Doubly Blessed – How many Berachos do we recite at a twin bris?
It was a big simcha, the birth of twin boys. Avi Habanim, the new Daddy, wondered whether he and Reb Mendel, the mohel, should recite the berachos once or twice. He also wanted to know whether the beracha after the bris, asher kideish yedid mibeten, is recited separately for each baby or not. This would provide extra kibbudim for Avi to distribute –quite an asset in his large family!
When celebrating the Habanim sons’ bris, the older son was brought to shul first; the mohel recited the beracha of al hamilah prior to performing the older boy’s bris. Avi then recited the beracha lehachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu, to bring him into the Covenant of Avraham our forefather. After the bris was completed, Uncle Max was honored with reciting the beracha asher kideish yedid mibeten, and then the baby was named Peretz after Uncle Max’s late father. After Max’s booming baritone rendition was complete, the mohel recited the mishebeirach, wishing Peretz a speedy recovery and then began Aleinu, the customary closing prayer to the bris ceremony.
Now the Second Bris
After Aleinu and kaddish were completed, Reb Mendel, Avi and Uncle Herman (I will soon explain why he, and not Uncle Max) took a brief walk outside the shul, and then Avi’s younger son arrived just in time for his bris. Reb Mendel declared kvatter, the standard announcement politely asking people to end their conversations because the bris is beginning. Mendel recited the beracha al hamilah a second time, and Avi then recited the beracha lehachniso again. After the bris was completed, Uncle Herman was honored with reciting the beracha asher kideish yedid mibeten prior to the baby being named Zerach.
The Dvar Torah
At the banquet celebrating the brisin (this is the commonly used plural, although it does not pass muster for most grammatical purists), Avi began his comments by thanking Hashem not only for the birth of two healthy boys, but also for the opportunity to have had time to analyze a complex halachic topic that he had never previously researched. He then devoted his “Bris Torah” to sharing his research on the question of whether one set of berachos should be recited for both brisin or two sets of berachos should be recited. He began by noting that most early authorities contend that one should not recite the berachos twice, but recite one al hamilah and one lehachniso bivriso for both brisin. When following this approach, those reciting the berachos should be careful not to talk from the recital of the berachos about anything not germane to the bris until the second bris is completed (see Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 265; Gra’z 213:7). (This is similar to the halacha not to talk between the first shofar blasts and the later ones.)
Indeed, even the text of the beracha recited by the father changes to the plural. Under these unusual circumstances, several authorities quote a text in which the word lehachniso has been changed to the plural: lehachnisam bivriso shel Avraham Avinu, to bring them into the Covenant (Beis Yosef; Rama, Yoreh Deah 265:5). The Rama even amends the prayer that includes naming the child to plural by saying kayem es hayeladim.
Among those authorities who follow this approach, we find a dispute concerning when Dad recites his beracha lehachnisam. Some authorities imply that he should recite the beracha lehachnisam immediately after the mohel recites his beracha on the first bris (Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 6:9), whereas most contend that he should not recite it until after the mohel performs the second bris (Shu’t HaRashba 1:382). This dispute concerns whether the optimal time to recite this beracha (on every bris) is prior to the performing of the bris, assuming that it is a beracha on the performing of the mitzvah; or afterwards, considering it a beracha of praise (see Tosafos, Pesachim 7a s.v. Beliva’eir). This is a complex discussion on its own that we will need to leave for now; perhaps it is a topic for Avi’s next bris drosha. In order to accommodate both approaches, the father usually recites lehachniso bivriso immediately after the mohel begins removing the foreskin, but prior to his peeling back the membrane underneath which is called the or haperiyah.
There is an additional dispute whether to recite the beracha asher kideish yedid mibeten (recited after the bris and before the baby is named) twice or only once. Rabbeinu Yeruchem implies that one should recite it after each bris, whereas the Beis Yosef disagrees, contending that it should be recited only once — after the second bris. I would like to note that a much earlier authority than the Beis Yosef, the Tashbeitz (2:42), already ruled exactly as the Beis Yosef did — that it should be recited only once, and after the second bris, so that it refers to both brisin.
Avi noted that some might be concerned about the following curious problem. Since we usually name the child immediately after reciting the beracha asher kideish yedid mibeten, and one is now reciting only one beracha for both boys, how does anyone know which child was given which name? (Avi then noted tongue-in-cheek that in his particular instance this probably would not be such a concern, since people could always refer to Chumash and see that Peretz is the older twin.)
Actually, an early halachic source alludes to a response to this question. The Tashbeitz notes that after reciting the beracha asher kideish yedid mibeten, the custom was to pour two different cups of wine and name each baby while holding a different cup, although one recites only one beracha of hagafen for both cups, since there is no interruption between them. He notes that there is no real reason to have two cups for this purpose other than to pacify people. One cup of wine for the beracha certainly suffices. Presumably, each cup of wine was brought near the child who was now being named so that people would know which child would bear which name, although it is also clear from the Tashbeitz that there is no necessity to do this.
