Brit Milah, commonly referred to simply as a ‘Bris’, is a Jewish religious ceremony in which a male infant is circumcised on the eighth day of his life. Judaism uses inclusive reckoning (i.e. his birth would be counted as Day 1) so it works out to be 7 days after the birth. This practice has been observed by Jews for thousands of years, and is considered one of the most fundamental and essential commandments of Judaism.
The origins of Brit Milah are rooted in the Torah’s history and commandments, specifically in the story of Abraham and his covenant with God. According to the Bible, God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and all male members of his household as a sign of the covenant between them. This act of circumcision became a central part of Jewish identity and practice, and those without a bris are . According to the Oral Torah, it is one of the 3 mitzvahs that the whole community maintained while in Egyptian servitude that brought about the Exodus. Echoing this, the prophet Zechariah wrote that the last mitzvah that will be forsaken by Jewish people would be bris, as is seen historically that even those with no other Jewish observance still regularly perform the brit milah.
The reasons for Brit Milah are both religious and cultural. From a religious standpoint, circumcision is seen as a physical sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, but even more broadly, it is considered a symbol of the commitment to Jewish tradition and identity part of the small list of ‘lifecycle events’.
The Brit Milah ceremony typically takes place in a synagogue or at the home of the family or in a synagogue. It is performed by a mohel, a specially trained individual who is knowledgeable in the laws and traditions of circumcision. The ceremony involves various prayers and blessings, as well as the actual circumcision itself. The typical custom is to only announce the boy’s name after the bris is performed as well. After the circumcision, a festive meal is held to celebrate the occasion, which is not only a custom but a mitzvah.
From a cultural standpoint, Brit Milah is an important part of Jewish heritage and tradition. It serves as a way for families to celebrate the birth of a new son and to connect with their Jewish roots. It also provides a sense of community and belonging, as the ceremony is often attended by family members, friends, and members of the local Jewish community.
Brit Milah remains a cherished and central part of Jewish life and tradition, and is one of the most commonly practiced lifecycle mitzvahs among every level of Jewish observance.