performed the Brit Milah, the father responds with his own bracha, followed by two more blessings recited over a cup of wine. The baby is then given his Hebrew name. Finally, a seudat mitzvah (festive meal) is served.
The Pidyon Haben ceremony is when a first born baby boy is ‘redeemed’ by his parents from a ‘Cohen’ (descendent of the priests who served in the Temples in Jerusalem when they stood), thereby exempting him from the initial Biblical obligation on firstborn boys to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem, when it is standing. Its source is in the Torah (Shemot/Exodus 13:2)
It should take place on the thirty-first day of the boy’s life, with the calculation starting the first day for this purpose from the time that the baby is born. Even if the Brit Milah has been postponed, the Pidyon Haben will still go ahead on time, unless that day falls on Shabbat or Yom Tov in which case the Pidyon Haben is postponed until the following Sunday or weekday after Yom Tov respecitively.
This ‘redemption’ process involves payment by the father to the Cohen of five coins (in ancient times, they would have been a Selah), which is the approximate value of 100 grams of silver. The Cohen or your rabbi will advise as to how this takes place and the Cohen will often provide the coins for the father.
The ceremony begins with a sit-down meal, including making a blessing (hamotzi) over bread. This does not have to be a full-blown party.
One custom in some communities, but not a law, is for the baby to then be carried in on a silver tray adorned with jewellery. Then, the baby is redeemed by his parents, as they hand the Cohen the coins. Finally, the Cohen blesses the child and hands him back to the parents.
There are certain circumstances in which a first born baby boy will not require a Pidoyn Haben. Your Rabbi will be available to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
We wish you Mazaltov and every happiness with your new son! Don't forget to apply for a free Tribe baby gift pack as well.
Mazal Tov on the birth of your daughter!
The father of the newly born baby girl receives an aliyah (‘a call up to the Torah’) at the synagogue on the first Shabbat, Yom Tov or weekday morning following the birth of his daughter, whichever occasion he is able to get to first. Following the aliyah, the rabbi or another officiant will bless the baby and her parents, including a special blessing in which the baby is named. The mother of the baby also attends if she is sufficiently recovered from giving birth.
At that time, or when she is well enough to go to shul, or in the presence of a minyan, the mother should recite the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Recovery from Childbirth.
Some parents also hold a ‘Zeved Bat’ ceremony, the ‘Home Service on the Birth of a Daughter’. This ceremony, developed from Sephardic practice, is an optional ceremony providing another opportunity to mark the arrival of a baby girl. It may be accompanied by a celebratory meal, although it does not have to be a full-blown party!
We wish you mazaltov and every happiness with your new daughter! Don’t forget to apply for a free Tribe baby gift pack as well.