Creative Brit Milah

Found In: Covenant & Naming Rituals

Tags: naming, Elijah, circumcision

By Rabbi Jill Hammer | Complete Ceremony

Cast of Characters

Officiant:
This refers to the rabbi or other person who will lead the ceremony. If the mohel is conducting the ceremony, "officiant" refers to the mohel.

Mohel (Mohelet):
The trained religious and medical professional who will perform the circumcision, if the circumcision is occurring at the ceremony.

Parent(s):
The happy celebrant or celebrants of the ceremony. Through this ritual, a parent fulfills the commandment to bring his or her son into the covenant of Abraham.

Baby:
The new arrival!

Grandparents:
Parent(s) of the celebrant(s). They may be assigned a ritual role such as k'vater, k'vaterin, sandek , or sandakit.

Sandek:
The person who holds the baby during the circumcision. This is the most honored task at a circumcision, and is usually given to a grandparent, relative, or close family friend. The role of sandek corresponds to the title of "godfather," though it may or may not indicate a sustained spiritual role in the child's life. (In Sephardic tradition a sandek provided for a child's religious education.)

Sandakit:
A female sandek, or godmother. While traditionally women did not perform this honored task, there is no reason why women cannot fulfill this role, and nowadays many do.

Kvaterin:
According to Ashkenazi tradition, a woman who brings the child into the room during the ritual and hands him to the sandek. Sometimes performed together with a k'vater (traditionally, the k'vaterin took the baby from the mother and handed him to the k'vater, who handed him to the sandek). This honor is generally given to a relative or friend. The word means, literally, godmother, though the role is frequently ceremonial.

K'vater:
A man who brings the child into the room during the ritual and hands him to the sandak. Sometimes performed together with a k'vaterin. This honor is generally given to a relative or friend. Literally, godfather. (See k'vaterin.)

Setting

A special chair is placed in the center of the room and may be draped with a tallit or cloth of special significance to the parents. This is the chair of Elijah – Elijah the prophet is said to attend every brit milah as a sign that Israel is still keeping its covenant with God. The cloth from this chair may later be used to make a wimpel (binder) for a Torah scroll – or the baby may be wrapped in a special cloth that is later used for a wimpel. When the baby is brought into the room, he is placed briefly on this chair before being handed to the sandak or sandakit. There is a chair for the sandak or sandakit, and a table for the mohel's equipment and/or the circumcision itself if the baby is being circumcised at the ceremony. Chairs should be arranged for guests, though sometimes guests stand throughout the brief ceremony.

Act One: Welcome

Officiant:

Barukh ha-ba: Blessed is he who enters!

(The k'vater or k'vaterin carries the child into the room--participants in the gathering stand to welcome the baby as he enters.)

A blessing that parents may say to their son:

May you live to see a world that you create,
and may your future be a time we cannot yet imagine.
May your hope span the generations.
May your heart learn understanding.
May you speak words of wisdom and sing songs of joy.
May your vision be clear before you.
May your eyes shine with the light of Torah,
And your face glow with the radiance of heaven,
And may you run to discover the words of the Holy Ancient One.

    —B'rakhot 17a

Placing the child on Elijah's Chair:

Officiant or a participant may add:

This is the throne of Elijah the prophet–may he be remembered for good.

The child is placed on the chair.

Officiant:

Elijah witnesses every entry into the covenant to remind us that every child has the potential to be the messiah. Within every child is a spark that can repair the world. At this moment, you are not yet named. We do not know who you will become. We place you, our son, on the throne of Elijah, praying that you will engage in acts of redemption through words and deeds that are unique to you. We pray for your health and happiness throughout your life.

Parents may add special blessings they wish for their child, and/or may invite grandparents, other guests, etc. to offer blessings for the baby's future.

