1 – When is the right day to perform my newborn sun´s BritMilah?
The BritMilah should be done on the eighth day of life, except in those cases where there is a disease and the procedure is a risk to the child’s health. In this case, Halacha exempts us from the obligation to perform the Brit on the eighth day. For example, if the child is born in good health, even if his weight does not reach 3 kg on a Tuesday, the Brit should be done on the following Tuesday. It is important to remember that our day begins at sunset, so if a child is born on a Thursday night, usually after 18:00, the Brit should be held on the following Friday.
2- If my son is born on the Sabbath, what day should the Brit be performed?
BritMilah’s mitzvah is above any other. If a child is born on normal labor on the Sabbath, his Brit will be on the next Sabbath. If, for example, the eighth day of life falls on the day of Yom Kippur, the Brit should occur on this day. There is no controversy between the Jewish movements – Orthodox, Conservative and Reformist – about this subject.
3. If the father is Jewish and the mother is not Jewish, should we do the BritMilah?
This is an extremely common situation these days. Anyway, the Brit can be held on the eighth day of life, even in this case. In this case, the Brit will be the first step in the process of the baby´s conversion. At the age of three, he will, if he so desires, assume his identity as a Jew with a ritual bath (Mikvah) in front of a Bet Din (court composed of at least one rabbi and two observant Jews). It is important that the Mohel clarifies this to the parents. Doing the Brit on the eighth day of life will not, by itself, confer the status of Jew to this child.
4- To whom is the obligation to perform the BritMilah?
According to the Talmud, the mitzvah belongs to the father. As usually the father does not have the necessary technical knowledge to perform it, a Mohel can be called. In fact, most orthodox and conservative Mohalim at the time of the Brit’s ceremony ask parents to state publicly that they wish Mohel to perform that ceremony, thus establishing a link with this Halachá.
5- What is Mohel?
Mohel is a properly trained person to perform BritMilah. Any Jew can become a mohel. For centuries, the knowledge and technique for the realization of the BritMilah passed from father to son.
The Reformist and Conservative Movements only confer the title of Mohel to legally qualified doctors. In the understanding of these Movements, in addition to the religious aspects involved in the Brit Milah, which require from the Mohel a deep spiritual connection, there is also a medical act with all its legal implications.
6 – Are there babies who are born already circumcised?
In fact, there are babies born with a type of congenital malformation called hypospadias, which leads one to think that “the child was born circumcised.” In this case, the skin around the glans (foreskin) should not be removed, since later it can be used to treat the problem. A ceremony is then held called “Hatafat Dam Brit”, in which a drop of blood is taken from the skin of the foreskin with a small needle (similar to a vaccine needle) and the liturgical part of the Brit goes on. The “Hatafat Dam Brit” should also be held on the eighth day after the baby’s birth.
7- What is the role of the godfather and the godmother in the BritMilah ceremony? Do they need to be Jews?
There are three figures with this meaning in the Brit ceremony.
Kvater and Kvatrin: godfather and godmother (in Yiddish). The people who take the child to the Mohel. It is not necessary that they are Jewis, and this number (a godfather and a godmother) is not fixed. There can be two men and two women, three men and one woman, three women, etc. It´s a family choice.
Sandak (Greek syndicate): the one who will hold the child while the mohel is doing the Brit.
Sandak is required to be Jewish and to wear a tallit during the ceremony. The role of godparents in Judaism does not have the same connotation of other religions, where in the event of parent’s death, the godparents would be responsible for the child. In Judaism, it is only a tribute.
8. Is anesthesia allowed under Jewish law?
This is a point that should not bring about any kind of controversy among Jewish movements. Anesthesia was already known in the time of the Talmud, but our sages made no statements neither forbidding nor encouraging it. With this silence, many discussions took place and occurred until nowadays.
The great controversy is the need or not of the child to feel pain during the Brit. Some rabbis oppose it by saying that Avraham Avinu felt pain. This point of view is severely criticized by many other rabbis. According to Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef: “There is no obligation of pain during circumcision.” The Conservative Movement Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued a response, concluding that the use of anesthesia during the procedure of the BritMilah is allowed.
Recent American research has shown that, based on heart rate and crying intensity as indicators of discomfort and pain, the use of anesthesia results in a calmer, less painful act for the child.
9- Is there any medical advantages in circumcision?
It is known that in the first months of life, urinary infections are very common in boys. Uncircumcised boys are up to 15 times more likely to develop urinary tract infections. It is also known that almost 30% of men who have not been circumcised when they are newborns, at some stage of life they will need to undergo phimosis surgery (postectomy). It is important to remember that in this case, a simple procedure is no longer possible as it is done in newborns (surgery should be done in a hospital, with stitches, etc.- newborns do not take stitches! In addition, women married to circumcised men have a much lower incidence of cervical cancer and circumcised men have a much smaller chance of penile cancer.
10- Is there any negative point in performing the BritMilah as loss of sensation or penile irritation?
No, circumcision does not entail any kind of health damage. If the criteria are met, that is, if the child is born healthy, and the professional who performs the procedure is qualified, circumcision is an extremely safe, simple and a beneficial procedure for the child.
11- What do you do with the foreskin (skin that covers the glans and is removed at the time of circumcision) after the circumcision?
There is this custom of “burying” the foreskin taken in the circumcision in a potted plant or in a garden, so that the baby has a fertile life.