The following is a series of abbreviated laws pertaining to circumcision: (For full details, or if you have any questions, please contact your local orthodox Mohel rabbi, or email us at and we will be glad to assist you.)

  1. A brit is performed on the eighth day following the birth of the child. If he was born before the twilight period, then the day on which he was born is included in the eight days. If he was born after the twilight period, the next day begins the eight-day counting.
  2. A circumcision carried out prior to the eighth day is invalid.
  3. A brit that had been postponed until after the eighth day, for any reason whatsoever, may not take place on Shabbat or Jewish Holidays. Only the brit of a baby born by normal delivery overrides Shabbat or Holidays. Therefore, a child born by Caesarian section may not have his brit performed on Shabbat or Holidays. (In such an instance, it would be postponed until Sunday.)
  4. A brit may not be performed on an ill child until he is fully recovered. The slightest ailment or the least pain, as determined by a Mohel, doctor or rabbi may be reason enough to postpone the brit until the child is healed.
  5. The above applies only to an ailment affecting the entire body, in which case we must wait seven days before doing the brit. However, if the disease is one that affects only a certain part of the body, there is no waiting period and the brit can be carried out immediately upon full recovery.
  6. The most common cause for delaying circumcision is a condition known as jaundice, in which the child’s skin is a shade of yellow. The generally accepted view is that as soon as this clears up, the circumcision can be carried out. However, if the condition is serious enough to warrant a blood transfusion, the brit then can only be carried out after seven full days after recovery.
  7. An underweight child cannot be circumcised. However, once the necessary weight is achieved, the brit can be performed immediately without a waiting period.
  8. A brit may not be postponed simply for the sake of convenience.
  9. If a brit must be postponed, the Hebrew name is given to the baby when the brit does actually take place.

  10. The brit may be performed any time of the day until sunset. However, since it is preferable to fulfill a mitzvah as quickly as possible, it should better be done in the morning. One should, at least, not postpone a brit later than midday.
  11. One should not use a less-qualified Mohel in order to have the brit take place earlier in the morning. Rather, he can delay the brit to later in the afternoon when a more-qualified Mohel will be available.
  12. On the first Friday night after the child is bon, it is customary to gather in the house of the baby to celebrate in honor of the newborn. This is called the "Shalom Zachar" – welcoming the male newborn. At this celebration – which, incidentally, is a seudas mitzvah, (a meal honoring the fulfillment of a Divine commandment) -- it is customary to serve lentils along with other beans (such as chickpeas), as well as nuts and wine.
  1. If the child is born Friday after sundown, thereby causing there to be two Fridays between birth and the brit, most people follow the opinion which holds that the shalom zachar should take place on the second Friday night. The practical reason for this is that there is not enough time before the first Friday night to inform people of the shalom zachar.
  1. In addition, the second Friday night, in this case, would be "vach nacht" (see below) which, in most communities, is customarily a night for celebration.
  2. Even if it is definite that the brit will not be held that week (for reasons such as premature birth, or the like), the shalom zachar is nevertheless held.

  3. "Vach Nacht" – The night before the brit

  4. The Midrash states that the merit of brit milah is so great that it safeguards Jews from Gehinom (hell). The Satan, therefore, attempts to see to it that the brit is not performed. For this reason, the custom is that the men of the family and some colleagues should remain awake in the child’s home to recite various portions of Torah and discuss the laws of milah throughout the night. Thus, they watch over the baby and ward off anything that may attempt to interfere with the brit.
  5. Children are brought to the crib of the child to recite the shema and the verse "Hamalach HaGo’el" ("The angel who redeems me..."). They are given sweets in reward for their blessing the baby.

  6. Kvatter
    and Kvatterin (Godparents)

  7. Two people – one male, the other female -- usually a married couple -- are customarily given the honor of bringing the child to the room in which the brit will be taking place, and then returning it to the mother after the brit. They are called the Kvatter and Kvatterin.
  8. Some do not allow a pregnant woman to be the kavatterin as she might become frightened by the brit, and cause harm to her unborn child.
  9. Elijah the Prophet, according to Jewish tradition, attends all circumcisions in order to protect and bless the child. It is customary to honor him by preparing a chair for him to the right of the sandek’s chair. The reason the sandek’s chair is to the left of Elijah’s is based on the Talmudic saying that a student walks on his teacher’s left.
  10. One of the assembled is honored with placing the child upon Elijah’s chair, so that Elijah should bless the child.
  11. Elijah does not attend a brit unless he is summoned. For that reason, there are various prayers and blessings to summon and acknowledge his presence.
  12. A male should perform the brit. Similarly, it must be performed by a G-d-fearing, observant Jew. If a non-Jew performs the circumcision, the brit is rendered invalid. The reason for this, is that since the brit is to imprint the "act of the covenant", it, therefore, must be performed by a member of the covenant.
  13. The way to rectify an invalid circumcision is to do hatafat dam brit – releasing a speck of blood.

  14. Once a Mohel has been appointed to perform a brit, one should not afterwards reject him and hire a second Mohel in his place. However, if the second Mohel is a close friend of the family or if he is an exceptionally righteous person, (and it is, therefore, obvious that he would have been chosen in the first place had the family known that he was available), the family may then go ahead and reject its original choice.
  15. It is important to stress that brit milah is a religious observance and not a medical procedure. For this reason, one should not use a doctor who is a qualified Mohel to do the brit. Some hold, however, that if the doctor’s expertise as a Mohel is apart from his being a doctor, then it would be okay. There are those authorities, however, who have expressed the view that religious doctors should refrain from performing brit milah.


  1. The metal knife used to perform the circumcision is usually referred to as izmail. The traditional izmail is sharp on both edges in order to eliminate the possibility of hurting the child by cutting with a blunt edge
  1. Being that the actual mitzvah of brit milah is incumbent upon the father, it is, therefore, customary for the father should stand near the Mohel and to verbally appoint him to act in his behalf in performing the brit. The father, for this reason, also hands the knife to the Mohel.
  1. It is preferable, though not mandatory, that there be a minyan (ten males above the age of 13) present at the brit milah. The reason for this is because it is more respectful for G-d – as it is for a king – when there is a large presence of people at a religious ceremony.
  2. The milah itself involves three parts: a) cutting away the foreskin, b) Revealing the glans, and c) Orally extracting the blood from the wound.
  3. The excised foreskin is customarily covered with sand or earth.
  4. Candles are lit during the brit.
  5. When twins are being circumcised in one ceremony, each child is brought in separately to insure that each one receives the honor due to it. Hamalach Hago’el is recited between the two circumcisions to make an obvious separation between the two. Because of this separation, the blessings from the first circumcision are not valid for the second and must, therefore, be repeated.
  6. It is customary to make a festive meal after the circumcision, at which bread and wine should be served, being that this is a seudas mitzvah.
  7. It is customary not to explicitly invite people to this meal, rather to publicize when and where the meal will be held, leaving the invitation unspoken.
  8. Various liturgical poems are recited at this meal


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May it be the will of our Father in Heaven that in the merit of the mitzvah of milah performed by Jews everywhere, correct in every detail, willingly and joyfully, that He protect and save us from all travails and anguish at all times. And may the sanctity of this great mitzvah cause us all to emerge from servitude to freedom, from the darkness of exile to the great light of redemption, in accordance with G-d’s promise (Zechariah, 9:11): "For you, as well, through the blood of your covenant, I set free your imprisoned."