We at Hampstead Synagogue would be delighted to help you celebrate the birth of your baby.
For Baby Boys
The Torah states (Vayikra/Leviticus 12:3) that Brit Milah (circumcision) takes place on the eighth day inclusive after a baby boy is born, subject to the baby being fit and well. If the baby is not ready on the eighth day, the Brit Milah is ideally performed as soon as possible once the baby is ready.
Brit Milah, which represents the continuation of God’s covenant with Abraham, is one of the most ancient and enduring rituals in Judaism.
The source of Brit Milah can be traced back to the book of Bereshit (Genesis) where God said to Abraham: “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised.”(Genesis 17: 10)
Why is the eighth day the ideal day to perform a Brit Milah? We learn that the seventh day of creation, Shabbat, represents the unity between God and the Universe. The eighth day, the first day after the seven days of creation, represents values beyond nature and hence a metaphysical connection with God. Brit Milah, which combines a physical action with a metaphysical link to God and to God’s continuing involvement in history even after the seven days of creation, is therefore carried out on the eighth day.
As noted above, if a Brit Milah cannot be performed on the eighth day, it is postponed until the Mohel (a qualified person who performs the circumcision) has deemed it safe to do so. A postponed Brit cannot take place on Shabbat or a Yom Tov. The Brit Milah is often held in the presence of a minyan but it is not strictly necessary in cases where this is difficult. The service itself can take place in a synagogue or in a private home.
Please contact the Synagogue Office for further information.
The Pidyon Haben ceremony is performed when a first born baby boy is ‘redeemed’ by his parents from a ‘Cohen’ (descendent of the priests who served in the Temples in Jerusalem), thereby exempting him from the initial Biblical obligation on firstborn boys to serve in the Temple when it is rebuilt. Its source is in the Torah (Shemot/Exodus 13:2).
The Pidyon Haben Ceremony takes place on the thirty-first day of a firstborn son’s life, in front of a minyan of ten men. Even in cases where the Brit Milah has had to be postponed for some reason, the pidyon will still go ahead.
The obligation only applies if both parents are Israelites. If either the father or the mother is the child of a father who is a Cohen or Levite, the Pidyon Haben is not required.
Further details are available from the Rabbi who can be contacted via the Synagogue Office.
Further information on Brit Milah and Pidyon Haben can also be found in these two documents:
Tribe – Brit Milah – 2014-02-27
For Baby Girls
Being ‘Called Up’ and naming the baby girl
At Hampstead Synagogue it is generally the custom for the father of a baby girl to receive an aliyah (to be ‘called up’) in shul on the earlier of the first Shabbat or first Yom Tov after the birth of his daughter. He will then be able formally to give his daughter her Jewish name.
For more general information, please visit the Babies and Tots section of the United Synagogue Tribe website, the United Synagogue Youth organisation, which offers a free baby gift pack.