Brit Milah/Bris Milah
Birth ceremonies for boys and girls are different in the Jewish tradition. Both boys and girls have a "naming ceremony" but the boys also have a more formal rite called circumcision.
Traditionally the father of a Jewish baby girl would announce the name of his daughter in the synagogue about a month after she was born. The girl and her mother could be present although they often were not. Nowadays it is more common for the service to take place in the synagogue a few days rather than a month after the baby is born.
The ritual for boys is much more complicated and elaborate. After a boy child has been born a blessing is said and eight days later the child will be presented for the ceremony of circumcision. This may take place in the synagogue or in the home, or at the hospital. This is a very important ceremony and the only reason for delaying it is if the child is ill. The boy will be placed on the lap of the sandek (the counterpart of a Christian godparent). It is a great honor to be asked to perform this service. The circumcision is performed by the mohel, who may be a doctor but does not have to be. The circumcision of boys is a sign of the covenant that God agreed with Abraham.
What does circumcision mean?
A baby becomes a Jew because he has a Jewish mother and not because he is circumcised. There are two important things that circumcision means:
- The baby receives his father's blessing, and since the time of Abraham this has always been very important
- The baby become "religiously" clean and is welcomed into membership of God's chosen race.
The 'sign' in his flesh will constantly remind him of this.