T: 01923 222755
WATFORD & DISTRICT SYNAGOGUE

BIRTHS

Brit Milah | Pidyon Haben | Simcha Bat

Your Community

A new baby is a cause for rejoicing and at Watford shul, the whole community shares in your happiness. You will find the WADS community friendly and supportive, with help just a phone call away. In recent years, members have informally organised a week of meals for sleep-deprived new parents and babies are warmly welcomed in shul.

Brit Milah

I've had a Boy. Now what?
Mazal tov and welcome to the wonderful world of parenting.

Brit Milah, or circumcision, is performed on a Jewish male eight days after he is born.

The procedure is performed by a mohel – a person who has mastered the set of Jewish laws regarding circumcision and received extensive practical training.

At a Brit Milah, the mohel removes the baby's foreskin, after which the baby is given a Jewish name.

Brit Milah literally means "covenant of circumcision." Abraham, Judaism's founding father, was the first person in history to have a Brit Milah. In fact, he circumcised himself.

The mitzvah of Brit Milah, the circumcision of every Jewish baby boy, is one of the cornerstones of our faith. The commandment was first given to Abraham in chapter 17 of Genesis, where he was told, "every male among you shall be circumcised…and it shall be a sign of a covenant".

The Ceremony

The Brit can take place in the synagogue or at home.

When the day of the brit dawns, the ceremony should be scheduled to take place as early as possible, usually straight after morning services, to indicate the parents' eagerness to perform the mitzvah. However, if holding the ceremony in the afternoon will accord it with greater honour – for example if the Rabbi or grandparents can't make it until then – it can be postponed until later in the day, before sunset.

Once everything is prepared, the service begins with the baby's mother passing the little one to the kvaterin (godmother). Often, the baby is carried along on top of a special satin, or embroidered white pillow. The kvaterin then passes the baby to her husband, the kvater (godfather), who carries him into the room where the brit is to take place.

Here, two chairs will have been set out in preparation. The first one is for the sandek, who holds the baby on his knees during the circumcision. This is considered to be the highest honour accorded at the ceremony. Consequently, the job is usually reserved the new grandfather or an important Rabbi.

The second chair is known as the kisei shel Eliyahu (Elijah's chair). According to tradition, the prophet Elijah comes to every circumcision to testify to the commitment of the Jewish people to this great mitzvah.

After the mohel has made the bracha and performed the brit and the father has responded with the bracha appertaining to him, two more blessings are recited over a cup of wine and the baby is given his Hebrew name.

Finally, a seudat mitzvah is served. The usual custom at such festive meals is to serve meat, but given that roast chicken doesn't go down too well as a breakfast dish, fish and other dairy delicacies can be served instead.

For the full service see pages 779 – 784 in the Singers Prayer Book or pages 208 – 215 in the Artscroll Siddur.

Back to the top

Pidyon Haben

The Pidyon Haben Ceremony takes place on the thirty-first day of a child's life, in front of a minyan of ten men. Even in cases where the Brit Milah has had to be postponed for some reason, the pidyon will still go ahead.

As with all good Jewish lifecycle events, a slap-up meal is incorporated into the event, which even has it's own specific associated foods. Cloves of garlic and cubes of sugar are placed around the table or wrapped up and given to the guests to take home, bonbonniere style. The kabbalistic reason behind this little ritual is that garlic and sugar are both foods with strong tastes. Hopefully, they will subsequently be cooked and used to flavour large quantities of food, thus extending the merit of the mitzvah to as many people as possible.

After the assembled guests have washed, been seated and eaten some bread, the baby is carried in to a Cohen on an ornate silver tray. In order to adorn him as finely as possible for his Pidyon Haben, women guests may also be invited to remove some of their jewellery and arrange it around the baby. Then, the baby is redeemed by his parents, as they hand the Cohen five special silver coins. Finally, the Cohen blesses the child and hands him back to mum and dad.

For the full service see pages 789 – 792 in the Singers Prayer Book or pages 218 – 221 in the Artscroll Siddur.

Back to the top

Simcha Bat/Baby Naming

It is United Synagogue custom for the father of the baby girl to get an aliyah leTorah (to be ‘called up’) in shul on the first Shabbat or first Yom Tov after the birth of his daughter, whichever comes first. He will then be able to formally give his daughter her jewish name.

The mother also should take the first opportunity to go to shul and say the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Recovery from Childbirth, which can be found in the Singer’s Siddur pages 799 - 802. 

The latest edition of the Authorised Daily Prayer Book, published in December 2006, now also contains a ‘Zeved Bat’ ceremony, the ‘Home Service on the Birth of a Daughter’.

Back to the top