Introduction to Brit Mila
Avraham was commanded to circumcise himself and all males in his household. From then on, all healthy Jewish males were to be circumcised when they reached 8 days old.
If there is any question about the baby's health, the circumcision is delayed or, in rare cases, not done at all.
The primary obligation to do the circumcision is on the boy's father. Since most people are not skilled surgeons, the actual cutting is usually done by a highly trained expert, called a mohel, who is appointed by the father. A festive meal is eaten after the circumcision. A minyan is preferred, but not required, for a brit mila.
When is the Eighth Day?
As long as the boy was born before sunset (even one minute before), this time period counts as the first day. Normally, the brit mila will be performed on the following week on that same day of the week (the baby's eighth day). If the baby was born between sunset and dark, consult a rabbi or mohel.
The brit mila may be done only if the baby is healthy by the opinions of both a doctor and a mohel. If either says not to do the brit mila, don't.
NOTE: Even if the doctor says the baby is healthy, ask the mohel for his opinion since the mohel can still veto.
Delays: Shabbat/Jewish Festivals - Special Births
SITUATION: A baby boy is born by caesarean section. The eighth day after the birth is Shabbat or a Jewish festival.
WHAT TO DO: The brit mila must be delayed to at least the next day following that Shabbat or Jewish festival. (If the mohel or doctor says the baby is not healthy enough for a brit, the brit must be delayed even more.)
Delays: Caesarean Birth
Do not delay a Shabbat brit mila until Sunday in order to prevent Jews who do not keep Shabbat from driving or otherwise desecrating Shabbat to attend the brit.
Time of Day
The brit mila may be done anytime from sunrise to sunset, but the preferred time is in the morning.
NOTE: Brit mila may only be done during the daytime.
For a boy who requires an operation six months later (or more) to repair an anomalous condition such as hypospadias or webbing, if the hospital will allow a mohel "hands-on" participation, then the brit mila is done at the time of the operation. If not, after the child heals, a hatafat dam brit mila should be performed.
Who Should Perform: Preference
A father should circumcise his male children (if he knows how to do to the circumcision!) or appoint someone to do so. Order of preference for who should do the circumcision, if competent:
- Other shomer-Shabbat male
- Shomer-Shabbat woman (if no male is available).
NOTE: A father (or anyone else) may not perform the brit mila--even just the incision--on Shabbat if it is his first time.
NOTE: A non-Jew may not perform a brit mila.
NOTE: If a child was circumcised in the hospital or by anyone who is not shomer Shabbat, consult a rabbi.
Choice of Sandak
Choose the greatest Jewish scholar (talmid chacham) in your town or city as sandak (person who holds the baby for the brit mila), since kabbala says it is a good omen for the boy's soul. A woman may be a sandeket but only if no suitable man is available. If no Jewish man or woman is available, a non-Jewish person may serve as a sandak or sandeket.
When doing a circumcision, metzitza (sucking out some blood) is required. Metzitza may be done using a pipette or other tube, but the traditional way is by mouth.
NOTE: Using a gauze pad for metzitza is not traditionally done.
Amount of Metzitza Blood
There is no minimum amount of blood to draw out for metzitza: any quantity suffices.
Announcement or Invitation
Don't formally invite people to a brit mila meal, just announce it.
REASON: If you invite people and they don't come, they are disrespecting the chance to participate in a mitzva.
Naming a Baby after Someone
You are not halachically required to name the baby after a particular person. The custom is that a baby is not named after its living parent.
Brit Mila Meal: Minimum Requirement
A se'udat mitzva is required for a brit mila, but the brit mila is still valid even if no meal is held. The minimum requirement for the meal is to eat at least 1.3 fl. oz. (39 ml, or 1/6 cup) of bread within four minutes.
If a brit mila is performed on Tish'a b'Av or other fast days, the meal (se'udat mitzva) is held after the fast ends. On a delayed fast day, the sandak, mohel, and father of the boy who is having the brit may eat after mincha.
Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of www.practicalhalacha.com Visit their website for more information.