A joyous atmosphere pervaded the Beis Hamedrash recently at an unusual, almost unique simcha – a triple bris of three quadruplets, the fourth being a little girl. Of particular interest to the erudite tzibbur who attended, was how many brochos would be said. Would the mohel and the father say one brocho on all three brisim or would they say separate brochos for each bris? In the event, to the surprise of some, a separate brocho was said for each bris. To understand their surprise, we will look at the background to the question in our sources. Another apparently small difference from what normally happens at a bris was that after the first and second bris the tzibbur sang Hamalach hogoel osi…which, although it is a beautiful pasuk and most appropriate, I have never witnessed before. Was this someone’s idea to add atmosphere to the simcha or was something deeper involved?
The Mishna (Chullin 86b) says that if one shechts one hundred deer in one place, one performs the mitzvah of kisui hadam (covering the blood) once; with one hundred chickens in one place, one performs kisui dam once. However if one shechts one deer and one chicken there is a dispute: Rabanan hold that there is only one mitzva of kisui dam, whereas Rebbe Yehuda holds that one does two separate mitzvos of kisui dam. The Gemoro says that even Rebbe Yehuda agrees that one says only one brocho. Most rishonim understand that this refers to both the brocho on the shechita and kisui dam. Even though he covers the blood between the two shechitos, it is not considered an interruption since one can theoretically shecht with one hand and cover the blood with the other. Rashi understands that the gemoro is only refering to the brocho on the shechita but a shechita would be considered an interruption for the brocho on kisui dam. However everyone agrees that where there is no mitzvah of covering the blood, e.g. after shechting a cow, one brocho suffices no matter how many cows one shechts.
This is confirmed in the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 19:2): “If one is shechting any number of animals and birds, one says one brocho for all the shechitos.” The same is written about searching for chometz; (ibid. O.C. 432:2) “With one brocho one may search a number of houses,” and hilchos mezuza (ibid Y.D. 289:1, Ramo) “Someone who fixes two or three mezuzos says one brocho for all of them.” Why should hilchos milah be any different? Indeed the Mordechai (Chullin 657) says that in the case of twin boys having their bris on the same day, the mohel should say one brocho on the two brisos and the father should say one brocho for his two sons. Even if there are two mohelim, one of them should say the brocho on the other’s behalf and the second mohel should say the brocho “ … asher kidesh yedid mibeten..” which will fulfill the obligation for the two babies. So writes the Rosh (Teshuvos Klal 57) and other rishonim. The Rosh adds that if two chasonim and kallos celebrate sheva brochos together, also, only one set of sheva brochos should be said for the two couples. In all these sources, the rishonim say that if one spoke in between the shechitos etc on a subject unconnected with the mitzvah, one would have to say a new brocho. One should be careful to avoid speaking and causing an unnecessary brocho.
However the Tur (Y.D. 265) brings the view of the Baal Ha’itur, who disagrees. “When there are two babies in shul for their bris, seeing that one cannot do the two brisos simultaneously one should make a separate brocho on each bris.” The Prisha says that the Baal Ha’itur seems to contradict himself because in hilchos shechita the Baal Ha’itur wrote that one says one brocho on a number of shechitos. The Prisha suggests that possibly it is usual to shecht a number of animals one after the other which is not the case with bris mila. The Shach (Y.D. 265: 15) later rejected this suggestion of the Prisha.
Although the Bach seems to favour this view of the Baal Ha’itur, the Beis Yosef says that the halocho is like the majority of other rishonim who require only one brocho for the two babies. He adds that in the case of twins, the father should change the wording of the brocho to “lehachnisom bebriso…” (to enter them into the covenant…). He adds further that if the mohel didn’t know about the second baby when he said the brocho on the first or he talked about an unrelated matter after the first bris, he should say a second brocho. All this is written clearly in the Shulchan Aruch. (Y.D. 265:5) The Ramo adds that brocho to bless and name the children is also said on both together and one should say, “… kayem es hayelodim” (preserve the boys). However if the custom is to light a candle in honour of a bris one should light two candles for the two children (or three for three children!) With all this in mind we can go back to our simcha with the quads including three boys. Why were separate brochos said for the different brisos against the psak of the Shulchan Aruch and most of the rishonim?
The answer can be found in the commentary of the Shach (ibid). He writes that people usually speak about unrelated subjects between the brisos especially when there are delays, so it has become the custom to say separate brochos on two brisos. The Shach brings the Maharshal, who is of the same opinion. Quoting the Bach, the Shach says that one shouldn’t bring the second baby until the first bris is over, in order to make a bigger interruption. Interestingly the Pischei Teshuva (ibid:10) brings an old custom that after the first bris one says the posuk “ Hamalach hogoel osi..” which is a halachic interruption so that a second brocho is definitely required.
We can now understand why at this recent triple bris, the tzibbur sang “Hamalach”. It was not only a beautiful enhancement of the simcha, but was also a way of ensuring that the brisos were done according to all opinions.
Rabbi Fletcher is the mechaber of Do You Know Hilchos Shabbos? Do You Know Hilchos Brachos? From Strength to Strength, Dancing in our Hearts and the recently published The Hidden Light.