At the close of this segment, you may wish to sing a song. One beautiful song to use is "On Children" by Khalil Gibran

Act II: Circumcision

Traditionally the circumcision ceremony is performed during the public covenanting ritual, and this is still how most rituals proceed. However, some families may wish to have the circumcision done privately so as not to celebrate while their child is experiencing pain. Also, some families have had to delay a circumcision due to a medical issue, or have entirely foregone circumcision, but want to welcome and name their baby. If the circumcision is taking place at this time, this section should be included; if not, this sect ion should be omitted.

The mohel frequently takes an opportunity to address the gathering, telling them about the commandment of circumcision and reassuring them that the child is safe and will not experience extreme pain. Sometimes at this point the mohel asks a parent (traditionally the father) to officially appoint the mohel as the designated agent to circumcise the child. The mohel:

The Holy One of Blessing said to Abraham our father: Walk before me and be perfect. Behold, I am ready and prepared to perform the precept of circumcision that the blessed Creator commanded.

The mohel then prepares the baby for circumcision, and recites the following blessing:

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al ha-milah.

Feminine: B'rukhah at Yah Eloheinu ruach ha-olam asher kidshatnu b'mitzvoteha v'tzivatnu al ha-milah.

Blessed are You, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, who has made us holy with Your commandments and commanded us concerning circumcision.

The parent or parents now recite the following blessing:

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hakhniso bivrito shel avraham avinu (vesarah imeinu).

Feminine: B'rukhah at Yah Eloheinu ruach ha-olam asher kidshatnu b'mitzvoteha v'tzivatnu l'hakhniso bivrito shel avraham avinu (v'sarah imeinu).

Blessed are You, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, who has made us holy with Your commandments and commanded us to bring our son into the covenant of Abraham our father (some add: and Sarah our mother).

The guests say "amen" to the blessing.

Everyone says:

אמן. כשם שנכנס לברית כן יכנס לתורה ולאהבה ולמעשים טובים.

K'shem shenikhnas la-brit, kein yikanes l'torah, u-li'ahavah u-l'ma'asim tovim.

Just as he has entered the covenant, so may he enter to the study of Torah, and love, and acts of loving-kindness.

Act III: Naming

Included here are three versions of this final section of the ceremony.

IIIA (Traditional naming ceremony)

While a parent or sandek holds the child, the officiant raises a cup of wine and recites the following kiddush.

Officiant:


B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam boreit p'ri ha-gafen.

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam borei p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are you, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kidesh y'did mibeten, v'chok bish'eiro sam, v'tze'etzav chatam b'ot brit kodesh. Al kein biskhar zot, el chai, chelkeinu tzureinu, tzaveh l'hatzil y'didut sh'eiro mishachat l'maan brito asher sam bivsareinu. Barukh attah Adonai, koreit ha-brit.

Blessed are you, God, guiding spirit of the universe, who sanctifies your beloved from the womb, and has placed your law in his body, and has marked this offspring with the sign of the holy covenant. For the merit of this covenant, living God, our portion, our rock, protect this beloved child from misfortune, for the sake of this covenant that You have placed in our flesh. Blessed are you, God, who establishes the covenant.

Eloheinu v'elohei avoteinu v'imoteinu, kayem et ha-yeled ha-zeh l'aviv u-l'imo, v'yikarei sh'mo b'yisrael _____ ben_____. [Yismach ha'av b'yotzei chalatzav, v'tagel imo bifri vitnah. Kakatuv: yismach avikha v'imekha, v'tagel yoladtekha] V'neemar: va-avor alayich va-er'ekh mitboseset b'damayich, va-yomar lakh b'damayich chayi, va-yomar lakh b'damayich chayi. Vene'emar: zachar olam b'rito, davar tzivah l'elef dor. Asher karat et avraham, ush'vuato l'yitzchak, veyaamideha l'yaakov l'chok, l'yisrael brit olam. V'neemar: vay-amal avraham et yitzchak b'no, ben shmonat yamim, ka'asher tzivah oto elohim. Hodu l'Adonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo. Hodu l'Adonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo.

Our God and God of our ancestors, sustain this child for his father and mother, and may his name in Israel be called______, son of_____.

