From When A Jew Celebrates

On the eighth day after birth, Jewish boys are circumcised. According to the Torah, this ceremony began with Abraham.

Jews made circumcision a special mitzvah, a commandment. Just as Jews took ancient harvest festivals and gave them special religious meaning, so they changed the ancient custom of circumcision and made it a special mark of the Jewish male.

Nor have the Jews ever doubted the importance of circumcision. The ceremony of circumcision is called Berit Milah, from berit meaning "covenant", and milah "circumcision". According to tradition it must take place on the eight day after birth. It can be delayed only if the baby is to weak. In fact, the date is considered so important that it take place even if the eight day falls on Shabbath or Yom Kippur. The circumcision my take place in the hospital, in the synagogue, or at home. Nevertheless, some Jews have it done on any day before the baby leaves the hospital.

Circumcision is a minor operation. It is done by a man called - a Mohel - who has been trained in this procedure. It is some times done by a Jewish surgeon, a rabbi present. A traditional Berit Milah involves the whole family, but four people are most important -in addition to the baby. Three of the four are physically present at the ceremony- the godmother the godfather, and the Mohel. The fourth, the prophet Elijah, is there in spirit. At a traditional Berit Milah there is even an empty chair left for Elijah.

First Born