YOUR BRIS CEREMONY AND OCCASION
The Bris should preferably take place in a shul or synagogue, as explained, because of its sanctity and special effects on the baby, the family and the guests. However, if circumstances necessitate, a Bris is done in a hall or at home, and has equally fulfilled the Bris Milah requirements with regard to its holiness and quality.
The Sanctity Affects
Your child’s growth and namesake can also be affected by the way the Bris ceremony is conducted and upheld as Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) attends and literally conducts each and every traditionally conducted Jewish Bris Milah to perfection, being that the Bris Milah is your son’s first and most important Mitzvah he can attain.
The Bris Ceremony
The baby is brought in to the room, carried by the kvatter and kvatterin, usually a husband and wife, considered by many to be the godparents (this honor is often given to a childless couple, symbolizing, that they too should merit bringing a child into this world). The kvatter then gives the baby to an honored guest to place the child on the chair designated for Eliyahu Hanavi. The Mohel then recites a special prayer asking for the spirit of Eliyahu Hanavi to stand over him as he performs the Bris to perfection. The child is then lifted by another honored guest and given to the baby’s father, who then places his son on the lap of the honored Sandek. After the Mohel has performed the Bris, a special blessing is recited upon a cup of wine, and the baby is given his Jewish (Hebrew) name. During this blessing and naming, another honored guest/guests is given the honor of holding the baby. Upon the completion of the naming, the Mohel then blesses the baby for a complete and speedy recovery, the kvatter then takes the newly named baby and returns him to his mothers loving care. It is customary to serve refreshments or a meal after the Bris, and this is considered a seudat mitzvah, part of the mitzvah (Obviously all food served must be kosher). Ideally, a minyan should be present for a Bris, although this is not a pre-requisite.
Two chairs are prepared for the Bris. The first is for the Sandek, the individual who holds the baby on their knees during the actual circumcision. The lap of the Sandek is considered analogous to the altar of the Temple itself. It is considered a great honor to be the Sandek because there is a Kabbalistic tradition that links the soul of the Sandek with the child. In this way, the Sandek is considered the spiritual mentor of the child. In many instances, a Rabbi, spiritual leader, or one of the grandfathers serves as the Sandek.
The second chair is set aside for Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet), the מלאך הברית (“Angel of the Covenant”). According to Jewish tradition, Eliyahu Hanavi comes to every Bris to testify before the Almighty of the commitment of the Jewish people to this great mitzvah throughout the generations. During the ceremony, just prior to the Bris itself, the baby is placed on the chair of Eliyahu Hanavi, and the Mohel recites a special prayer asking for the spirit of Eliyahu Hanavi to stand over him as he performs the Bris to perfection.
Joining the Jewish Nation
Bringing your child into the covenant of Avraham Avinu, and by doing so crowning your son as a full fledged member of the Jewish Nation, is a truly happy and most uplifting occasion, and therefore should be celebrated accordingly. Customarily the parents of the baby invite all friends and family and celebrate publicly. The Talmud writes a lot of special affects and special qualities one enjoys and receives for just being present at a Bris Milah. The honors given by the Bris ceremony are all significant in their own respective right, and represent a multitude of good and blessings bestowed upon the one honored with that honor. From the one carrying the baby to the place of the Bris, to the one holding the baby during the naming ceremony.