There are a few days in a Jewish boy’s life that hold greater importance than all others. Eight days after the birth of the newborn boy, the bris or brit milah takes place as the baby enters into a covenant of the flesh with God. This sacred tradition dates back to Abraham, the Biblical patriarch, and has been performed on every male Jewish baby since that time. During the bris, the baby is circumcised so that the experience is a lifelong reminder of their faith and commitment to God, and brit milah directly translates to “covenant of circumcision.” This day is joyous in nature, which means that family and guests are meant to celebrate and oftentimes bring gifts. If you are uncertain about what to bring, we have got you covered with some great gift ideas.
The Bris Ceremony
There’s more to this sacred tradition of the Jewish faith is than an aesthetic or hygienic procedure. The family has just eight short days to prepare for Bris. Here is everything you need to know about this event:
- At the beginning of the ceremony, a member of the family or member of the witnesses gathered will light the symbolic candle. The candles signify the remembrance of a time in the Jewish timeline when the practice of circumcision was outlawed. During those times, a candle in the window displayed that the ceremony was occurring in secret.
- Next, the family Rabbi or mohel that will perform the procedure will say a prayer or a few words and ask for the baby to be presented. The Godmother or another close female relative for the baby boy will bring the baby into the room. This is an honor and considered a great omen for the relative chosen.
- Once brought in, the Godfather receives the baby and the Rabbi or Mohel leads the way through the ceremony room. The baby is welcomed by the witness, friends, and family with the dialogue of, “Baruch Haba,” and the blessing translates to “Blessed is he who enters.”
- In the ceremony room, a chair is to be decorated and designated to the throne of the Prophet Elijah. The child is placed in this chair and a ritual blessing is proclaimed by the mohel. The mohel and all who are present are praying for the safety of the baby, a sign of commitment to the will of God, and an expression of remembrance that the Messiah is coming soon.
- After the blessing is said, and the baby is on the chair for Elijah, the Sandek will then transfer the child to the table for the circumcision to be performed. The Sandek is usually the spiritual mentor of the child and is often the grandfather of the boy. The baby will be held by the Sandek on the table that is the ceremonial altar for the bris.
- Then the baby is placed on the bris altar and the Sandek holds the baby up, the mohel then announces the blessing of circumcision. Once the circumcision is completed, the father then recites a blessing about his son joining into the same covenant of God and Abraham.
- Following the circumcision, there is a brief Bris naming ceremony, where the boy will be given his Hebrew name and a festive meal that takes place.
Overall, a bris usually does not last longer than two hours, including the meal. Whether being held at a synagogue or the family’s home, it is customary for guests to bring food or gifts if you haven’t given the parents a gift in advance. You cannot go wrong with a religious-themed gift for the bris, but we have put together some ideas of appropriate gifts for a bris. Here are some great bris gifts:
Star of David related gifts
The universal symbol of Judaism, the Star of David, is a great starting place for gift ideas. Whether it’s a wall hanging star for the nursery or religious gifts with the star, this is a safe bet.
Kiddush cup for children
Kiddush is the Hebrew word that means, “sanctification” and this special cup is used by individuals and families to sanctify special holidays and the Shabbat. With the choices available today, it becomes much easier to pick a worthy Kiddush cup for a child. Traditionally, gold or silver was the primary choice for these sacred cups, but now, pewter, fine china, and even pottery are acceptable and elegantly beautiful.
First Bible or other children’s’ books
There is no better way to help grow a child’s knowledge and passion for their faith than with books. Their first Bible would be a special gift that you could write a message inside or even Jewish storybooks that help kids learn the lessons of the Jewish religion. This also allows the parents to read these stories to their child, thus strengthening the parental bond while growing their faith.
Teddy bears with the Star of David, dreidels, Noah’s Ark related gifts, and others are all good ideas as well. While it will be some time before the boy is able to play with these, they will be good decorations in the nursery for the time being.
Baby gear (not religious)
Aside from religious gifts, newborn baby clothes and other necessities are always welcome. New parents often forget to get things or need more of other things, so the essentials like clothes, bibs, burp cloths, etc. are always thoughtful gifts. With how fast the baby will grow, the parents will most surely appreciate the extra gear during this time.
Whether you want to get a special blessing, like the Hebrew Son’s Blessing, or something related to the child’s Hebrew name, there are countless options available. There are beautifully illustrated and framed wall gifts that would look great in any newborn boy’s nursery.
If you absolutely cannot decide on a gift to get, money and a nice card are always welcome. With a new baby comes many new expenses and by gifting money, you allow the parents to use it on what they truly need.
Oftentimes the gesture of preparing a dish to bring to the bris or a meal to bring to the new parents’ home is overlooked. For the bris, parents only have a few short days to plan and make sure everything is lined up for the ceremony, so a helpful tip is to ask the parents if there is anything that they could use some help with. Sometimes the thoughtful gifts are the most special. Cooking tends to be the last task on their minds when caring for a newborn and a home-cooked meal can be an amazing gift.
Just by putting a little thought into it, we are sure that you will come up with the perfect gift for the next bris you attend. If you find yourself planning your own bris for your newborn son, remember that an experienced mohel is one of the most important aspects of the bris. Dr. Andrew Krinsky, a religiously ordained mohel, has been performing bris for more than 30 years in the South Florida area. Check out our website for more information on the bris and mohel importance.