B’rit Milah: The Circumcision Ritual
B’rit milah, (literally, “covenant of circumcision”), also called a bris, refers to a religious ritual through which male babies are formally welcomed into the Jewish people. According to Jewish tradition, it is a parent’s obligation to circumcise a son and offer a threefold blessing for the child: a life enriched by Torah, the wedding canopy (chuppah), and good deeds. Today, a mohel or mohelet is routinely designated by parents to fulfill this custom.
This is a brief ceremony during which the baby is given his or her Hebrew name. The chosen Hebrew name could be a name that sounds like the baby’s secular/English name, or one that begins with the same sound as the baby’s secular/English name. Often a Hebrew name is selected because the meaning of the word has significance to the family. Ashkenazic Jews (those of European ancestry) often select a name that commemorates a deceased relative of the baby in order to honor that person’s memory. Sephardic Jews (those of Spanish and Middle Eastern ancestry) often follow the custom of naming their children after living relatives.