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Traveling Mohel
Traveling Mohel
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There are ten sefirot (Divine Emanations or Attributes) in the world. The male sex organ comes from the sefirah of Yesod, which means foundation. Wherever this sefirah is found, from there flow blessings. From yesod flows abundance of blessings to malchut, which is the female sefirah. Kabbalah explains that wherever there is an opening for positive, holy energy to flow, Satan is there as well. That is why we put a mezuzah on the doorpost (entranceway ) to the house because Satan waits by the door. The highest concentration of positive, productive energy is in the male organ as it can produce life, and therefore kelipa is stronger there as well.

A brit is done in the daytime because there are more holy forces revealed during the day time. It is preferable to do a brit in the early morning hours. However, it is permissible to perform the brit later in the daytime (ie. Afternoon), even though as the day progresses less positive energy forces are present , as long as more people would be present at that brit (since a multitude of people brings greater positive energy as well).

According to the Kabbalah, Circumcision shares a connection to speech. By circumcising the foreskin we also are meant to refine spiritually our power of speech and to relate to another with kind, loving words and not in a harsh or unrefined way. The correction of oneís faculty of speech and the guarding of the covenant of oneís procreative organ (and only to express oneís true love for oneís spouse in marital relations in holiness) depend upon and influence one another.

The Baal Shem Tov (founder of the study of Chassidut) taught that the most basic model of Divine Service is the three stage process of chash-mal-mal (silence, circumcision, speech) equivalent to the three phases of submission-separation-sweetening.

The two terms, "the word of the tongue" (milat haloshon) and the circumcision of the procreative organ (in Hebrew called milat hamaor) in the Hebrew language actually are the same words, showing their interconnection.

Circumcision divides purity from impurity. Torah is the secret of separation between good and evil. Circumcision is an act of separation and also accomplishes separating one from evil influences. The Divine soul begins to shine its light from the moment of the brit for a Jewish male child. Circumcision is the holy sign of the covenant which is stamped on the body of every Jewish boy at 8 days from birth.

Please note: the counting of the eight days includes the day the baby is born. And by Jewish law, the night before (from the time it is dark) begins the next day.

For example, if a baby boy is born Sunday night at 10:00 pm, it is considered as if he is born Monday. Monday would be the first day of his life and therefore eight days later, on the following Monday, the brit milah would take place.

The day of the brit milah is a very festive occasion. Every person who attends the brit helps to remove kelipa from the baby. That is why if a person is invited to a brit milah, he must come. But it is customary not to specifically invite people to a brit but simply to inform them when and where the brit will take place. At every brit milah it is proper and customary to have at least a minyan (ten Jewish men over the age of bar mitzvah, 13 years) to be present.

The baby should be dressed in fine clothing, as well as all the family members and the participants. It is customary in some communities for the father of the baby, the Sandok (one who holds the baby during the brit) and the Mohel (one who performs the brit) to wear taleisim (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries) during the brit. A brit must be performed on the Shabbat or Yom tov (even on Yom Kippur) if the eighth day itself is actually on that day. If a brit is postponed however (ie. For health reasons), then it cannot thereafter take place on a Shabbat or Festival.

A baby delivered by Caesarean section is circumcised on the eighth day but if the eighth day in that case turns out to be Shabbat or Yom Tov, the brit milah is put off until the next day. The brit is performed by a specially trained Mohel. He must be an expert in the way he performs this great mitzvah (commandment). It is therefore important to choose an orthodox, G-d fearing Mohel so the brit will be done to perfection. Many people think that a medical doctor may be more of an expert, but in reality a Mohel performs more britim than most doctors and he is more of a specialist in that area. It is interesting to note that the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth, chose a Mohel instead of the Royal physician to circumcise her son, Prince Charles, because she knew a Mohel is specially trained in the art of circumcision.

( Please note: A non-Jew can also have circumcision (milah) done, but the spiritual affects are not the same because a brit is only a covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. A non-Jew has no obligation to do circumcision and the spiritual ideas do not apply. For a non Jew, it is only considered a circumcision, but not a brit, not a covenant with G-d).

The Sandok is the person who is given the honor to hold the child throughout the brit. According to Jewish mysticism, the Sandok has a special role to play in protecting the child from kelipa and evil forces in the world.

It is important to choose a righteous person (ie. Not a depressed, sick, angry person) to be the Sandok because the Sandok helps to draw down a holy soul for the child. In fact, the child receives good character traits from the Sandok and shares a spiritual connection with him.

