Mazel tov. It's a girl! Mazel tov. It's a boy!
If you are expecting to hear those words in the near future, then you may also want to think about the festivities that follow shortly after the birth. There are many wonderful Web sites that provide a wealth of information and advice about the brit (or bris) milah ceremony for boys and the newer simchat bat celebrations for girls. We'll look at some of the best.
This week, the boys.
In the book of Genesis, we read about one of the cornerstone commandments given from God to Abraham and the Jewish people: "This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised."The commandment from Genesis 17:10 is at http://bible.ort.org/books/ torahd5.asp?action=displaypage&book=1&
Just why is a Jewish circumcision considered such a joyous ceremony? According to Circumcision.net — www.circumcision.net/Joy.htm — the brit milah represents the Jews' eternal bond to God. It is the choicest of offerings, giving oneself (the physical body and the mind) to the service of the creator. Also, take a look at the LifeCycles essay on this topic found at www.torah.org/
But why on the eighth day (for healthy boys)? Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics of Los Angeles offers a spiritual explanation on www.torahview.com/bris/ html/the_bris.html — "The Kabbalistic writings teach us that seven days represent the physical world of creation. Thus, when a child has lived for eight days, he has transcended the physical to the metaphysical. The covenant joining body and soul, physical and spiritual, can now take place." If you would like to read the actual halachot of brit milah, see http://imohel.com/texts.htm — an incredibly detailed site, which lists the laws of circumcision in both English and Hebrew.
The controversy over performing circumcisions is not a new one. There are many Web sites that make a case against circumcision; www.circumstitions.
com focuses on "Intactivism" or "intactness." Presenting the Jewish point of view in "Bris Milah: Beautiful or Barbaric?" —
www.aish.com/literacy/lifecycle/bris_milah_beautiful_or_barbaric$.asp — Rabbi Shraga Simmons explains the importance of the commandment and surveys some medical research that supports the procedure.
Of course, preparing for a brit can be stressful. Dr. Fred Kogen, a California mohel and physician, provides a helpful checklist on www.beritmila.com/
setup.html His practical tips include everything from making sure the mohel has a parking space, feeding the baby until the mohel arrives in the house, preparing a pillow for the Chair of Elijah and disconnecting the telephone during the service. If you've attended a brit but have been afraid to take a peek at the events, you can look in — thanks to the Internet. Don't worry. All the photos at mohel Zachary Hepner's site — http://imohel.
com/ceremony.htm — are shot from a safe distance.
Although it's not strictly an article about circumcision, I would like to conclude with an excerpt from a touching piece by Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe, with his wishes to his newborn son, Caleb — www.jflmail.com/articles/166.html
"You are so tiny, little one. You have so much growing to do. As I cradle you in my arms or watch you sleep in your crib, I pray that life brings you vigor and health, delight and fortune. Like every parent, I want you to do well. But more than anything else, I want you to do good. Sixteen days ago, you entered this world. One day — far in the future, I hope — you will leave it. If I could wish for only one thing, it would be this: that you leave it better than you found it."