The commandment of circumcision is placed upon the father of the child, as recorded in the book of Genesis. Accordingly, it is important for the father, whenever possible, to be in attendance at the bris and to be an active participant (when this is not possible or when there is no father, the mohel acts in the father's stead). The father stands to the mohel's right, and recites his blessing upon the mohel's instruction (see the liturgy in another link on this page). Right before the circumcision, the mohel will give his surgical knife to the father and have him hand it back to the mohel, appointing the mohel as his proxy to perform the bris.
Because the mitzvah, or commandment, is incumbent upon the father, the father's role is obviously quite important. This does not, however, mean that the mother is completely invisible. We invite the mother to be present at the bris and to be a prominent participant (If you as a mother have difficulty with this, you do have the option of waiting in another room until the bris is over). Both parents are invited to speak upon completion of the bris, to address their guests and explain the significance of your newborn son, the significance of his name, and anything else that you find meaningful.
Relatives - especially grandparents - are vital in making the bris a true family event. We recommend that you incorporate your relatives in the ceremony. There are many slots available for both speaking and non-speaking roles at the bris, and Rabbi Korobkin can assist you in assigning the appropriate roles to the right family members.
Although an ordained rabbi, Rabbi Korobkin will defer to your own family rabbi should you decide to involve him or her in the ceremony. I work well and quite comfortably with the rabbis of all the different movements, from the most traditional to the most liberal. If your rabbi will be involved in the ceremony, you should notify me in advance so that I can ensure that he will be welcomed and incorporated properly within the event.
Ceremony in English
[The following is a literal translation of the liturgy that is recited in Hebrew at a traditional bris. Any portion may be translated into English for your guests during the ceremony. We provide the translation to allow you to better understand the ceremony and to give you the option of choosing a section to be recited in English for your guests.]
1. The infant is brought into the room by the Kvater, and all in attendance welcome him by saying: "Baruch HaBa!" - "Blessed is the newcomer!"
2. The baby is then placed on Kisay shel Eliyahu - The Seat of Elijah, and the mohel recites his prayer: "This is the seat of Elijah the Prophet, who is remembered for the good. I have longed for Your salvation, O God. I have hoped for Your salvation, O God, and I have performed Your commandments. Elijah, angel of the bris: What is yours is before you; stand to my right and support me! I have hoped for Your salvation, O God. I rejoice over Your statements as a person who finds a great treasure. May there be abundant peace for those who love Your Torah, and may there not be any obstacle before them. Fortunate is one whom You choose and bring close; such a person will dwell in Your courtyards..." Everyone responds: "We will be sated by the goodness of Your abode, the holiness of Your sanctuary."
3. The father turns to Mohel and states: "I am hereby prepared to fulfill the positive commandment that the blessed Creator has commanded me, to circumcise my son. I hereby appoint you, the Mohel, to be my proxy to fulfill this commandment."
4. The Mohel recites: "The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Abraham our patriarch: 'Walk before me and be complete.' I am hereby prepared to fulfill the positive commandment that blessed Creator has commanded me to fulfill, that of circumcision. Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us regarding circumcision."
5. As the Mohel circumcises, the father recites: "Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us bring this child into the covenant of Abraham our patriarch."
6. All in attendance recite loudly, "Amen! Just as he has been inaugurated into the bris, so may he be inaugurated into Torah, the wedding canopy and good deeds!"
7. After the mohel finishes the procedure, the baby is diapered and wrapped, and is then held by one of the honored guests. Another guest takes the cup of wine, and recites the following blessing: "Blessed are you God, our Lord, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Blessed are you God, our, King of the universe, who sanctified the loved one [Abraham] from the womb. He placed a mark in his flesh, and made a seal on his descendants with the sign of the holy covenant. Therefore, in this merit, Living God, our Rock, give charge to save the beloved soul within our flesh from destruction, for the sake of the His covenant that He placed in our flesh. Blessed are You, God, who contracts the covenant."
8. The baby is then passed to another guest, and another guest recites the naming of the baby: "Our Lord, and Lord of our ancestors: Establish this child for his father and mother, and may his name be called in Israel ___________ the son of _______________. May the father be happy with the issue of his loins, and may his mother rejoice in the fruit of her womb. As it says (Proverbs 23:25): 'May your father and mother be happy, and may those who gave birth to you rejoice.' And it says (Ezekiel 16:6): 'I passed over you and I saw you wallowing in your blood; I said to you, "By your blood shall you live!" I said to you, "By your blood shall you live!"' And it says (Psalms 105:8-10): 'He eternally remembers His covenant, the matter which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, and the oath He made with Isaac. He established it as a statute for Jacob, for Israel an eternal covenant.' And it says (Genesis 21:4): 'Abraham circumcised his son, Isaac, at the age of eight days, just as the Lord had commanded him.' Give thanks to God, for He is good, for His goodness endures forever! Give thanks to God, for He is good, for His goodness endures forever! ______________ the son of ______________: May this young child become a great adult! Just as he has been inaugurated into the bris, so may he be inaugurated into Torah, the wedding canopy and good deeds!"
9. The attendees answer, "Amen." At this point, the mohel will bless the child and will say sometimes say some additional prayers. The ceremony ends in joyous singing, usually with the song, "Siman tov umazal tov."