Planning a Brit Milah (Bris)

What to do besides calling the mohel.

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Although the mohel(et) will give you more precise instructions, the basics you will need are a washcloth and several disposable diapers, a sturdy waist-high table that won't wobble, another table for the mohel's instruments, a pillow, Vaseline or other petroleum jelly, Neosporin or other disinfectant ointment (as instructed by the mohel), and infant Tylenol or its generic equivalent. Make sure the room in which the brit is taking place is well-lit.

The baby should be dressed in something that can be easily and completely pulled up above his waist and then lowered again. You should have a pacifier handy as well. Different mohalim have varying opinions on whether to feed the infant before the brit. It may help keep him calm, but it also means that he has a full stomach and may, rarely, vomit if upset by having his legs held apart.

The ceremony itself, without any additions, takes about 15 minutes, although the surgical procedure occupies only a small part of that time. After the procedure, a blessing over wine is recited and the baby is given his Hebrew name. Often the father and mother will offer a few words about the significance of the name they have chosen. Finally, as is the case with most joyous lifecycle events, everyone joins in the seudat mitzvah. While guests may wish to admire the baby, in reality he will often be eating or sleeping after the ceremony. The mohel will give you instructions for caring for the baby in the days after the circumcision.

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George Robinson

George Robinson, author of Essential Judaism, is the recipient of a Simon Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press Association. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsday, Jewish Week, and The Detroit Jewish News.