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Learn Hebrew: Brit Milah

January 7, 2010 | by

The Brit Milah ceremony: the most ancient Jewish ritual.

When a Jewish baby boy is eight days old, he is welcomed into a covenant with G-d through ritual circumcision. A covenant in Hebrew is called   (brit, also pronounced bris), and circumcision is (milah) – hence the ceremony is called (brit milah).

Circumcision is the first commandment given by God to Abraham, the first Jew:

"This is My covenant that you shall observe between Me and you and your children after you, to circumcise every male. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of a covenant between Me and you. Whoever is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations." (Genesis 17:10-12)


The Brit Milah ceremony is joyful yet painful, spiritual yet physical. The Brit is performed by an observant Jew who was trained and qualified to perform this procedure. He is called a (mohel, circumciser).

The ceremony varies among communities, but some customs are common: In the beginning of the ceremony the baby is passed from the mother through several honored people and is finally placed on a chair designated as the Throne of Elijah (- Kisey Shel Eliyahu), who according to tradition attends every Brit Milah

The baby is then taken from the chair and given to the father, who places the child in the lap of the   (Sandak – Godfather). The Sandak holds the baby during the Brit – this is the most honored role during the Brit and is often given to the grandfather or to an esteemed rabbi.

After the Mohel performs the Brit, it is customary for those assembled to say:


Keshem she'nichnas labrit, ken yikanes letorah u'lechupa u'lema'asim tovim.


Just as he has entered into the Covenant, so may he enter into Torah, marriage and good deeds.

Someone is then honored to recite the blessings, and a Hebrew name is given to the baby. Then the child is returned to the mother. Like almost every Jewish ceremony, the Brit is followed by a celebratory meal (- se'udat mitzvah).

In wishing the parents “mazel tov,” it is customary to add the following words:



Zeh hakatan, gadol yi’hiyeh!

May this little one become great.


Related Vocabulary Words


Translation: Covenant of Circumcision

Transliteration: Brit Milah

Part of speech: noun, feminine


Translation: Circumsciser

Transliteration: Mohel

Part of speech: noun, masculine


Translation: Godfather

Transliteration: Sandak

Part of speech: noun, masculine


Translation: Name

Transliteration: Shem

Part of speech: noun, masculine

Related Hebrew Names

Abraham (Avraham)   

Abraham is the first jew, and is regarded by the entire civilized world as the founder of monotheism 4,000 years ago. According the Bible, the name Abraham is constructed of the words (av, "father") and (hamon, "many"), since Abraham was the father of many peoples (Genesis 17:5).


A modern girl’s name, meaning “covenant” or “alliance.”

For more on naming your Jewish child, go to: Naming Your Child.

Hebrew Word Search

See if you can find all the words in the puzzle below:

For more information about Brit Milah, go to: It's a Boy!


Be’siman tov u’ve’mazal tov!

Congratulations! (Literally: With a good sign and with good luck!)




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