The Brit Milah (Bris) Ceremony

The basics of this ceremony for an eight-day-old Jewish boy

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baby boyAccording to the Tal­mud, a circumcision consists of three separate acts: 1. milah, the actual removal of the foreskin with a knife reserved for the purpose; 2. periah, the tearing-off and folding-back of the mucous membrane to expose the glans; 3. metzitzah, the suction of the blood from the wound. With regard to the third stage, there has been con­siderable controversy in modern times. In the [era of the] Talmud, the suction was done by mouth, the mohel actually sucking the blood from the wound. But the Talmud does not advocate this third stage as belonging to the rite itself, but only as a hygienic measure.

In the present stage of medical knowledge, suction by mouth is the opposite of hygienic; germs can be transmitted from the mohel to the infant and from the infant to the mohel. Yet some Orthodox Jews still perform suction by mouth, arguing that the hygienic reason is not the only one and that suction is an integral part of the rite. Many Orthodox Jews, however, adopt the compro­mise of using an oral sucking tube where the mouth does not come into direct contact with the infant's penis.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.