[Add if appropriate: May the father rejoice in the fruit of his loins, and the mother be glad in the fruit of her womb, as it is said; your father shall rejoice and the one who gave birth to you will be glad.]

It is written: I passed by you and saw you lying in your blood, and I said: In your blood, you shall live! In your blood, you shall live!

It is written: God remembers the covenant forever, the commandment for a thousand generations. God made it with Abraham, and promised it to Isaac, and made it a law for Jacob, and an eternal covenant for Israel.

It is written: Abraham circumcised his son Isaac at the age of eight days as God had commanded him. Give thanks to God for God's goodness-- God's love is forever!
 

_____, zeh ha-katan, gadol y'hiyeh. K'shem sheniknas-labrit, kein yikanes l'torah, u-l'chuppah u-l'maasim tovim.

________ זה הקטן גדול יהיה. כשם שנכנס לברית, כן יכנס לתורה ולחפה, ולמעשים טובים.

_______, this little child, may he become great. Just as he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah, the wedding canopy, and deeds of lovingkindness.

The officiant drinks some wine.

Parents may wish at this time to speak about the baby's name--its meaning and origin, and about whom the child is named after, if anyone.

The parents also recite the Shehechiyanu, the prayer over joyful events:

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam she-hechiyanu v 'kiy'manu v'higianu la-z'man ha-zeh.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam she-hechiyatnu v'kiy'matnu v'higiatnu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, who keeps us in life, who sustains us and who enables us to reach this season.

The following prayer may be recited by the parents:

May this child's heart be open to Torah, to learn and to tea ch it, to guard and to keep it. God, may you give him length of days and years, a life of restraint from wrongdoing, a life of prosperity and honor, a life where you fulfill all the wishes of his heart for good.

The group responds: Amen. Mazel tov.

IIIB. Naming Ceremony with Abbreviations and Additions

A reader recites:

When Israel stood to receive the Torah, the Holy One said to them: "I am prepared to give you My Torah. Present to Me good guarantors that you will observe and study the Torah and I shall give it to you." They said: "Our ancestors are our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "Your ancestors are not sufficient guarantors. Bring Me good guarantors, and I shall give you the Torah."
They said: "Our prophets are our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "The prophets are not sufficient guarantors. Bring Me good guarantors and I shall give you the Torah."
They said: "Indeed, our children will be our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "Your children are good guarantors. For their sake I give the Torah to you."

While a parent or sandek holds the child, the officiant raises a cup of wine and recites the following:

 Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam borei p'ri ha-gafen.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam boreit p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are you, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.

The gathering responds "Amen."

Officiant:

Blessed are you, God, Source of Life, who sanctifies your beloved from the womb. For the merit of the covenant, living God, our portion, our rock, protect this beloved child from misfortune. Blessed are you, God, who establishes the covenant. Our God and God of our ancestors, sustain this child for his father and mother, and may his name in Israel be called______, son of_____.

[Add if appropriate: May the father rejoice in the fruit of his loins. And the mother be glad in the fruit of her womb, as it is said; your father shall rejoice and the one who gave birth to you will be glad.]

It is written: God remembers the covenant forever, the commandment for a thousand generations. God made it with Abraham, and promised it to Isaac, and made it a law for Jacob, and an eternal covenant for Israel.

_______, this little child, may he become great. Just as he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah, the wedding canopy, and deeds of lovingkindness.

The officiant drinks some wine.

Parents may wish at this time to speak about the baby's name--its meaning and origin, and about whom the child is named after, if anyone. (link to: discussing the name and choosing a name).

Parents may also wish, at this time, to light a ner neshamah, a soul candle, representing the new soul of the baby (connect to this page).

The parents also recite the Shehechiyanu, the prayer over joyful events:

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam she-hechiyanu v 'kiy'manu v'higianu la-z'man ha-zeh.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam she-hechiyatnu v'kiy'matnu v'higiatnu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, God, guiding spirit of the universe, who keeps us in life, who sustains us and who enables us to reach this season.

