The Proper Time and Place
It is customary for the Brit to be held in a synagogue. If this is not possible, it can be held at home or any other suitable location. It is preferable for the Brit to be performed in the presence of a minyan (a quorum of ten Jewish male adults over the age of thirteen), for we are taught that when ten Jewish men are gathered, the Divine Presence rests on the assemblage in an amplified manner.
The Brit must be performed on the eighth day from the baby’s birth. Take into consideration that on the Jewish calendar, the day begins with sunset of the day before. For instance, if the child is born on Sunday before sunset, then the Brit is on the following Sunday. However, if the child is born on Sunday night after sunset, then the Brit is performed on the following Monday.
If a Brit was performed prior to the eighth day, or at night, it is considered invalid and a special procedure must be performed by a mohel called “Hatofas Dam Brit,” drawing a drop of blood. A competent Rabbi should be consulted in such a case.
Postponing the Brit for Health Reasons
It is of utmost importance that the Brit be held on the eighth day after the child’s birth. However, in the case of certain medical circumstances, when there is even a remote possibility that the child is not strong enough to undergo circumcision, the Torah requires that the Brit be postponed until he has recovered. If the baby is born premature, weak, or ill in any way, or if he is diagnosed with a health condition such as jaundice or an eye infection, the Brit is temporarily postponed. We wait for the child’s full recovery before performing the circumcision.
In certain cases, we wait seven full days after his recovery before performing the Brit, as Maimonides states: “It is always possible to perform a Brit, whereas one cannot bring a Jewish soul back to life.” Contact a competent rabbi or mohel to discuss any circumstances that may indicate a postponement.
In the case of twin boys, when one is healthy and can undergo a Brit while the other is not, we make each Brit separately; we do not wait to do them both at the same time.
Shabbat and Yom Tov
The Brit is performed on the eighth day following birth even if that day is Shabbat or Yom Tov. 1 However, this is only if the child was delivered naturally. If the child was delivered through Cesarean, the Brit is not held on Shabbat or Yom Tov but is postponed until Sunday or the weekday immediately following Yom Tov.
Similarly, if for any reason the Brit has already been postponed, it may no longer be performed on Shabbat or Yom Tov but rather on the first possible weekday.
If the baby was born in the late afternoon on Friday, between sunset and nightfall, so that there is doubt as to whether he was born on Friday or on Shabbat, the Brit is held on the following Sunday.
When making a Brit on Shabbat, it is necessary to complete all the preparations for the Brit prior to the onset of Shabbat (at sunset on Friday). Only tasks essential to the circumcision itself may be done that day. Consult a rabbi for details. Also, in a community where there is no eruv, the Brit must be held at home, for we don’t carry outside on Shabbat.
Although much of what is prohibited on Shabbat is permitted on Yom Tov, many of the preparations for a Yom Tov Brit must likewise be completed before the onset of Yom Tov. Consult a rabbi for details.
Time of Day
A Brit is usually performed immediately following the morning prayer service. If this is not possible, it may be performed at any time during daylight hours. If having the Brit in the afternoon will result in a larger attendance, it is preferable to wait and have it done in the afternoon, as this adds to the joy of the mitzvah. However, a Brit may never be performed at night.
Timing of a Brit on Special Days
Rosh Hashanah: The Brit is performed during the morning services, following the Torah reading and before the sounding of the Shofar.
Yom Kippur: The Brit is performed during the morning services, following the Torah reading. The celebratory meal is held at night, after the fast is over.
Sukkot: The Brit is performed at the usual time, not in the Sukkah. However, the celebratory meal is held in the Sukkah.
Purim: The Brit is performed during the morning services, following the Torah reading but before the reading of the Megillah. If it is being performed at home, it is done after the reading of the Megillah.
Tisha B’Av: The Brit is performed following the recitation of Kinot at the end of the morning services. The celebratory meal is held at night, after the fast is over.