CUSTOMS
  • Beauty and dignity are added to the Brit ceremony by burning candles. There is no prescribed number. The candles are lit without a blessing at the beginning of the ceremony. This custom dates to a time when it was illegal to perform a Brit. The lighted candles seen in a window during the day would signify that a Brit was to take place. Jews passing by would enter the house to hear the blessings.

  • The baby should be dressed in clothing befitting of being blessed by the prophet Elijah and entering into the covenant with his Creator. However, it is helpful to the Mohel to keep clothing simple and easy to remove.


  • At one time, the swaddling in which the child was wrapped at the circumcision ceremony was fashioned into a band for the Torah and given to the synagogue to be used when he became a bar Mitzvah. It was embroidered with the child's name, date of birth and other designs. This is called a wimple.


  • The night prior, a Vach Nacht, Vigil, was held to ward off anything that might interfere with the Brit. The men of the family would study Torah passages relating to Milah. Children were brought to the crib of the infant where they recited the first chapter of the Shema and the verse "May the angel who redeems me from evil..." (Genesis 48:16). The children were given candy, other sweets and coins.


  • Ben Zachor (also Shalom Zachor): On the first Friday night after a boy is born, it is customary to celebrate by gathering in the home of the newborn to welcome him. "As soon as a child comes into the world, peace comes into the world." (Nidarim 31b) God finished the creation of the world with the Sabbath and introduced peace and rest. Thus the Sabbath surrounds the newborn with an aura of holiness and enhances his entry into the Covenant of Abraham, our father.


  • Pidyon Haben: The redemption of the first-born son of a Jewish mother requires a Pidyon Haben. If the father is a Kohen or Levi or the mother is the daughter of a Kohen or Levi, the child is exempt. The ceremony takes place on the 31st day of the child's life. If this day falls on Shabbat or a Yom Tov, the ceremony is postponed until the first following weekday. A religiously observant Kohen is needed.