What is its origin and why?
The word Brit has a double meaning in the Hebrew language: it means circumcision as well as a covenant. This demonstrates that circumcision itself is a covenant – a covenant between us and God. A covenant is far more than a simple contract. It is a binding and irrevocable pledge between two parties. Through the original mitzvah of Brit Milah, God sealed an eternal covenant between Abraham and his descendants. To this day, the blessing recited on performing the mitzvah of Milah is “Blessed are You … Who sanctified us with His mitzvot, and instructed us to enter him (the newborn child) into the covenant of Abraham our Father.” By performing the mitzvah of Milah, we perpetuate the covenant by passing it on to the next generation.
The mitzvah of Brit Milah is unique in that it is the only mitzvah given to the Patriarchs. The fulfillment of Brit Milah by Abraham and his descendants, even before the Torah was given to the nation at Sinai, is an indication of its centrality to the Jewish faith. Certainly, the mitzvah of Milah has captured “public opinion” concerning the Jewish religion. It would hardly be an exaggeration to state that the concept of circumcision, in the eyes of both Jews and non-Jews, is seen as a defining element of Judaism.
The circumcision is done specifically on the reproductive organ. God chose the male place of gender as the part of the body to impart His Covenant because from there begins the process of bringing down a soul from Heaven and creating a new generation. The most obvious connotation of the mitzvah of Milah is of removing something unwanted. It seems as if the human male was created incomplete, and the job of completing him, by removal of the foreskin, was left to us to carry out through the mitzvah of Milah. This raises a difficulty: why did God create us incomplete? The answer, however, is that God wished to give us the opportunity of completing ourselves. Milah is the first expression, and the only physical manifestation, of this self-completion. The foreskin, which represents a blockage or impediment, is cut away, thereby enabling a revelation of purity and holiness.
It is hardly surprising that the vast majority of even the most secular Jews, perhaps up to 98% of Jews in Israel, continue to circumcise their children. It is the first mitzvah given to the first Jew, Abraham, and to this day it continues to be the symbol of our faith and our covenant – indeed, the symbol of our Jewish identity.
On which day should the brit be & why?
Medically, the eighth day of an infant’s life is most ideal because of safety factors and the elevated levels of vitamin K and prothrombin necessary to prevent hemorrhaging. However, this is not the primary explanation. There is deep significance to a Brit Milah, specifically on the eighth day, as the number eight represents the supernatural. Hence the Torah commands a male child to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life (Genesis17:12).
Day of the Brit
- Firm sleeping pillow
- Pack of baby wipes
- 5 diapers
- 2 Tallit
- A bottle of Kosher sweet grape wine. E.g. Manishewitz or Kedem (not grape juice)
- Kiddush cup or wine glass
- Large tub of Vaseline
- Pack of 25 individually wrapped 3X3 sterile gauze pads
Day one – 24 hours post care
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap before changing any diaper.
- You should be two people changing his diaper. One to hold his legs firm so he doesn’t kick himself and the other to change his diaper.
- Apply a Gauze pad with Vaseline on the penis to serve as a hooded covering and switch it every two hours. Expect to see some stains of blood clots on the gauze.
- Expect your son to be a little irritable the first day. You may give the baby 1.25 ml of infant Tylenol, if he is uncomfortable to help alleviate the discomfort.
- Do not bathe the baby within the first 24 hours following the Brit.
- Double diaper the baby for the first 24 hours.
Day two – Post 24 hours
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap before changing his diaper.
- Gently apply with your finger a little Vaseline all around the penis.
- Back to a single diaper.
- The redness will subside in a few days; a soft, light-colored healing scab-tissue may form for the next several days. This is perfectly normal.
- Should you have any questions, call or text me any time of day or night.