Avi continued: According to the Rama’s recommendation that one recites only one naming prayer for both boys, obviously, one is using only one cup of wine. It also seems that one concludes this prayer by saying viyakaru shemam biYisrael Peretz ben Avraham veZerach ben Avraham. Since one recites only one prayer that then names both boys, presumably the naming follows the order in which they were circumcised.
Avi then noted a more serious issue: If most poskim contend that one should not recite the berachos twice for the two brisin, why did I ignore the majority opinion?! As you can imagine, after researching the shaylah, I asked my rav what to do and followed his advice. However, before explaining his reasoning, I would like to share with you more of my research.
Truthfully, several different authorities, both early and late, recommend different reasons why one should recite separate berachos for each bris. The earliest dissenting opinion is that of the Baal Ha’itur, an early rishon, who rules that each bris always requires its own beracha. Why should this be so? Does the Baal Ha’itur contend that whenever one fulfills a mitzvah twice that each act requires its own beracha? This would mean that when installing several mezuzos one would recite a beracha on each mezuzah, and that a shocheit slaughtering many birds or animals should recite a new beracha before each shechitah. Although there is a recognized, very early authority who indeed advocates this position (Rabbeinu Shmuel ben Chofni, quoted by Mordechai, Chullin #658), the other authorities, Baal Ha’itur included, accept that one recites only one beracha before performing the same mitzvah several times (Tashbeitz 2:42). So why is milah different from all other mitzvos?
Baal Ha’itur himself explains that bris milah is indeed different from other mitzvos because one may not perform two brisin simultaneously. Presumably, he means that because of the principle of ain osim mitzvos chavilos chavilos, one may not “bundle” together two mitzvos and perform them together, as this implies that one finds performing mitzvos a burden. The logic is that since I cannot perform the second bris until after I perform the first, the first bris is in effect an interruption between the beracha and the second bris (Shu’t Maharam Shick, Yoreh Deah #250).
Most early authorities dispute with the Baal Ha’itur’s logic. Although they presumably agree that one may not perform both brisin simultaneously because of safety concerns and because of the principle of ain osim mitzvos chavilos chavilos, they feel that this does not create a sufficient reason to require a new beracha on the second bris. Remember that the mohel knows that he will be performing a second bris when he recites the beracha on the first child.
Although most early authorities rule differently, some seem somewhat unconvinced that one is forbidden to recite separate berachos on each bris. For example, someone sent the Rashba a letter inquiring whether it is correct to recite only one beracha when performing two brisin. The Rashba responded that he had never been in attendance when two brisin occurred together and consequently, was unaware of an accepted practice. Logically, he feels that one should recite only one beracha, just as a shocheit should recite only one beracha prior to performing multiple shechitos, although it is clear from the Rashba’s discussion that he would certainly defer to a minhag differing from his ruling (Shu’t HaRashba 1:382).
Avi continued his discussion by mentioning that the Tur cites the opinion of the Baal Ha’itur, but then quotes his father, the Rosh, who disputed the Baal Ha’itur’s conclusions. The Rosh compares this case to having two newly married couples in attendance at one sheva berachos, and whether one should recite two sets of berachos, one for each couple, or one series of berachos for both. He concludes that one should recite one set of berachos for both couples, and rules that when performing brisin on twins, one should recite only one series of berachos for both. Clearly, there is concern that one is reciting unnecessary berachos, berachos she’ainam tzrichos, which is a violation of halacha. The Rosh then notes that this is true even if there are two different mohalim involved – and even if the two babies are from different families — one mohel should recite the beracha before performing the first bris with the other mohel present and include the second mohel in his beracha. The second mohel should have in mind to be included in this first one’s beracha. He then also rules that the same is true for the beracha recited after the bris, asher kideish yedid mibeten – concluding that this beracha should also be recited only once for both children, and even if the second child is not present when the first bris is performed, since one knows that one will be performing both brisin (Shu’t HaRosh 26:4). Of course, this presents an interesting question, since this beracha is recited after the bris, and one may have already performed the first bris before the second baby arrived. The authorities conclude that even so, one should delay reciting the beracha asher kideish yedid mibeten until the second bris is performed, and then recite it after the second bris with intent for the first bris as well.
To sum up, there is a dispute between the Baal Ha’itur and the Rosh whether one must recite separate berachos on these two brisin, or whether one is required to recite one beracha on both brisin.
