Although circumcision has been practiced in different cultures for over three thousand years, in Judaism this act has taken on special significance and represents bringing a child into the divine convenant between God and the Jewish people.
Descriptions of circumcisions can be found in the Bible. In Genesis 17:9-13, God instructs Abraham to circumcise male children on the eighth day throughout the generations.
According to Jewish tradition, it is a parent’s obligation to circumcise a son and offer a threefold blessing for the child: a life enriched by Torah, the wedding canopy (chuppah), and good deeds. Today, a mohel or mohelet is routinely designated by parents to fulfill the circumcision ritual.
In some cases where this custom hasn’t been upheld in its derived intent, there are other types of berit mila ceremonies to bring a person into the covenant, which include the following:
Hatafat Dam Berit (also known as Tipat Dam)
When an adult man who is already circumcised converts to Judaism, it is customary to take a symbolic drop of blood – effectively consecrating his pre-existing circumcision as being for the sake of entering the covenant of circumcision (berit mila). Many of the mohalim in our directory perform Hatafat Dam Berit in the context of a meaningful liturgy.
Berit Bat (also known as Simchat Bat)
Ceremonies that celebrate the birth of a daughter and her entry into the covenant of the Jewish people. They provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our daughters and are an important part of Reform Judaism’s egalitarian approach to Judaism. There are many ways of sanctifying a baby girl’s entry into the Jewish people: she is given a Hebrew name, often the parents come to a synagogue for an Aliyah to the Torah, and other rituals may be included (such as washing the new baby’s feet to welcome her, as did our ancestor Abraham when he welcomed guests into his home for the first time). Many Reform mohalim perform beautiful and meaningful ceremonies to bless a newborn daughter.
Adult Berit Mila
While the Reform Movement does not require that converts to Judaism become circumcised, it is increasingly recognized and practiced as an important aspect of becoming a full member of the Jewish people. A number of the mohalim in our Directory are skilled urologists who can perform adult berit mila in a comfortable, safe and religiously meaningful context.