May 20, 2024 |


Posted on November 13, 2017

Our Sunday session is three hours long.  Today we had a guest speaker, worked on our i-movie Pirkei Avotcommentaries, wrote thank you note for two guest speakers and parsed out Jewish birthing traditions through a readers’ theater enactment of a short play.
What is a brit milah?
Dr./Mohelet Jennifer Novick was our honored guest speaker in the Gesher class on Sunday, November 12th.  Jen led a fascinating discussion of both the ritual and procedure of Brit Milah, ritual circumcision, for our students as part of our Jewish Life Cycle study.  Some of the content of our discussion follows.  For more information, ask a Gesher student!
The session began with a discussion of “brit” or covenant.  What is a covenant?  The Brit Milah is an agreement between God and the Jewish people. In Genesis, chapter 17, God promises to be our God and to give us the Land of Israel.  In exchange, Avraham promises, on behalf of all Jews, to let God be our God and to circumcise our sons as a sign of our agreement.  In fact, the mitzvah to circumcise one’s sons is a hok, a type of law for which there is no logical rationale.  We must do it because God said so.
The mitzvah of Brit Milah is specifically for fathers and if the father cannot circumcise his own son he must find somebody, a mohel (male) or mohelet (female), who can do it for him.   This mitzvah is so important that if the eighth day falls on Shabbat or even Yom Kippur, the brit milah often still takes place.
Some commentators suggest that circumcision offers humans the opportunity to partner with God in the process of Creation. Rabbi Lebo suggests that birth is a miracle and we are compelled to do something mysterious and powerful to honor that miracle.  Further, this ritual helps bring new parents closer to God.
We learned that the Brit Milah service has four parts:  
(1) Everybody and the baby are welcomed.  It is a special honor to bring the baby into the room in which the Brit Milah will take place and an even greater honor to hold the baby during the circumcision.  
(2) The circumcision which lasts less than 30 seconds!
(3) Naming the baby
(4) The seudat mitzvah or festive meal (all Jewish milestone events are punctuated by a communal meal).  Did you know that is customary to eat round foods at a brit milah to symbolize the cycle of life?
And we learned that the foreskin is not discarded.  It is buried.
Jen brought some of the tools: forceps and a Morgan clamp, used in the brit milah Students were fascinated!  They had the opportunity to touch and hold these tools and to understand their use.

Our session with Jen was extraordinary!  We were engaged, informed and brought closer to this significant ritual.  During the presentation, she suggested that like rabbis and cantors, mohelim are klei kodesh, holy vessels, who bring holiness into the lives of others.  This was certainly our experience!  Toddah Rabbah, thank you so very much.