Question: When should the father recite the brachah of “l’hachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu”?
Short Answer: While some Rishonim hold it should be recited before the bris milah and others hold it should be recited after the bris milah, the Shulchan Aruch follows the compromise opinion, to recite it in between the milah and p’riah.
I. Why Say It at All?
The Gemara (Shabbos 137a) states that the father of the baby recites the brachah of “l’hachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu.” The Gemara does not explain when this brachah is recited.
The poskim debate what is the purpose of this brachah; after all, the mohel already makes a birkas ha’mitzvah on the bris milah when he recites the brachah of “al ha’milah?”
The Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Dei’ah 265:4-9) cites a few answers: (i) The Hagahos Maimoniyos answers that “l’hachniso” is a special brachah for the father, since the brachah of “al ha’milah” is recited even without the father in attendance. (ii) The Abudraham (cited in the Beis Yosef, ibid) answers that “l’hachniso” symbolizes that the father is now obligated to perform various mitzvos on his son going forward, such as bris milah, pidyon ha’ben, limud haTorah, and finding him a wife. (iii) The Bach answers that “l’hachniso” is actually not a second birkas ha’mitzvah (like “al ha’milah”), but is rather a birkas ha’shevach – a blessing of praise to Hashem on this amazing mitzvah [The Aruch HaShulchan challenges this answer, for where else do we find a birkas ha’mitzvah and a birkas ha’shevach on the same mitzvah?]. (iv) A fourth answer suggested by some is that “l’hachniso” is like the second brachah on t’filin – a second brachah instituted on the latter part of the mitzvah [The Aruch HaShulchan challenges this answer, for t’filin consists of two separate mitzvos, while bris milah has two parts (milah and p’riah) of one mitzvah, and even if bris milah could somehow be construed as two separate mitzvos, Avraham was never commanded on p’riah, so why make “l’hachniso” on p’riah?].
The Aruch HaShulchan himself suggests a fifth answer: that “l’hachniso” is really the baby’s brachah and highlights that this mitzvah is unique that even a newborn performs it to show that he is now part of the covenant of Avraham.
II. At What Point?
When is “l’hachniso” recited?
The Rashbam (cited in Tosafos, P’sachim 7b) holds that it is recited before the bris milah, just like any other birkas ha’mitzvah, as the brachah is written in future tense (“l’hachniso”) and in general, we have a rule that brachos are recited before the performance of the mitzvah.
Rabbeinu Tam (ibid. and Tosafos Shabbos 137b) disagrees. The brachah of “l’hachniso” should be recited after the bris milah, as this is the implication of the entire sugya, including the fact that the attendees respond with “k’sheim she’nichnas...” which implies that the bris milah was already performed at the point that the father recites “l’hachniso.” And the fact that “l’hachniso” is written in future tense is not problematic, as this brachah is a birkas ha’shevach established to show that we are doing this mitzvah l’sheim Shamayim.
Moreover, Rabbeinu Tam appears to understand that even if it is a birkas ha’mitzvah and thus should be recited before the bris milah, that rule does not apply here, where the milah is performed by a different person (the mohel) than the person reciting the brachah (the father). Indeed, it would be risky to recite this brachah before the milah, as the mohel may decide not to perform the mitzvah, leaving the father with a brachah l’vatalah. The Sar HaShalom (cited in the Tur, ibid.) agrees with Rabbeinu Tam.
[As an aside, it is confusing why Rabbeinu Tam felt the need to give another reason and wasn’t satisfied that “l’hachniso” is a birkas ha’shevach. Rav Yaakov Wolpin (Kovetz Beis Aharon V’Yisrael, Year 2, gilyon 3(9)) suggests that perhaps Rabbeinu Tam understands that even birchos ha’shevach that are said on a mitzvah must be performed before the mitzvah].
III. The Rambam
The Rambam does not mention when “l’hachniso” should be recited. The Kesef Mishneh (Milah 3:1) interprets the Rambam that “l’hachniso” should be recited after the bris milah, like the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam. Indeed, this brachah is a birkas ha’shevach and thus there is no need for the Rambam to list this as an exception where even a birkas ha’mitzvah is recited after the mitzvah, as it is not a birkas ha’mitzvah! [See Lechem Mishneh ibid, as well].
The Sheivet HaLevi (2:131:2) interprets the Rambam differently, based on a different ruling of the Rambam, that “l’hachniso” is not recited by anyone if there is no father at the bris milah. The Sheivet HaLevi learns from here that “l’hachniso” is a brachah specifically for the father as a birkas ha’mitzvah, and thus is of course recited before the bris milah, like the opinion of the Rashbam.
IV. The Compromise
The Rosh (Shabbos ibid) hold a compromise opinion: that “l’hachniso” should be recited in between the milah and the p’riah, thereby fulfilling both opinions. This is the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 265:1). The Shach explains further that, according to this view, the brachah is recited before the mitzvah, i.e. before the p’riah, but there is also no chance that the mohel won’t perform the p’riah, since he just performed the milah.
Notably, there appears to be dissent within the Sephardic world whether to follow this Shulchan Aruch (based on the Ashkenazic decisor, the Rosh) or to just perform the brachah before the bris milah. See Vayaan Shmuel (siman 69).
V. Final Thought
The sefer Toras HaBris (p. 33) queries whether the father must finish “l’hachniso” before the completion of the p’riah or whether it is sufficient to simply start “l’hachniso” before the p’riah?
Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l (Yeshurun, Vol. 3, p. 237) concludes that the father simply needs to begin “l’hachniso” before the completion of the p’riah. He compares this to the opinion of Tosafos that the brachah of lulav should be recited after it is taken but before it is shaken. So long as there are still parts of the mitzvah left to perform, it is considered “oveir la’asiasan.”
NEXT WEEK’S TOPIC: At what point should the person making the Borei P’ri HaGafen drink the wine at a bris milah?