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Shabbat Parashat Bechukotai| 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Eating at a Brit Mila

Question: Are there any sources concerning an obligation to eat food at a brit mila?

Answer: There are two elements to this question. One is to what extent there is a mitzva to have a seuda (meal) in honor of a brit mila. The other is to what extent invited guests are required to take part in such a seuda.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 265:12) says: “We have the practice to make a seuda on the day of the mila.” The Rama adds: “and people have the practice to have a minyan for the seuda of a mila, and it is called a seudat mitzva.” There are several sources in Chazal to support this claim. Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer derives it from the brit that Avraham performed for Yitzchak. The Torah writes that Avraham made a big party on the day that “higamel Yitzchak” (Bereishit 21:8), whose simple translation is that he was weaned. The Orchot Chayim derives the idea from the word’s letters (the first two, based on numerical value), namely, 5+3 mal, i.e., on the eighth day he circumcised. This, thus, was the event that prompted a party. The gemara (Ketubot 8a) seems to assume that there is a special meal, comparable to that of sheva berachot, and therefore needs to point out the difference between the bentching at the two. Before Birkat Hamazon of sheva berachot one says “shehasimcha bem’ono” (that the joy is in His abode), whereas this is not recited before Birkat Hamazon at a brit mila due to the pain of the child.

One of the applications of the determination that the meal for a brit mila is a seudat mitzva is the fact that invitees to this meal may eat meat and drink wine even during the Nine Days (Rama, Orach Chayim 551:10). The Rama and his commentaries point out that one should not artificially include people who are not naturally part of the festivities to compromise the standard laws of the day.

There is a well known but apparently somewhat misapplied concept relating to the invitees to a brit mila. Let us start with the background. The gemara (Pesachim 113b) lists people with the regrettable distinction of being menudeh lashamayim (roughly, shunned in the Heaven) for what they do (or refrain from doing). One such person is one who does not recline (i.e., set himself to eat) with a group of mitzva. Tosafot (Pesachim 114a) says that this refers to one who does not eat in the seuda of a brit mila, which he says has the ability to save one from being judged to go to gehinom (purgatory). From this idea developed the practice of not inviting people to a brit mila (Pitchei Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 265:18), so that people not be in the situation where they should be going and refrain from doing so. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim II, 95) explains that the matter is not so much that there is an obligation to take part in the mitzva of mila. After all, there are many mitzvot that one might miss, and the idea of menudeh lashamayim is not mentioned broadly. It has more to do, he says, with the lack of honor that one shows toward the father who is fulfilling the mitzva and trying to include others in it. It is told in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein that one discharges the minimum obligation by eating anything at the meal or smaller reception. One is not required to eat bread (which should be done by the core participants- see Sefer Habrit 165:161) or stay for the whole meal.

In any case, it is of note that many people know of the minhag not to invite but apparently do not do it correctly. First of all, many people just inform about the brit mila, but once people come to the mila itself, they invite all assembled to the meal, even they know that many will not be coming. As we have seen, the sources talk in terms of the meal. Secondly, some people make it very clear that they want and even expect a certain friend to come, just that they do not use the word “inviting.” In this case, it appears that the spirit of the invitation is the issue, and not there is nothing intrinsic about the use of the word “invite” if one transmits an expectation that friend or family attend.


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