Expecting a child can be both one of the greatest sources of joy and also one of the greatest sources of trepidation. The Jewish tradition sees the birth of children as a promise of the future. There is a story told that when Moses received the Torah, he was asked by God to find a guarantor for the holy text in case Israel were to default. Although Moses brought God the suggestions of the elders, the prophets, the men and the women and the community, God did not find favor with these suggestions. It was only when Moses brought God the children in the community that God agreed. Forever, our children would be considered the keepers and guardians of our tradition, helping to ensure our tradition would continue for many years to come.

There are many Jewish questions people have about new babies. Click on any of the links below for more information:

  • Brit Milah
  • Pidyon HaBen
  • Baby Namings
  • Infertility

Coming home with a new baby can put a great deal of stress on a new family. If it would be helpful to have some meals provided by congregants for the first couple of weeks as you settle into a new routine, please contact CBE Chesed and let us know. We are happy to help out.

Brit Milah
Brit Milah (know also as a Bris) has been a central part of welcoming a boy into the covenant and is inspired by God’s commandment to Abraham to circumcise himself and his sons as a sign of Abraham’s covenant with God. A Brit Milah is usually conducted on the 8th day of a boy’s life unless there is a medical reason why this should not happen. Because Jewish days start at night, it can sometimes be tricky to figure out when this occurs. If a baby is born before sunset, his bris will be the next week on the same calendar day (ex. if he is born at 1 PM on a Thursday, the Bris will be on the following Thursday). If he is born after sunset it will be a week later on the next calendar day (ex. if he is both at 10 PM on a Thursday, the bris will be on the following Friday). A Bris usually occurs in the morning, though many mohelim (professionals who perform brit milah) will accommodate early afternoon times. Brit Milah happens every day including Shabbat, however if one has a C-section on Shabbat it is customary to push the Bris to the following Sunday.

A Brit Milah ceremony has three sections. During the first third, prayers are recited to formally welcome the child into the Jewish people. During the second third, the surgery takes place by a mohel, a person trained in the ritual and the practice of circumcisions. See below for a list of suggested mohelim.

The final section is the naming. Here the child is given a Hebrew name. For families from Ashkenazi backgrounds, the child is often named after a loved one who has died. In Sephardi families, the child often will be named to honor someone who is living. All names follow the same pattern. A child is called [Hebrew name] bar [Father’s name] and [Mother’s name]. At CBE, children are named for both parents. At CBE, if one parent is not Jewish or does not have a Hebrew name we will still include their name alongside the other family member. If you need help choosing a Hebrew name please contact our clergy or visit our naming page for suggestions. Following the circumcision, it is customary to take part in a festive meal known as a Seudat Mitzvah.

The CBE clergy would be honored to attend your bris and officiate. We are happy to work with your Mohel to share the ceremony. While we are not trained in the act of circumcision itself we are happy to name your son and say the surrounding prayers. However, if it is better for your family we are also happy to attend as guests.

While there are dozens of mohelim, many congregants at CBE have had success with the following mohelim. Each is different and we recommend speaking with them about their approach and styles before committing.

Please note: None of these Mohelim engages in the practice known as Metzitzah B’Peh.

Suggesions:

  • Rabbi David Kedmi
  • Emily Blake (M.D.)
  • Cantor Philip Sherman
  • Dorothy Greenbaum (M.D.)

Useful Websites for Brit Milah

Baby Namings
Giving a child a Hebrew name is considered one of the first Jewish gifts a parent can give a new baby. It is a tie to the past and a platform for their identity. So important are Hebrew names, say our Rabbis, that one of the reasons the Israelites were freed from Egypt is because in spite of becoming slaves they refused to give up their names.

Families usually choose to have baby namings at CBE if they have daughters or if they have sons who, for medical purposes, needed to have a circumcision in the hospital. Sometimes parents of a daughter will have a brit bat (a ceremony like a brit milah conducted on the 8th day for girls). Most families will have a naming ceremony for their child sometime within their first year of life.

The CBE clergy are excited to work with you to plan a naming in the synagogue. There are three services at which namings take place for members. The first, and most common service, is at our Saturday morning Shabbat services, starting at 9:30 AM. We will call you up to bless the Torah and give your child a Hebrew name. The ceremony lasts 5-10 minutes. Second, some families opt to have a naming at Shir L’Shabbat, our Shabbat music and prayer service for families and children ages 0-4. The services also start at 9:30 AM and last half an hour. Namings are usually done during story time (approx. 9:50 AM) and last only 2-3 minutes because of the age group of the participants. Finally, some families will opt to have the naming on Friday night as part of our Kabbalat Shabbat service. This service begins at 6:30 PM and the namings look very similar to those that take place at the main service on Shabbat morning.

Naming services follow a similar structure to a brit milah (with the exception of the surgery). We begin by welcoming the child formally into the Jewish people with a few prayers. Following this we give the baby a Hebrew name. Finally we say Kiddush, say the Shehekhianu (blessing for all joyous first in our tradition) and the baby receives the priestly benediction (the oldest blessing in the Jewish tradition).

When the child is given a Hebrew name, for families from Ashkenazi backgrounds this name is often the same name as a loved one who has died. In Sephardi families, the child often will be named to honor someone who is living. All names follow the same pattern. A child is called [Hebrew name] bar/bat [Father’s name] and [Mother’s name]. At Congregation Beth Elohim, children are named for both parents. If one parent is not Jewish or does not have a Hebrew name we will still include their name alongside the other family member.

Useful Websites for Choosing a Hebrew Name

Please note: Namings can be done at any age. If you or your child does not have a Hebrew name we would be happy to name them or you at any time. There is something very beautiful about a grade-school age child choosing his or her own Hebrew name.

Pidyon HaBen
According to Biblical law, all “firsts” belong to God. That means one’s first fruits, the first animals born in a season, and one’s first son are divine property. And because of this, thousands of years ago, first born sons would leave home and serve as priests in the ancient Temple.

However, our ancestors did away with this practice. Instead of giving up one’s son to the Temple, parents can redeem their firstborn by giving a few symbolic coins to someone who is of priestly descent (a kohen). As the Bible states, “Every firstborn of man among your sons, you shall redeem” (Exodus 13:3). Traditionally, this is done on the 30th day after birth. Parents whose firstborn is a son are eligible for this, though our CBE clergy are happy to do the ritual for any firstborn, including daughters.

Rabbi Katz is a kohen and is happy to help you if you are interested in performing this ritual.

Infertility
We know that there are many in our community who struggle with infertility. You are not alone. The CBE clergy are here to have a confidential conversation and can recommend resources and rituals to help you. We also know that sometimes the best way to feel less alone in a struggle is to find others who have struggled in the past. We have a number of people in our community who have struggled with infertility and would be happy to open their doors and their hearts to you.

Resources to help