We are so happy to help you welcome your new baby to the world! Our rabbis and cantor are available to teach you all you need to know about having a brit, a Simchat HaBat (baby naming ceremony) in shul.
Mazel Tov! It’s a boy! What is Brit Milah or a Bris?
The word Brit means “Covenant of Circumcision.” To bring your newborn son into the covenant of Israel, the child is given a physical sign of the bond between the Jewish people and God. The sign attests to the everlasting covenant that God established with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17). A brit can be performed by any mohel you choose, at home or here at Shearith. A medical circumcision is not considered a brit milah because it is not done with a religious intention or in a spiritual atmosphere.
The brit milah takes place on the eighth day of a healthy baby’s life, regardless of Shabbat or even Yom Kippur. Though it may be postponed in case of illness or weakness, in most cases it cannot be rescheduled on holidays or Shabbat. Mornings are customary for the event so the mitzvah is not delayed and guests can attend before going to work.
Although guests should be welcome, the only people actually required are the parents, who are responsible for their son’s brit milah, the baby, the mohel and the sandek, often a grandfather, whose function is to hold the baby. Other ceremonial roles, such as carrying the baby from and back to the mother, may be distributed among family and close friends. As the infant is carried in, everyone should greet him with Baruch HaBa (blessed is the one who comes), after which prayers and readings may be recited before the kiddush is chanted. Then the baby boy is entered into the covenant, followed by the blessing that he take on the mitzvot of Torah, merit a chuppah and live a life of righteous deeds. Afterwards, the parents or grandparents may wish to speak for a few minutes about the baby’s name. More prayers and readings may ensue. Sometimes candles may be lit with accompanying readings or music or you may request a moment of silence for individuals to meditate and pray for their own children, as well as yours. Ritual can be as simple (as brief as ten minutes) or as involved as you like. Our rabbis are available to help you with all the details!
A busy mohel may need advance notice of the approximate time and day of the simcha, so you might want to call ahead to check availability a week after your due date.
Congratulations! It’s a girl! Now what?
If you want to formally welcome your brand new daughter into the Covenant, you may consider having a Simchat HaBat or a Brit Bat, which allows you to plan almost any appropriate ceremony you prefer. This can take place at home or at the synagogue and you are not locked into eight days after birth but can schedule a time most convenient for family and friends (not to mention mother and daughter).
Simchat HaBat essentially means “the joy of a daughter.” The Aramaic words for Simchat Bat are Zeved Bat which means the gift of a daughter — God gave me a good present.
Many baby girls are named during Shabbat morning services or any time a minyan is present and we take out the Torah. Some parents choose to hold the ceremony on the eighth day as an egalitarian gesture, while others many wait as long as a few months. At the start of the ceremony, the infant is greeted with Brucha HaBa’a (blessed is she who enters) after which prayers and readings may be recited before the Kiddush is chanted. Then the baby daughter is entered into the covenant, followed by the blessing that she take on the mitzvot of Torah, merit a chuppah and live a life of righteous deeds. Afterwards, the baby’s name is announced and explained. More prayers and readings may ensue. Sometimes candles may be lit with accompanying readings or music or you may request a moment of silence for individuals to meditate and pray for their own children, as well as yours. Our rabbis can help you personalize your Simchat Bat and make it meaningful to your family.
It’s a Party!
Make a l’chaim, have some cake and you can call it a party! If you want to sponsor a kiddush luncheon, that’s great. If your simcha takes place at Shearith Israel, we encourage you to be in touch with our Simcha Coordinator to plan your celebration.