Rules for Scheduling a Bris (Brit Milah)

When Little Prince Meets Mohel

By Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman for mazelmoments

Rabbi Mohel Preparing for Bris (Brit Milah) in Temple CeremonyYou have waited nine months for the arrival of your little prince and are about to make grand plans for his bris celebration.  Don’t jump the gun!  Make sure you are absolutely certain of the correct day of the bris before calling the caterer or informing the guests.  As a busy mohel in the New York City area, I have seen some parents ready to pull the trigger on the bris plans for the wrong day.  I was happy to be the hero to point out their error and avoid a most embarrassing situation of scheduling the bris on the wrong day.

How do you go about getting it straight the first time?  Before you do anything, speak to a certified mohel who will advise you of the correct and proper day for the bris.  Just remember that it gets tricky because there are a number of exceptions to the eighth day rule that can cause an error in the calculation.

BASIC RULES FOR SCHEDULING A BRIS

As a general rule, the bris must be performed on the eighth day from the baby’s birth.

Important factors to consider:

  • The day of birth counts as Day #1
  • Jewish Law has a different definition of the term “day.”  According to Jewish Law, the day does not begin in the morning.  It starts at sunset of the previous day and ends at sunset the next day.  Therefore, if the child is born on Sunday before sunset then the Bris is on the following Sunday. However if the child is born Sunday after sunset, he is considered to have been born on Monday, and the Bris is performed on the following Monday.
  • The time of sunset varies from day to day and by geographic location.  Therefore it is important to know the exact time and location of birth to be able to calculate the proper day for the bris.

Rabbi Mohel, Zadek (Godfather), Father and Baby Son during Brit Milah Ceremony

Bris & Baby Resources

What About the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays?

A very common question is whether a bris can take place on Sabbath or Jewish Holidays.  The answer is yes.  If  your family and your mohel observe the Sabbath, a few important conditions must be met.  You must have a mohel in your area that is within walking distance.  It is religiously preferred to delay the bris to a Sunday or a weekday in order to avoid the desecration of the Sabbath.  Remember that on Sabbath, the observants may not get into a car to or from the bris or even take pictures.

Mohel holding Baby Son

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EXCEPTIONS FOR SCHEDULING THE BRIT

CAESARIAN DELIVERY

A baby born by c-section delivery does not have his bris on the Sabbath.  The rabbis explain that for a Sabbath bris, the baby had to be “born” on Sabbath.  The word “born” is taken very literally and interpreted to mean “born through a natural vaginal delivery.”  As a result, a c-section delivery is not considered to be “born” on Sabbath and the bris does not supersede the Sabbath or holiday.  Therefore a c-section delivery on Friday night or Saturday will have his bris the following Sunday, provided that Sunday is a weekday.  In other words, if the following Sunday coincides with a Jewish Holiday, the bris would be further postponed till the next available weekday.

FRIDAY EVENING BIRTHS HAVE TO BE LOOKED AT CAREFULLY

Another exception to the eighth day rule is a baby born Friday evening after sunset, but before it is dark. What is it – day or night?  Well, the rabbis themselves are also not sure so they consider it “a time of doubt.” A baby born at that time may not have his bris on Sabbath only the following Sunday.

All of this can get quite technical and complicated.  So before you place the order for bagels and lox, take a moment to confirm the date with your mohel who has the knowledge and expertise to get it correctly – the first time.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman

 

Many thanks to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman for writing this post. .

 

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