Exploring the Meaning of Bris Milah
Literal Meaning: Covenant of Circumcision
When we hear the term “Bris Milah,” our minds often go straight to the practice of circumcision.
While that’s a part of it, there’s a deeper significance to this ancient tradition. Breaking down the phrase, “Bris” translates to covenant or pact, and “Milah” means circumcision.
But this phrase is more than just a combination of words; it conveys a concept that adds layers of meaning to a seemingly simple practice.
Meaning of the Covenant: A pact between two parties
Let’s start with the idea of a covenant. A covenant is like an agreement between two parties.
In the context of “Bris Milah,” who were the two parties who made the pact?
The original Bris Milah pact was made betweem Abraham and God.
Abraham: Father of the world’s 3 largest religions
Now, here’s where it gets interesting—Abraham isn’t just a figure in one religion. He’s a key player in Judaism, Islam, and even Christianity.
Abraham, the father of Isaac and grandfather of Jacob (later renamed Israel) is considered the forefather of the Jewish people. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on Abraham as the father of the Jewish people, but it is interesting to note that his influence doesn’t stop there.
He also fathered Ishmael, making him a shared forefather of Islam as well.
And, since Jesus was a Jew, Abraham becomes a distant forefather in some ways to Christianity too.
The shared lineage through Abraham fosters a sense of interconnectedness among followers of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Its no wonder then why all three of these religions share practices of circumcision.
“Bris Milah” Symbolizes our Enduring Pact with God
Now, let’s dive deeper into the significance of the “Bris Milah” as more than just a physical act of removing the foreskin.
In Jewish culture, it is a symbol of a deep spiritual and historical pact. Circumcision becomes a tangible expression of the covenant made between Abraham and the divine.
This physical mark serves as a constant reminder of the enduring bond between the Jewish people and their higher purpose. Regardless of where we find ourselves in life, even if every earthly possession was stripped from us, our Bris always remains with us.
The location of the Bris is intentional – it conveys deeper meaning
The location of the Bris Milah is not coincidental. This sign is made in the most intimate of places, the point of heightened connection.
The act of physical intimacy has the potential to be a gateway to the world’s basest physical desires. It also has the potential to create the greatest spiritual intimacy and bring life into this world. It has the power to use physicality as a means of drawing down spirituality into this world (quite literally drawing a soul into this world).
This is the purpose of the Jewish people, to uplift the physical world and fill it with spirituality. It is no wonder then, that the Bris Milah is emblazoned on our flesh to announce our loyalty and devotion to that mission and God, specifically in that area.
The Bris Milah is not a mere declaration of devotion, it is a clear statement of our mission in this world to uplift the physical and mundane and use it in the pursuit of spiritual perfection.
In wrapping up, “Bris Milah” isn’t just a term—it encapsulates a profound covenant between humanity and the divine, as exemplified by Abraham. Understanding “Bris Milah” in this broader context enriches our appreciation for the cultural, historical, and spiritual significance embedded within this timeless tradition.
As a Jew, I can speak to the ancient tradition of the jewish people and circumcision. While the traditions of Islam and Christianity vary, the Jewish tradition teaches to circumcise on the 8th day of a baby boy’s life.
During that circumcision ceremony, the child is not simply having a piece of foreskin surgically removed, he is entering a covenant between the Jewish people and God. He is formally entering the tribe and its commitment to live a life dedicated to elevating this world with spiritual pursuits. He joins as part of the nation with a pledge to be a light unto the nations, leading by the eternal values transmitted at Sinai.
Have more questions about circumcision, Bris Milah, the history or the ceremonies that surround it?
Please reach out to me with any questions you may have!