Other, later authorities present completely different reasons why one should not recite the berachos on two brisin together. The Beis Shmuel (Even HaEzer 62:3) quotes the Perisha as stating that one should not make two brisin together because of ayin hora, just as one should not perform two wedding ceremonies together. According to the Perisha, the concern is not about the berachos, but about the ceremony itself, and that therefore one should complete one bris ceremony before beginning the next one. However, most other authorities do not share this concern (see Taz, Yoreh Deah 265:11 for one approach why).
We should note that the Perisha’s approach results in a different procedure than the Baal Ha’itur would advise. According to the Perisha, one should not bring the second baby to the location of the bris until after the first bris is complete, whereas according to the Baal Ha’itur, one may bring both babies at the beginning and conduct the two brisin step-by-step, one after the other.
Avi then mentioned a different approach to the opinion of not bringing the two babies together. If we remember the Baal Ha’itur’s position, he contended that simultaneously performing the bris for both babies violates ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos, bundling together mitzvos. However, the Baal Ha’itur was not concerned that bringing the babies together violates ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos. However, there are authorities who feel that bringing two babies together with the intent of performing their brisin consecutively involves a problem of ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos (see Magen Avraham 147:11). Thus, we have two authorities who advise against bringing the two babies together to perform their brisin together. We are now going to present a third reason not to do so.
Interrupting the Berachos
Most authorities rule that if someone interrupted after reciting the beracha for the first bris, he must recite a new beracha for the second bris. They contend that it is prohibited to interrupt, because this now causes the recital of a new beracha, which is a beracha she’ainah tzericha, an unnecessary beracha. For this reason, the Maharshal reached an interesting conclusion: Departing from the Rosh’s conclusions, he contended that when two different families are making a bris, one should have them each recite its own berachos. He voices two different reasons for his conclusion:
1. There is likelihood that they will interrupt, which requires a new beracha, but fail to recite the beracha.
2. When dealing with two families, one needs to be concerned with the possibility that they will get into a fight over who recites the berachos.
As a result, the Maharshal recommends making certain that the two brisin have an interruption between them to guarantee that they require two separate berachos. This alleviates the possibility of a machlokes and also guarantees that the proper berachos will indeed be recited (Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 6:9).
The Shach’s Conclusion
The Shach (Yoreh Deah 265:15) takes the Maharshal’s concerns even further, being concerned that even in the case of twins, there will be interruptions between the two brisin, and that one should therefore separate between them. In taking this position, he is disputing the conclusions of most Rishonim, and those of the Shulchan Aruch, Rama, and Taz, although one could argue that he was not disagreeing as much as reflecting changing patterns of human behavior. It may be that in earlier generations, people exhibited better self-control and remained quiet between the two brisin, whereas in his generation they did not.
“If I have not yet put you to sleep,” the erudite father continued, “I will return to the original dispute I mentioned above between the Baal Ha’itur and the Rosh whether one must recite separate berachos on these two brisin, or whether one is required to recite one beracha on both brisin. Among the later authorities, there is much discussion whether the custom follows the Baal Ha’itur or the Rosh. The Bach records that in his day, this was dependent on local custom, some places following the Baal Ha’itur’s approach of reciting separate berachos, and others following the Rosh. He mentions that the custom in Cracow followed the Rosh. The Bach concludes that the preferred practice in a place without an established custom is to bring one baby and perform his bris with its berachos, and then, when finished, bring the second baby and recite all the berachos again separately.
“What is the Sefardic Custom?
“The Tashbeitz, who was the Chief Rabbi in Algiers, a Sefardic community, reports that he attended many brisin of twins and never saw two berachos recited. This is also the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch, usually the source for all Sefardic custom and practice. Nevertheless, some authorities quote an old, established practice in Egypt, a Sefardic community, of performing the first bris with all its berachos, then reciting pesukim and similar things to create an interruption, following which they performed the second bris with all the berachos again (Shu’t Darchei Noam, Yoreh Deah #27, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah 265:10).
“A similar practice is noted in Nineteenth Century Hungary (Shu’t Maharam Shick, Yoreh Deah #250). Thus, it appears that in different places throughout Jewish history there were different established practices. However, Rav Elyashiv takes much umbrage at this practice, claiming that since most authorities quoted rule that one should recite only one beracha, they were also aware of minhagim, and that the places where the minhag was otherwise are the exception, not the rule (Introduction to Otzar HaBris).
“With this information, I asked my rav a shaylah, and he told me that he has attended many brisin of twins, and that the practice is always to perform one bris, make a slight interruption, and then begin the second. He told me that some people provide refreshments between the two brisin, both to accomplish more of an interruption and to have a “bris seudah” for the first twin.
“Prior to thanking all those who have helped us, I want to share with everyone the idea that we should recognize the paramount importance of being careful with our berachos. Here we see how much ink was used to clarify whether one should recite one or two berachos. Certainly, it behooves us to be careful about our recital of our berachos.”