A Brit Milah, also known as a Bris, is a celebration in Judaism where an eight day old boy is circumcised and given his Jewish name. Traditionally, the infant is placed on the lap of a respected member of the community – often a leader – for the duration of the ceremony. The idea of a bris pillow developed from the desire to keep the child calm during the ceremony and a comfortable pillow was the simplest way to do so. Since then, the idea of bris pillows has expanded and they are now popular Judaica items used in the Brit Milah as well as other area of Jewish life, such as in the Wimpel ceremony in German communities.
If you would like to buy a bris pillow, they are almost exclusively white. In addition, they actually refer to a pillow case, not the pillow itself. However, beyond this you can have almost any design embroidered into the pillow. Bris Pillows are often decorated with quotations from the liturgy read during the Brit ceremony, specifically the wish that the child have a bright future amongst his Jewish brethren. Another common decoration is the Chair of Elijah, which in Judaism is considered to be a place of honour.Bris pillows also can be decorated with traditional Jewish themes, such as the Old City of Jerusalem. It is also common for the baby’s full Hebrew name to be embroidered into the pillow as well.
World of Judaica invites you to browse our collection of unique Bris Pillows. If you would like to learn more about what that Brit Milah means in Judaism, please visit our learning centre. For assistance regarding a specific item or to ask a question, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to address your questions.
Bris Pillow Guide
The Brit Milah, or circumcision of a child is one of the most emotional ceremonies in Judaism other than the wedding ceremony known as the Chuppah. This is because the infant is considered to be Jewish following this and it is the first time the child is called by his Jewish name. One of the most important items for a Brit Milah ceremony is the Bris Pillow, which the child rests on during the ceremony.
What is a Bris Pillow?
A Bris Pillow is a large sized pillow that is heavily decorated. It may be just the case in which any pillow can be placed or it may have a pillow built into it. The pillow is usually larger than a standard pillow. The pillow often has a pouch in which the infant is usually placed in before and after the ceremony.
Bris Pillow Decorations
Brit Pillows may be decorated with hand painted or embroidered designs. One of the most common decorations is the “Chair of Elijah”, on which the Brit is performed. Other decorations include floral patterns with pomegranates or grapes, crowns, or Jerusalem. Amongst some communities, such as the German community, the Hebrew name of the child is embroidered or painted onto the pillow. One unique design that is popular is the design that appears on the first page of the Babylonian Talmud – two pillars draped in cloth that support a crown.
It is also common for Bris Pillows to be decorated with verses. The most common verses come from the text of the Brit ceremony, such as “This child will become great” as “Just as he entered the covenant of Abraham, so may he study torah become and adult and marry.” Other phrases like these that are prayers for the child to have a bright and successful future are popular as well. Brit Pillows may also be decorated with children’s toys, such as trains and cars. However, they may also decorated with images of puzzles and similar items.
Bris Pillows can be personalized and in German communities this is the practice because the pillow is later turned into a belt used to dress the Torah and is used in the synagogue during the Bar Mitzvah of that child and during the public reading of the Torah prior to his wedding. Normally the name used is the Hebrew name although the secular name may be used as well. The child’s birthday may also be embroidered into the pillow.