A chair is prepared at every brit milah in honor of Elijah the Prophet (Eliyahu haNavi). There are some communities throughout the world who have a special chair solely for such occasions. There is one chair in "the cave of Eliyahu" on Mount Carmel in Israel that is hundreds of years old, and many interesting stories are told about this chair and its mystical powers. The chair for Eliyahu is placed to the right of the Sandok at the brit and the Mohel recites certain prayers there while the baby is presented to Eliyahu for blessings. The father (or whoever is designated with the honor) then lifts the baby and places him on the lap of the Sandok.

Spiritually Eliyahu serves another purpose: he is coming to take the place of the evil prosecutor, the Satan. As mentioned before, the greater the mitzvah, the harder the unholy forces try to accuse and prevent a Jew from fulfilling this mitzvah. Eliyahu turns the prosecutor into a defense attorney, so to speak. But in order for Eliyahu to actually be present, we must physically call him and announce his presence and prepare a special chair for him.

Why is it that Eliyahu must come to every brit milah? Because he came to complain to God that the Jewish people were not doing brit milah and were forsaking their covenant with God. The Satan wanted to be the one to complain about this and had he done so it would have been terrible. But Eliyahu knew through prophecy that the Satan was planning this and therefore he quickly volunteered to be the one to complain instead. Since he did so, God told him he would have to be present at every brit milah as a witness. And therefore he comes to bring blessing to the child. Eliyahu asked God how could he go to a brit milah if perhaps there are people there who have sinned. God therefore told him not to worry because he will automatically forgive the sins of any people who are present at a brit milah.

A couple is also designated at each brit as "Godfather" and "Godmother" : they are called "kvater" and are usually husband and wife. They are the couple designated to carry the baby in to the brit milah. This is a segulah ( a special merit ) to be blessed with children and often this honor is given to a couple who have not yet been blessed with children or who desire to have a baby. The mother of the baby hands the child to the "Godmother" and by this act signifies her consent to entrust the child to Godís care. The "Godfather" takes the child from the "Godmother" and hands him to a designated individual whose honor it is to place the infant on the cushion of the chair of Eliyahu.

When the baby is brought in to the place where the brit will be performed, everyone rises and remains standing for the duration of the brit . Only the Sandok sits during the actual period of the milah while holding the baby on his lap.

The father places the baby on the lap of the Sandok and designates the Mohel as his emissary to perform the brit for his son. After the father recites the proper blessings, it is customary for everyone present to say, "Just as the baby has entered this Covenant of brit milah, so may he enter the Covenant of learning Torah, of marriage , and of good deeds."

Every positive in life has to have a negative: any holiness must also have unholiness participating with it. Satan (the negative energy in the world) wants his portion of every holy act that the Jewish people do. Kabbalah explains that we say to Satan that we take the holy part, which is the child, and the unholy foreskin we give to Satan. Because of this gift, the Satan is bribed to the extent that he then praises the Jews and becomes a defender rather than a prosecutor.

Once the brit is done, the foreskin must be buried in the earth and it must not be thrown into the garbage or flushed down the toilet etc. because otherwise we do not accomplish this positive exchange with Satan .

That is why the Ari haKodesh, every time he ate a meal, would say hamotzi on bread and take off a little piece from the bread which he would put aside and not consume and which he would say he was giving to Satan as his portion, thus giving him a part of the holiness so he would then leave him alone in peace.

As far as pain is concerned, Jewish law does not permit the use of the type of bell clamp which most hospitals utilize because it is too painful and traumatic as it crushes all veins and flesh. A Mohel uses much simpler instruments (and some use no tools at all except for the knife itself which is very sharp and cuts the skin with little pain). The method of the Mohel is the least painful and most skillful and usually takes less than half a minute.

And the few drops of blood which are discharged at the brit are obligatory by Kabbalah. The Mohel must draw some blood. This removes any remaining impurities and completes the job of removing all kelipa to its maximum. If a brit has no blood with it (ie. As when a bell clamp is used) it is not considered a proper or "kosher" brit.

Once the act of brit milah is finished, certain prayers and the official naming of the baby is done. We do not name the baby before the brit. Since the Jewish name of a child is connected to the soul, it is the most appropriate time to give the name on the day of the brit milah, when body and soul unite fully and the Divine soul begins to shine its light. It is customary to name the child after a righteous person since the name influences the character of the child. Even if a brit is performed later than the eighth day, the child remains without an official name until the day of the brit.