Parents or grandparents may conclude by blessing the child with the priestly blessing:

Y'simkha Elohim k'ephraim u-k'menashe. Y'varekhekha Adonai v'yishmarekha.
Ya'er Adonai panav eilekha v'y'chuneka.
Yisa Adonai panav eilekha v'yasem l'kha shalom.

IIIC. Alternative Naming

(This naming ritual for boys is based on Ronya Gordon's baby naming ceremony, created by Rabbi Lenny Gordon and Dr. Lori Lefkovitz, using the pattern of the seven wedding blessings.)

Officiant, parents, relatives, and/or other participants may share in reciting the following blessings. During this ceremony, the baby may be wrapped in a tallit and/or held under a tallit stretched out to form a chuppah. If your ceremony includes a circumcision and you wish to use these seven blessings, you may want to recite them prior to the circumcision [Act II], as an uncomfortable baby may have some difficulty getting through all seven.)

1. Kiddush (Holding cup of wine; this cup will be passed to everyone who recites a blessing)

 Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam borei p'ri ha-gafen.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam boreit p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, guiding spirit of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.

2. Blessing over Creation

ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שהכל נהיה בדברו.

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam she-ha-kol nih'yeh bidvaro.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam she-ha-kol nih'yeh bidvarah.

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, guiding spirit of the universe, for everything came into being according to your word.

3. Blessing over Humanity

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-ol am, yotzeret ha-adam.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam yotzer ha-adam.

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, guiding spirit of the universe, creator of human beings.

4. Blessing over Human Creative Potential

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher yatzar et ha-adam b'tzalmo, b'tzelem dmut tavnito, v'hitkin lo mimenu binyan adei ad. Barukh attah Adonai, yotzer ha-adam.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam, asher yatzrah et ha-adam b'tzalmah, b'tzelem dmut tavnitah, v'hitkina lah mimena binyan adei ad. B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam yotzeret ha-adam.

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, guiding spirit of the universe, who created the human being in your image and in your likeness, and fashioned out of the being of humans a structure for eternity. Blessed are you, God, creator of human beings.

5. Blessing over This Child

אלהינו ואלהי אבותינו ואמותינו קים את הילד הזה לאביו ולאמו ויקרש שמו בישראל ________בן ______________. ברוך אתה ה' כורת הברית.

Eloheinu v'elohei avoteinu v'imoteinu, kayem et ha-yeled ha-zeh (l'aviv u-l'imo), v'yikarei shmo b'yisrael _____ ben ____________. Barukh attah Adonai, koreit ha-brit.

Our God and God of our fathers and mothers, sustain this child (for his father and mother). May his name in Israel be called _____ son of ______. Blessed are you, God, who establishes the covenant.

6. Blessing Over Seeing a Beautiful Sight

ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו צלך העולם שככה בעולמו.

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu me lekh ha-olam she-kacha lo b'olamo.

ברוכה את יה אלהינו רוח העולם שככה בעולמה.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam she-kacha lo b'olamah.

Blessed are you, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, who has put such a beautiful thing in the world.

7. Blessing Over Joyful Occasions

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam she-hechiyanu v 'kiy'manu v'higianu la-z'man ha-zeh.

B'rukhah at Ya Eloheinu ruach ha-olam she-hechiyatnu v'kiy'matnu v'higiatnu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, our God, guiding spirit of the universe, who keeps us in life, who sustains us and w ho enables us to reach this season.

Those who have recited blessings drink wine or grape juice.

Parents may wish at this time to speak about the baby's name--its meaning and origin, and about whom the child is named after, if anyone. (link to: discussing the name and choosing a name).

Parents or grandparents may conclude by blessing the child with the priestly blessing:

Y'simkha Elohim k'ephraim u-k'menashe. Y'varekhekha Adonai v'yishmarekha.
Ya'er Adonai panav eilekha v'y'chuneka.
Yisa Adonai panav eilekha v'yasem l'kha shalom.

May God bless you and keep you. May God shine the Divine countenance on you and be gracious to you.
May God turn God's face to you and give you peace.