Understand circumcision as a sign of the covenant
Learn the vocabulary and ritual associated with circumcision
Know that there is an initiation for girls
By the end of the lesson, the children will have learnt about circumcision and either written a covenant or made a special person poster.
Copies of Siddur Lev Chadash p581-587
- Play “Guess the Baby” – If children have bought in photographs of themselves as babies, mix them up and ask children to guess who each of the babies is. Encourage children not to name themselves.
- Compare baby and now – Give children the photograph taken last week and stick their baby picture next to it. Ask children to spend some time noting the differences from then and now.
- Tackling Circumcision – Circumcision may not be the easiest subject to tackle. If possible you should try to present it in its Biblical and religious context. Try to minimise the ‘yuk’ response to the detail of the actual circumcision and focus on Brit – the covenant.
- Torah Study – Read Genesis 17:1-14. List the terms of the covenant between God and Abraham: What is God offering Abraham? What must Abraham do? Remind the class that a covenant is a contract and in this sense it is a contract between God and Abraham.
- The Ceremony – Give out copies of Siddur Lev Chadash. Turn to page 581. Ask students to find a quote from Genesis. Ask students to identify the participants in the ceremony and then explain their roles. For more information see Dr Howard Cohen’s website www.mohel-circumcision.co.uk .
Mohel/Mohelet – The person leading the ceremony and conducting the actual circumcision. In Liberal Judaism this will be a medically trained person who has studied the Jewish law and practice of b’rit milah.
Sandek – Traditionally a close relative, the sandek will hold the baby during the circumcision. The baby lies on a pillow on the sandek’s lap. The sandek holds the baby’s knees apart so that the mohel can do the circumcision.
Parents – The parent(s) read a blessing and a prayer of hope.
The baby – The baby is given a few drops of kiddush wine by the sandek.
In some cases, the baby may be passed from the mother to the sandek by specially chosen people: Kvaterin – (Godmother) and handed to his Kvater (or Godfather).
Family and friends are often invited to join the celebration of the b’rit milah.
- Questions – Discuss the following questions with the children:
a) Why does Liberal Judaism have a ceremony for a girl?
A: Equal status; equally significant moment; recognising women are part of the covenant
b) Is it right to circumcise boys?
A: Some Jews do object as they think it is barbaric; most continue a tradition that is a strong symbol of identity with the Jewish people past, present and future.
c) Does circumcision have to take place at 8 days?
A: Not if the child is unwell. Also a male convert may choose to be circumcised but needs to discuss with the rabbi.
- For Girls – Like boys, the baby girl is welcomed into the covenant with the traditional words:
“Blessed be she who comes in the name of the Eternal.” (See Page 585 of Siddur Lev Chadash)
- Option 1: Write a Covenant – Children to write a covenant (contract) between them and God. Children should think about promises they can make to God, knowing that they will be able to (or at least try very hard) keep them. Children should think about a good design and be creative.
- Option 2: Make a Special Person Poster – Children should create a poster (using the pictures they have if they wish) with the words “A special person was born on…” with their date of birth. This poster should include their name, and details about their favourite things. They should aim to include some Jewish favourites in the poster too.
- Share their covenant or poster – Children to present their covenant or poster to the rest of the class.