After the brit milah is done and the prayers have been said, the food is then served. Everyone must partake of a "seudat mitzvah" (that means it is proper to wash for bread, make hamotzi and partake of a full and festive meal). If a circumcision is performed on a fast day, the festive meal is put off until evening when the fast is broken.

It is recommended by Kabbalah that participants at a brit milah should wash for bread rather than simply eating cake or other foods alone. The reason is that when a person washes for bread at a brit milah, it is equivalent to having fasted forty fasts (it is in place of a sort of purification process). Since nowadays we are weak and are unable to fast the number of fasts prescribed for our sins, we welcome any opportunity like a brit to give us a forty day fast just through washing for bread.

So a person who is in a hurry and just eats some cake etc. without washing misses that spiritual opportunity of gaining forty days of fasting. And because the Jewish people turn the commandment of circumcision into such a festive and happy occasion, God is especially pleased and gives many blessings to the Jewish nation and to the family of the baby.

After the meal is over, the participants recite special prayers: included is a prayer for the parents of the child, for the Mohel and also a prayer asking, as reward for performing the brit milah properly, that we should merit to see the coming of the Messiah (Moshiach) and the end of human strife.


The first Friday evening after the birth of a baby boy, it is the Jewish custom to make a "Shalom Zachor", welcoming the male child into the world. Even if the brit is postponed, the shalom zachor still takes place the first Friday evening after the birth. At this "party" we serve chic peas and light refreshments and guests give blessings to the parents and the baby.

The night before the brit itself is called a "Vachnacht" ( a night of watching). It is customary for the father of the baby to stay awake the entire night reciting special passages from the Kabbalah and from the Psalms (Tehillim) to protect the baby from any harm, since before such a great mitzvah the Satan tries to do his best to prevent the brit from taking place. (However nowadays many people give charity instead of staying awake all night because people are weaker than in the olden days and cannot necessarily stay up the entire night). Small children are invited to come over and they are given sweets after they recite the Shema at the bedside of the baby. The passage, "The angel that delivered me from all bad should bless the youngsters and cause to have my name recited over them and the names of my forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, and like fish may they grow to multitudes in the midst of the world" is recited as well.


Another interesting Jewish ceremony is the pidyon haben, redemption of the firstborn males. Whenever the first born child is a son (and this means the firstborn son from the mother: so if a man had more than one wife, as long as the boy is the firstborn of the mother, he is considered a "bchor", a firstborn, and requires a pidyon haben), on the 31st day of the boyís life, he is redeemed from a Kohen (a man of priestly descent).

This ceremony is postponed until the next day if the 31st day falls on a Shabbat or Jewish holiday. Otherwise it should be performed on time. The pidyon haben only applies for Jewish boys who are the first born to open the motherís womb (therefore, a child born by C section is exempt and also if there were miscarriages that preceded the birth of this child, then the boy would be exempt).

In the Torah it states that all firstborn males that open the womb belong to God: we are obligated to redeem our firstborn son from a Kohen. If the mother is a daughter of a Levi or Kohen, or if the father is a Kohen or Levi, the child does not need to be redeemed.

If a grown man or an older boy is a firstborn and his parents never redeemed him as a child, he may redeem himself from a Kohen.

At the pidyon haben the father of the child buys his son from the Kohen. Afterwards a festive meal is also served and it is a great mitzva to wash for bread as this is equivalent to fasting eighty days (just like washing at the brit milah is equivalent to forty fasts)!

The Jewish brit milah, with all its ceremonies etc. is performed for the Jewish child who is either born from a Jewish mother or from a woman who has converted properly according to Orthodox Jewish law. Otherwise circumcision may be performed for the child, but religious ceremonies are withheld until such time as the child may want to really become Jewish.

The Jewish people have adhered to the Covenant of Circumcision throughout the ages, in times of peace and prosperity, and in times of persecution and difficulty. Nothing stopped us from fulfilling this great and holy commandment from God. In many countries when we were under foreign rule (ie. The time of the Greek Empire) the non-Jews decreed that no Jew could do circumcision. But despite threat of death, the Jewish people performed this important mitzvah, not willing to give up their covenant and connection with God. Jews from Russia who could not do circumcision in their native land, immediately perform this mitzvah upon leaving Russia. Even men of 60 years old are eager to fulfill this sacred rite. We, the Jewish nation, were chosen by God to serve Him and to be a light to the other nations. Circumcision displays our eagerness and willingness to be connected to God and fulfill His Will beyond our own limited understanding and reasoning.


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