Laws and Customs
Before the Brit
We do not formally invite people to participate in the Brit. Instead we merely announce that the Brit will take place at such a time in such a place. This is done so if someone can’t accept the invitation, it should not seem disrespectful to Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet), who is said to be present at every Brit.
(Jewish tradition has it that G-d promised Elijah the Prophet that he would participate in every Brit due to his zeal in upholding this great mitzvah.)
Once the father has designated an individual as the mohel for his child’s Brit, he should not choose another one unless it was quite clear that the father would have chosen the second mohel first had that mohel been available.
The Morning of the Brit
It is customary for the father, the mohel, and the sandek (the person who will hold the infant during the circumcision) to immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath) on the morning of the Brit.
At the morning prayers prior to the Brit, the Tachanun supplication is omitted in the presence of the father, the mohel, or the sandek, even if the Brit will take place at a different location.
If the Brit will be held on a day that the Torah is read in the synagogue, we honor the father, the mohel, and the sandek with reciting the blessing on the Torah.
We consider the position of sandek more honorable than that of the mohel, giving the sandek preference in being called up to the Torah.
Customs of the Brit
As mentioned before, Jewish tradition has it that Eliyahu Hanavi, Elijah the Prophet, is present at every Brit. We set aside a chair for Elijah, who is called the “Angel of the Brit.” When this chair is used, we announce, “This chair is for Eliyahu Hanavi.”
It is also customary to have candles lit in the room where the Brit is to be performed. Some have the custom to light thirteen candles, symbolizing the thirteen Divine attributes of mercy.
It is customary that the father, the mohel, and the sandek wear a tallit at the time of the Brit.
It is traditional for the child to be placed on a pillow throughout the duration of the Brit, from the time he is carried out and handed over by his mother until he is returned to his mother after the Brit.
Some have a custom to make an advance payment on tuition fees for the boy’s Jewish studies at the time of his Brit Milah.