Temple Israel of Great Neck

Where Tradition Meets Change

Berit Millah

ט וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-אַבְרָהָם, וְאַתָּה אֶת-בְּרִיתִי תִשְׁמֹר--אַתָּה וְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ, לְדֹרֹתָם.  י זֹאת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּ, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, אַחֲרֶיךָ:  הִמּוֹל לָכֶם, כָּל-זָכָר.  יא וּנְמַלְתֶּם, אֵת בְּשַׂר עָרְלַתְכֶם; וְהָיָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם.  יב וּבֶן-שְׁמֹנַת יָמִים, יִמּוֹל לָכֶם כָּל-זָכָר--לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם

God further said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days... (Genesis 17:9-12)

Circumcision, referred to in Hebrew as “berit millah” (literally, “covenant of circumcision”) or colloquially among Jews of Eastern European ancestry as “bris,” is among the most ancient rituals practiced by Jews. On the eighth day of a baby boy’s life, the child’s foreskin is removed by a specially-trained Jewish ritual practitioner known as a mohel. In the second part of the ceremony, the boy is given his Hebrew name, the name by which he will be known among the Jewish people and called to the Torah. Circumcision is considered so essential to being Jewish that male converts to Judaism must be circumcised, a somewhat greater ordeal for adults.

While a trained mohel is essential to the berit millah ceremony, the mitzvah (commandment) of millah actually devolves upon the baby’s father, and some mohalim will offer the father the opportunity to perform the circumcision, a perfectly safe option once the mohel’s clamp has been properly placed. Mohalim who are also physicians sometimes offer parents the option of local anesthesia.

The Conservative movement has in recent years offered training for Jewish physicians who regularly perform circumcisions, so that they can also offer the ritual aspect as well. This is called the “Brit Kodesh” program, and is offered from time to time at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. Physicians who are interested in the program and qualified should contact Rabbi Adelson for further details.

For more information about the berit millah ceremony, please click here.

Are you expecting and need help with finding an officiant for your berit millah or baby naming? Click here to contact Temple Israel.