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The Festive Meal Following the Circumcision

The Festive Meal Following the Circumcision

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What and Why

The community attends a festive meal in honor of the brit, ritual circumcision.1 The meal is held in order to add to the joyous occasion and for the Divine commandment to be cherished.2 This custom dates back to the meal Abraham made after the circumcision of his son Isaac – the first infant to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.3

Another reason for the festive meal is so many will gather to give blessings for the complete health of the mother and for the infant to heal completely from the circumcision.4

According to Jewish tradition, when one is invited to a meal celebrating the brit, it is incumbent upon that person to participate.5 Therefore it is customary for the father, or the synagogue’s beadle, to announce the festive meal, without giving a formal invitation.6

The Food

It is traditional that all who participate in the festive meal should wash their hands and eat bread. Many have the custom to serve wine and meat at the meal.7 Others consider fish8 or dairy9 to be sufficient. In any case, wine should always be served.10

Other Customs

At the festive meal, it is customary for the father give a short talk about the significance of ritual circumcision.11 It is customary in the Chabad community for the father to recite a Chassidic discourse on the significance of the brit milah.

Many sing special melodies during the meal. The Chabad custom is to sing “Hupp Cossack,” and the special melody of four stanzas composed by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe. This latter melody is sung only at extremely holy occasions, such as when a bride and groom walk to the chuppah, the Jewish wedding canopy.12

Many give charity at the meal.13 Some make a down payment towards the child’s future tuition at a Jewish day school.14

The Grace

At the end of the festive meal, the participants recite Grace After Meals together. There are six stanzas towards the end of the Grace, each beginning “May the Merciful One…” It is customary to honor six individuals with saying these blessings aloud.

Included in the six stanzas are blessings for the parents, the child, the sandek and the mohel. The last two stanzas are prayers for the coming of the righteous Moshiach and Elijah the prophet, the Angel of the Covenant.

Footnotes
1.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 265:12

2.

Machzor Vitry.

3.

Genesis 21:8, "Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned." See Da'at Zekeinim Mi-Ba'alei Ha-Tosefot on the verse and Pirkei Derabi Elazer, ch. 29.

4.

Klalei Hamilah, p. 67.

5.

Ramah 265:12.

6.

Pitchei Teshuva ad loc.

7.

Chachmat Adam 149:24.

8.

Zocher Habrit 25:7. Fish may be served at the festive meal because it is a food that may be served to royalty. One may rejoice over a meal of fish. (Magen Avraham 352:2).

9.

Based on many examples of this meal being dairy (see Shut Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah Ch. 213, Zecher Dovid 3:4 and Zocher Habrit 25:9. See the Rif and Rosh on Pesachim 109:1).

10.

“There is no happy occasion without wine,” (Magen Avraham, Orech Chayim 249:6).

11.

Klalei Hamilah.

12.

Sefer Hasichot, 5688, p. 12.

13.

Zecher Habrit 25:16.

14.

Sefer Haminhagim, p. 23.

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