Question: How does a person thank Hashem for giving him a child?
Answer: As I contemplated your question, my thoughts naturally turned to the brit ceremony. (I recently had the zechut to participate in the brit of a great-grandchild, Daniel Anshel Klass. May he have as long a life like my late father for whom he was named and grow up to be a proud, committed, Torah-observant Jew.)
At the brit, two blessings are recited. Before the mohel circumcises the baby, he says, “Baruch ata Hashem Elokenu melech ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’milah – Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, king of the universe, who has sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us regarding circumcision.”
After the circumcision, the father says, “Baruch ata Hashem Elokenu melech ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hachniso b’vrito shel Avraham Avinu – Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, king of the universe, who has sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to enter him into the covenant of our father Abraham.”
Upon hearing the father’s blessing, the assembled respond, “Amen. K’sheim shenichnas l’brit, kein yi’kaneis l’Torah u’lchuppah u’lmaasim tovim – Amen. Just as he has entered the covenant, so shall he enter to Torah, the marital canopy, and the performance of good deeds.”
In Sefardic communities (see Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Milah 3:3), the father then says, “Baruch ata Hashem Elokenu melech ha’olam shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh – Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, king of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season [or event].” The father does not say this blessing in Ashkenazic communities (see Hagahot Maimoniyot, op cit.) because the brit entails tza’ara d’yenuka (pain of the infant), which reduces the level of joy.
Following that is a blessing over wine and a blessing usually said by an individual of note, a rabbi, or a close relative:
“Baruch ata Hashem Elokenu melech ha’olam asher kidash yedid mi’beten v’chok b’she’ero som v’tze’eto’ov chotam b’ot brit kodesh al kein b’schar zot Keil Chai chelkeinu tzureinu tzaveih l’hatzil yedidut sh’ereinu mishkachat, l’ma’an brito asher som bi’v’sareinu; Baruch Ata Hashem koreit ha’brit – Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, king of the universe, who sanctified the beloved one from the womb and placed the mark of the decree in his flesh and sealed his offspring with the sign of the holy covenant. Therefore, as a reward for this, O living G-d, our portion, our rock, may You issue the command to rescue the beloved, our flesh from destruction, for the sake of His covenant that he placed in our flesh. Blessed are You, Hashem, who establishes the covenant.”
Then the baby is named.
Before these main blessings and recitations, the mohel recites some other items before the brit. Following the brit are HaRachamans after Birkat HaMazon that call for blessing to be bestowed on the various participants in the brit. One of them is a request for blessing for the “tender eight-day-old infant” who was just circumcised.
Perhaps all these blessings and other recitations serve as a way of thanking Hashem for the gift He gave the parents. The problem is that the mother says nothing at the brit; only the father does. Doesn’t she have to thank Hashem for her child, too? And how does one thank Hashem for a girl? (Only a boy, after all, has a brit.)
In the time of the Beit Hamikdash, a person could bring a korban as a way of thanking Hashem. Our sages teach us that in the absence of a Beit Hamikdash, the utterances of our mouth replace the korbanot. (They base this teaching on words in Hosea 14:3: “u’neshalma porim sefateinu – let the words of our mouth compensate for the bulls.”)
Thus, for example, reciting the Biblical portions regarding the korbanot is like actually bringing the korbanot themselves. That’s why we read portions relating to the korbanot every day in the morning. The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 48:1) rules that a person actually has to stand when reciting these portions just like he had to stand when bringing a korban in the Beit Hamikdash.
(The Mishnah Berurah [Orach Chayim 48:1] writes that reading these passages is insufficient; one must understand them too.)
(To be continued)