Here you will find a wealth of information about the Brit Milah (or Bris) ceremony for boys, and the Baby Naming (Simchat Bat or Zeved Habat) ceremony for girls. Much of this information is repeated in different ways throughout the web site. I hope it will give you a good sense about my philosophy and approach to these beautiful rituals.
I had hoped that I was finished writing Covid updates, but that is not the case. The Delta variant has thrown a wrench into the works, so here are some thoughts:
A number of parents are deciding to have their children circumcised in the hospital because of Covid concerns. They didn’t realize they could have a traditional Bris in their home without a party or gathering. Also, if there are concerns about Covid, the last place you want to have your baby circumcised is in the hospital. Besides taking up to 45 minutes to circumcise your baby while he is strapped down to a board, that’s where all of the Covid patients are and the doctors who are treating them. I strongly advise getting your baby out of the hospital as soon as possible and have a traditional Bris performed by me in the safety and comfort of your home. You can record or Zoom the event and make an in-person party a few months later to celebrate your new baby.
IMPORTANT: Even though the Bris may be delayed a week or two, the baby will not be in any greater discomfort than if it had been performed on the eighth day.
I continue to perform Brisses throughout the entire New York tri-state area. As a traditional, Sabbath observant modern Orthodox Mohel, I perform Brisses for Jewish families of all backgrounds: Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Interfaith, Alternative families, LGBTQ and Single parents. I introduce and explain the ceremony in a tasteful manner with the goal of making each event warm, meaningful and inclusive. The actual circumcision takes under twenty seconds. The ceremony is about 10 – 15 minutes in total. It is quick, gentle and compassionate with no advance preparation required. The Brisses that I perform are recognized by all the movements of Judaism and in Israel. I also perform Holistic Circumcisions for non-Jewish families.
If you are researching mohels and are thinking about using a non-traditional doctor-mohel or having a hospital circumcision, please let me know and I will send you additional information. This is a very important decision and parents should have as much information as possible to make a fully informed decision. A doctor-mohel or hospital circumcision can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes (!) with the baby strapped down to a board and then a second procedure will be required to make that operation a Bris. I don't think most parents want that for their baby.
If your son was circumcised in the hospital or by a doctor-mohel, he can still have a Bris and be properly entered into the Covenant of Abraham. (**See below.) Also, it is very important to determine beforehand that the hospital or doctor circumcision was performed properly.
Conversely, if you want a beautiful, proper and kosher Bris, do not make arrangements with anyone on the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday. It will have significant negative ramifications Jewishly for your son or grandson.
My goal remains to continue to maximize the safety for everyone involved. I would like you to be confident in all of the steps I am taking when it comes to performing Brisses. My instruments are heat-steam sterilized in an autoclave. Everything else is disposable. I use a new, sterilized set for every Bris.
**For babies that were circumcised in the hospital or did not have a proper Bris performed by a certified rabbi or cantor mohel, a Hatafat Dam Bris ceremony can be performed to turn that circumcision into a Bris. It will be a complete ceremony including the Honors, the announcement of your son’s Hebrew/Jewish name followed by a festive meal. At the point in the ceremony where the circumcision would have taken place, the hatafat dam brit, the drawing of a drop of blood from the circumcision site, is performed. The discomfort to the baby is minimal and momentary. (He will probably cry more when his diaper comes off and his legs are held.) This will ensure that your son will have been properly entered into the Covenant of Abraham. Doing this will allow him to have a Bar Mitzvah or get married someday unimpeded. If your son decides to follow a more traditional Jewish path in life, this will also remove any obstacles. A certificate will be issued attesting that the requirements of the Bris have been fulfilled in accordance with Jewish law. It will be recognized by all the movements of Judaism and in Israel.
It is important to determine beforehand that the hospital or doctor circumcision was performed properly. I have had a number of families who wanted the Hatafat Dam Bris ceremony, but there was so much skin left that their babies did not look circumcised. They will have to be re-circumcised before they can have a Bris/Hatafat Dam Bris Ceremony.
If you belong to a mommy blog or any other group or know someone that might benefit from this posting about Covid-19 and Brisses, please share it with them.
If you would like information about Brisses, Baby Naming ceremonies for girls, availability and fees, please email me. I will send you additional information to help you prepare for those joyous events. If you had your baby, Mazel Tov! If you are expecting a baby, best wishes for an easy delivery and a beautiful, healthy baby. I look forward to seeing you at a simcha (happy occasion) soon!
Cantor Philip L. Sherman