|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
Tosefta 171[If a person] circumsizes [a baby boy2 for someone else] (i.e. not his own son) he needs to say a Beracha (blessing) for himself (i.e. for his act of circumcision) [even though it is the father who is obligated to circumsize hiw own son].3 He says [the following Beracha:] Baruch [Ata Hashem Eloheinu Melech Haolam] Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Hamilah.4 The father of the boy has to say a Beracha for himself [regardless if he is or is not the one who performed5 the circumcision].6 He says [the following Beracha:] Baruch [Ata Hashem Eloheinu Melech Haolam] Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Lehachniso Bivrito Shel Avraham Avinu.7 And the people who stand there [in the presence of the circumcision] say [in response to the father’s Beracha:] Keshem Shehichnisato Lebrit Kach Tachnisehu Letorah Ulechupah Ulemaasim Tovim.8 [The person] who says the Beracha [over the ceremony of the circumcision]9 says [the following Beracha: Baruch Ata Hashem Eloheinu Melech Haolam] Asher Kidash Yedid Mibeten, Vechok Besheiro Sam, Vetzeetzaav Chatam Beot Berit Kodesh. Al Ken Bischar Zot, El Chai Chelkeinu Tzureinu Tziva Lehatzil Yedidot Sheereinu Mishachat. Baruch [Ata Hashem] Koret Haberit.10
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
המוהל צריך ברכה לעצמו. אומר ברוך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על המילה. אבי הבן צריך ברכה לעצמו. אומר ברוך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להכניסו בבריתו של אברהם אבינו. והעומדין אומרין כשם שהכניסתו לברית כן תכניסהו לתורה ולחופה ולמעשים טובים. המברך אומר אשר קדש ידיד מבטן, וחק בשארו שם, וצאצאיו חתם באות ברית קודש. על כן בשכר זאת, אל חי חלקינו צורינו צוה להציל ידידות שארנו משחת. ברוך כורת הברית.
- The Tosefta continues on the same subject from the previous Tosefta. It is not related to any Mishna. This Tosefta outlines all Berachot that are said at the ceremony of the circumcision.
- The Torah commands to circumsize the penis of all male children on the eighth day after their birth. See Bereishit 17:9-14 and Vayikra 12:3.
- See note 3 on the previous Tosefta. I have explained this Tosefta according to the explanation of Chazon Yechezkel (Berachot, Tosefta 6:17, Chidushim, Hamal) that I mentioned above as well. His explanation is based on the Rambam (Hilchot Milah 3:1) that the Beracha in the form of Al Hamilah (regarding the circumcision) is said only if someone else, not the father, is circumsizing the baby. However if the father circumsizes his own son then he says the Beracha in the form of Lamol Et Haben (to circumsize the son), since the real obligation of circumcision of the son falls out on the father and not on anyone else. See Talmud Bavli (Kiddushin 29a) and Talmud Yerushalmi (Kiddushin 1:7, Daf 19a) for different sources in the Torah of the father’s specific obligation to circumsize his own son. As I already explained above (note 3 on the previous Tosefta) the word Leatzmo (for himself) is referring to the Beracha that is being said and not to the Mitzva (commandment) that is being done.
- ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על המילה – Blessed You Hashem, our God, King of the world, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us regarding the circumcision.
- I have explained the Tosefta according tio the opinion of Rabeinu Tam in the Tosafot (Shabbat 137b, Avi Haben) that first the circumcision is performed and only after that the father says this second Beracha. However other Rishonim (Medieval authorities) hold that this Beracha should also be said before the performance of the circumcision, since all Berachot over Mitzvot are said before the performance of the Mitzvah, as was explained above in Tosefta 14, note 3. For a discussion of various opinions regarding when the father should say the second Beracha see Hagahot Maimoni on the Rambam (Hilchot Milah 3:1).
- Since it is the father who is obligated to circumcise his son he must say a Beracha even if he is not the Mohel (circumsizer). However, even if the father is the Mohel and he says the first Beracha (Al Hamilah) he still has to say this second Beracha. It seems to me that the reason that the father has to say this Beracha even if he already said the first Beracha is because the Rabbis did not want to differentiate between different cases and coined the same Berachot to be said all the time. This is known in Talmudic literature as a Lo Plug (non-differentiation between cases). Since in most cases the father is not the Mohel since most people do not know how to circumcise the Rabbis have instituted this second Beracha for the father, since he is more obligated in the circumcision of his own son than anyone else, however for the odd case when the father does circumsize his own son the Rabbis have applied the rule of Lo Plug and required him to say both Berachot. For the discussion on this matter see Hagahot Maimoni on the Rambam (Hilchot Milah 3:1).
- ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להכניסו בבריתו של אברהם אבינו – Blessed You Hashem, our God, King of the world, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to bring him into the covenant of Avraham our father. Since the Rabbis have intended to coin this Beracha for the father who did not perform the circumcision, but rather has paid someone else to do it for him, they referred in the Beracha to the father’s action, namely not the circumcision itself since the father did not do it, but rather to the fact that the father has brought the child into the convenant that God has made with Avraham, by arranging for the child to be circumcised. For the story of God’s covenant of circumcision with Avraham see Bereishit 17.
- כשם שהכניסתו לברית כן תכניסהו לתורה ולחופה ולמעשים טובים – Just like you have brought him to the circumcision so too may you bring him to the Torah, to the Chupah (Wedding Canopy) and to [performing] good deeds. The reason that these specific items are mentioned in the people’s response is explained by Rabeinu Manoach (quoted by Bet Yosef on Tur Yoreh Deah 265, Veim Hayu Acherim) that these are the things in which the father is obligated to his son. For the complete list of the father’s obligations to his son see Tosefta Kiddushin 1:8. Among these things the father is obligated to teach his son Torah and to marry him off to a woman. Obviously the father cannot control and therefore is not obligated in his son’s performance of good deeds, but this has been added to this phrase to give it a bigger feeling of a blessing. It should be noted that in the Erfurt manuscript of the Tosefta the words “Maasim Tovim” – “good deeds” are not mentioned, which makes more sense in terms of Rabeinu Manoach’s explanation. However I have decided to keep them in based on the Vienna manuscript since they are mentioned in the quote of the Tosefta in Talmud Bavli (Kiddushin 29a). It is possible to explain that “good deeds” refers to the performance of the Mitzvot which the father is supposed to teach his son, since he is obligatred in teaching him Torah, so it kind of goes along with the mentioning of the Torah.
- Since the Tosefta does not specify who this person is the Rambam (Hilchot Milah 3:3) explains that it can be anyone who is present, including the father, the Mohel or anyone else who is present at the circumcision. It is not completely clear what the purpose of this Beracha is. It seems to be a Beracha that was established to give more importance to the procedure of the circumcision and to create a ritual around it, similar to the seven Berachot that are said at a wedding. See Talmud Bavli (Ketubot 7b).
- ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר קדש ידיד מבטן, וחק בשארו שם, וצאצאיו חתם באות ברית קודש. על כן בשכר זאת, אל חי חלקינו צורינו צוה להציל ידידות שארנו משחת. ברוך אתה ה’ כורת הברית. – Blessed You Hashem, our God, King of the world, Who has sanctified the beloved one from the womb, and placed the mark of the law on his descendant, and sealed his offspring with the sign of the holy covenant. Therefore, as a reward for this, The Living God, Our Portion, Our Rock, command to save the beloved people of our remnant from destruction. Blessed You Hashem, Who establishes the convenant.
There are a few different ways to explain the text of this Beracha which in turn significantly impact its translation. I have chosen to translate the first part of the Beracha according to the explanation of Tosafot (Shabbat 137b, Yedid Mibeten) and the second part of the Beracha according to my own interpretation which follows along Tosafot’s logic. According to my translation all obscure terms in the language of the Beracha refer to various people. “The beloved one” is a reference to Avraham our father, “his descendant” is a reference to his son, Yitzchak, and “his offspring” is a reference to Yitzchak’s son, Yakov. See Tosafot (ibid.) for an explanation of why these particular references are used to refer to our forefathers. “The beloved people of our remnant” is a reference to the Jewish people who remained living in the Land of Israel after the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash. They were persecuted by the Romans who among other commandments forbade the Jews to perform circumcision, in particular during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE). See above Tosefta Berachot 2:13, note 7. It appears that despite Roman decrees Jews kept performing circumcision anyway. See Tamud Bavli (Yevamot 72a) where it mentions that many Jews performed circumcision during the rebellion of Bar Kochba, even though it was forbidden by the Romans. Based on this it is my humble opinion that this Beracha was written by the Rabbis some time around the time of the decrees of Hadrian and was said as a plea to God to save the Jews of the Land of Israel from the evil decrees of the Romans that particularly targeted the commandment of circumcision. For a completely different interpretation of this Beracha see Rashi (Shabbat 137b) who interprets various words in the Beracha to refer to completely different concepts. Obviously based on Rashi’s explanation there is no evidence when this Beracha was composed.
It should be noted that in the Erfurt manuscript the ending of the Beracha is slightly different than what I have quoted above, which is based on the Vienna manuscript. Instead of the word “משחת” – “from desctruction” it says, “למען בריתו אשר שם בבשרנו” – “for the sake of His convenant that He has placed on our flesh”. This text fits even better with my interpretation of this Beracha since it directly refers to the fact that God should save the remaining Jews as a reward for them performing the commandment of circumcision despite the evil decrees that forbid it. It seems to me that the reason why suddenly the text switches its reference to God in the third person is precisely because it is not referring what God is doing now, but rather to what God has commanded in the Torah a long time ago which the Jews keep now despite their hardships.