Certified Mohel Serving NYC & the Tri-State Area Since 1997 || Call or Text 212-316-4784

Rabbi Zachary Hepner

It’s a Boy!

Dear Parents (to be)…

One custom is to invite family and friends for a small gathering at home on the first Friday night following the birth. This celebration is called a Shalom Zachar (Welcome to the Baby Boy). Well-wishers come to greet the family (including mother and baby, if they’re home from the hospital). We welcome the newborn on this first Shabbat (Sabbath) that he is with us. Light refreshments are served (perhaps prepared by friends and neighbors) and all share in the joy of the new family.

On the eighth day following the birth, we celebrate with a Brit Milah (also called a Bris) — a ritual circumcision ceremony. The word Brit means covenant in Hebrew, and this event reaffirms the covenant made between Abraham and God over 3,500 years ago. For the Jewish people, Brit Milah is a physical sign of the covenant — an indelible mark which links one to the Jewish people, the Torah and its commandments.

Counting the day of birth as day one, a Brit Milah takes place on the baby’s eighth day of life, unless the circumcision needs to be postponed for medical reasons. We perform the Brit Milah ceremony during daylight hours every day of the year: on weekdays, festivals, holy days — including Yom Kippur — and even on Shabbat. The brief ceremony includes prayers, blessings, honors and a festive meal. Please be sure to confirm the correct day, time and location of the Brit Milah with the Mohel before informing your guests.

An important part of the Brit Milah ceremony is the announcement of the Jewish (Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino) name you have chosen for your son. It is said that in ancient times one of the reasons the Jews were redeemed from Egypt was because they did not give up their Hebrew names. Ashkenazic Jews (usually of Eastern or Central European descent) traditionally name their sons after someone who has passed on, thereby honoring the memory of the departed; Sephardic Jews (usually of Western European or Middle Eastern descent) traditionally name their sons after living grandparents.

We call upon a Mohel (or “moy’l,” in Yiddish) to perform the Brit Milah ceremony. He is a super-specialist, expert in the laws and customs of Brit Milah and technically qualified to perform the procedure. The difference between a doctor doing a circumcision and a Mohel officiating at the Brit Milah ceremony is the difference between a surgical procedure and a beautiful and meaningful Jewish life cycle event celebrated by friends, family and k’lal Yisrael — the entire Jewish community.

Finally, a Pidyon Ha-Ben (Redemption of the First Born) ceremony may be necessary for your son. Please check with the Mohel to determine if your son requires this ceremony.