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Naming the Newly Circumcised Baby

Naming the Newly Circumcised Baby

Giving the Jewish name

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Photo: Chana Lewis
Photo: Chana Lewis

A baby boy is given his Jewish name at the brit, ritual circumcision.1 The name chosen by the parents is considered prophetic.2 For this reason, it is customary for the couple not to discuss the name of their child with others, prior to the naming. The parents should also not call the child by the decided name, even between themselves, until it is bestowed at the circumcision.

The one who holds the baby during the circumcision is called the sandek. After the circumcision has been performed, one of the participants is honored with lifting the infant from the sandek’s lap. He passes the baby to the sandek meumad, the standing sandek, also called the amidah lebrachot, “who stands for the blessings,” who holds the infant while the blessings are recited.3

Opposite the standing sandek, stands the one who will be honored with naming the child (some specifically honor the mohel, the ritual circumciser, with this blessing).4 A goblet of wine is poured,5 and the person who will name the baby recites the blessing on the wine, followed by the blessing of the naming of the child:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who sanctified the beloved one from the womb, set His statute in his flesh, and sealed his descendants with the sign of the holy Covenant. Therefore, as a reward of this [circumcision], the living G‑d, our Portion, our Rock, has ordained that the beloved of our flesh be saved from the abyss, for the sake of the Covenant which He has set in our flesh. Blessed are You L‑rd, who makes the Covenant.

He then names the child:

Our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers, preserve this child for his father and mother, and his name in Israel shall be called [here say the baby's name] the son of [the father's name]. May the father rejoice in his offspring, and his mother be glad with the fruit of her womb, as it is written: May your father and mother rejoice, and she who bore you be glad. As it is said: I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood, and I said to you: You shall live through your blood; and I said to you: You shall live through your blood. And it is said: He has remembered his Covenant forever, the word which He has commanded to a thousand generations; the Covenant which he made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac; He established it for Jacob as a statute, for Israel as an everlasting Covenant. And it is said: Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as G‑d had commanded him. Give thanks to the L‑rd for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the L‑rd for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting. May this little infant [mention his name] become great. Just as he has entered the Covenant, so may he enter into Torah, into marriage, and into good deeds.

During the naming, the mohel will place twice tiny drops of wine in the baby’s mouth.6 Just as the one who recited the blessing must taste the wine, so must the infant, upon whom the blessing was recited.7 When doing so, the mohel forms his hand into the shapes of the letters of one of G‑d’s names (shin-daled-yud).8

The one who made the blessings, or a participant who was chosen earlier, then drinks the wine.9 In some communities the mother of the infant is given to drink from the wine.10

The Sephardic custom is to make a blessing on a myrtle, or the like, to add sanctity to the event by making additional blessings.11

After the wine has been drunk, the father and the mohel say a prayer for the infant’s G‑dly soul:

Sovereign of the universe, may it be Your will that this [circumcision] be regarded and accepted by You as if I had offered him before the Throne of Your Glory. And You, in Your abounding mercy, send through Your holy angels a holy and pure soul to [here say the baby's name] the son of [the father's name] who has now been circumcised for the sake of Your great Name. May his heart be open as the portal of the Great Hall in the Temple in Your holy Torah, to learn and to teach, to observe and to practice; grant him long life, a life imbued with the fear of sin, a life of wealth and honor; and fulfill the desires of his heart for good. Amen (it should happen), and so may it be Your will.

Then the mohel recites a prayer for the complete recovery of the child, to which everyone responds Amen:

May He who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, bless this tender infant [here say the baby's name] the son of [the father's name] the because [the father's name] the son of [his father's name] pledged charity for his sake for visiting [and caring of] the sick. In this merit, may the Holy One, blessed be He, hasten to send a complete recovery to all his two hundred forty-eight bodily parts and three hundred sixty-five veins, and raise him to Torah, to marriage, and to good deeds; and let us say, Amen.

The kvatters , the parents’ messengers, who carried the baby from the mother to the sandek, now return the baby to his mother.12

To learn about a specific Jewish name, see Jewish baby boys' names and Jewish baby girls' names.

Footnotes
1.

A baby girl is named at a Torah reading. The Torah is read every Monday, Thursday and Shabbat. Some specifically wait for Shabbat to name their newborn. The Chabad custom is to name the child at the first possible Torah reading, even on Monday or Thursday.

2.

Rabbi Chayim ben Attar in Or Hachaim on Deuteronomy 29:17.

3.

Brit Avot 7:28.

4.

See Shach on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 265:1.

5.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 265:1.

6.

Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 265.

7.

Machzor Vitry.

8.

Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 265:1

9.

Otzar Habrit, p. 230.

10.

Machzor Vitry.

11.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 265:1

12.

Brit Avot, ch. 33.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Zalmy Engel Brooklyn October 26, 2017

Why is the name given at the bris? What is the connection between the baby's name and his bris? Reply

Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum, for Chabad.org Folsom, CA November 1, 2017
in response to Zalmy Engel:

See here: Why wait until the Circumcision to name the boy Reply

Anonymous CA April 17, 2017

naming Is the male babies last name (family name) ever used in the naming of the baby during the Bris? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org April 21, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

No, last names are not used in the naming ceremony at the bris. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org December 8, 2016

Re: Name at Bris This goes as far back as Abraham's name being changed at the time of his bris. As far as the actual custom of giving the name at the bris, there are sources stating that this was done as far back during Temple times. Reply

Yitzchok December 5, 2016

Name at Bris What is the origin of giving a name at a bris? Is there a reference in an ancient Jewish book or is it a recent custom? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org November 4, 2016

Re: Name is considered prophetic Regarding the citation for the statement that "The name chosen by the parents is considered prophetic." (i.e. FN#2). Although that is indeed how various commentaries explain the intention of the Ohr Hachaim cited in the footnote, it is true that it isn't a clear, explicit citation. The source usually cited for this idea is the Arizal, see for example Shaar Hagilgulim Hakdama 23 and Emek HaMelech Shaar 1:4. Reply

Baruch Katz Minneapolis November 3, 2016

I looked up citation 2, for the idea that a parent's choice of a name for their child is prophetic, and did not find it in Or Hachaim on Deut 29:17. He only says that a name represents the soul. Where does this idea come from that the parent's choice of name is prophetic? Reply

Clem DOUGLAS Brisbane, Australia October 28, 2016

Re: Your website Baruch HaShem for your great website. Reply

Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.
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