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Rabbi Zachary Hepner

Honors During the Bris Ceremony

The main honors during the bris ceremony, in order of appearance are:

  1. Kvater and/or Kvaterin – someone to bring the baby into the room where the ceremony is taking place. It is traditionally a grandmother or grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
  2. Cheika (optional honor) – Person or people who hold the baby for a few seconds before the baby is brought to the Chair of Elijah/kiseh shel eliyahu.
  3. Chair of Elijah – The Chair of Elijah honor may be given to one or two individuals. In addition to the Sandak, this honor should be performed by one who is Jewish. We welcome the spiritual presence of Elijah the Prophet to the Bris ceremony as we welcome Elijah the Prophet to the Passover seder with the Cup of Elijah. According to one interpretation, Elijah the Prophet was rewarded with this seat of honor at all Brisses for during his time he re-established the performance of this mitzvah. This takes place before the Sandak holds the baby for the bris.
  4. Sandek – someone to hold the baby during the circumcision.
  5. Amidah le-berakhot – someone to hold him during the Naming

Traditionally, it is the parents of the baby who give out the honors at the bris. Both men and women are included in the ceremony. I recommend that parents distribute select honors in a meaningful way, rather than pass the baby around just to include a lot of people.

The honor of bringing the baby into the room at the beginning of the ceremony and/or taking him out at the end of the ceremony is usually given to the grandmothers of the baby. Or, the honor may be given to a couple who have been married for a number of years, who have been trying to have a baby and have not yet been successful.

If this is the first boy for the parents, the paternal grandfather of the baby holds for the bris and the maternal grandfather of the baby holds for the Naming portion of the ceremony. (If one grandfather has already served as a sandak previously, he can defer to the other grandfather.)

Placing the baby on the Chair of Elijah and carrying him from Elijah’s chair are honors that can be given to other relatives. There are many more permutations and possibilities (older siblings, stepparents, great-grandparents, etc.), so the best thing to do is prepare a list of those people whom you would like to include in the ceremony. The mohel can help you decide the best way to distribute the honors.