B'rit Milah & Baby Namings
The birth of a child is the most miraculous event in human experience. Welcoming a new life into the world unleashes a flood of intense love, nurturing and protective instincts; gives us a profound sense of purpose; and offers us a glimpse of immortality, knowing that part of us will live on after we are gone.
Jewish custom instructs that boys to be brought into the Covenant (Brit or Bris - using the more commonly used Eastern European pronunciation) that, according to tradition was first established between God and the patriarch Abraham.
The Bris ceremony centers around the ritual circumcision of the baby, which is usually performed by a mohel (a person who is specifically trained not only in the brief surgical procedure, but knowledgeable and proficient in the appropriate prayers.) If a mohel is not available or desired, many bris ceremonies are facilitated by physicians. The ceremony is ususally held at the home of the family on the eighth day of the child's life, unless there is a medical concern.
By performing this mitzvah, we follow in the footsteps of Abraham, who circumsized himself as a physical symbol of God's promise to bless him and his descendents, his own commitment to follow God's commandments, and his pledge to pass that commitment down to future generations.
It is also customary that a child receives their Hebrew name during the bris ceremony. There are two schools of thought concerning the choice of a name. Eastern European (Ashkenazic) custom favors naming a child after a deceased relative as a way of honoring that person's memory. It is considered bad luck to name a baby after someone still living. Within Sephardic (Spanish-Portugese) Jewish tradition, there are no superstitions involved with naming a child after the living. In both traditions the "formula" for a Hebrew name is identical. A Hebrew first name is selected by the parents (and sometimes a Hebrew middle name as well) followed by the word ben which means "son of" and then the Hebrew name of the child's father and, in modern circles, mother as well. If you were raised in an environment which acknowledged and made a distinction in your lineage based upon the three-tiered heirarchy of ancient Jewish society (Kohanim - the High Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem; Levites - those who assisted the priests in performing the rituals; and Yisrael - basically everybody else) that acknowledgment might be included as part of the name.
As an example, my Hebrew name is:
Peretz (first name) Mordechai (middle name) ben ("son of") Reuven (my father's first name) Ha-Kohen (indicating lineage descended from the High Priests) v' ("and") B'racha (my mother's Hebrew name.)
So what about girls?
It was not until the second half of the 20th century that ceremonies to welcome girls into the Jewish Covenant began to appear. Prayers, poems and music were created by women to acknowledge and celebrate girls in a significant, joyous and meaningful way. These modern ceremonies, like the ancient bris, usually include the receiving of a Hebrew name. The "formula" remains the same, with the exception that the word ben ("son of") is replaced by the word bat ("daughter of").
Whether you are expecting a boy or a girl, or already have a child that has never received a Hebrew name, I can create and/or enhance a Bris or Baby Naming ceremony with beauty and meaning. I have worked with many mohels and physicians, and have officiated at numerous baby naming ceremonies in homes, restaurants, synagogues and country clubs.
Contact me so that we can discuss how I can help to make your celebration even more memorable.
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