the ritual


"If G-dGod wanted us circumcised, why didn't He create us that way?" That compelling question was asked to the great Talmudic authority, Rabbi Akiva. He answered with a little illustration. "G-dGod wants us to have bread, yet bread and rolls don't grow in the fields. G-dGod wants us to be clothed, yet suits and dresses don't grow on sheep." (See Medrash Tanchuma, Tazria 5 and Bereishis Rabbah 11:6)

G-dGod provides us with raw materials and it is up to man to perfect and enhance them. Food, clothes, and even our places of habitat are all commodities that we put together from what we are provided with by our generous Creator.

Man, too, needs to be perfected. The act of ritual circumcision brings man to that perfection. The Torah itself uses the word 'perfect' in recording G-dGod's command to Abraham that he circumcise himself. "Go before Me and become perfect," (Bereishis/Genesis 17:1) is the way the topic of ritual circumcision is introduced.

The bris on an infant is the culmination of his creation. First, there is the wonder of conception, then the miracle of the formation of the embryo as the mother nurtures the newborn within her, and finally a child is born. The child is complete but is not yet perfect. For this too-often-taken-for-granted miracle of birth to be considered perfect, there is one final step, Bris Milah, (The Covenant of Circumcision.)

Back to the top of the page


The mark of circumcision is an irrevocable mark of Jewish identity. The bris ceremony accentuates the newborn's connection with the generations before him who bore this symbol of Jewish identity dating back to Abraham. It is for this reason that a Jewish boy gets his Hebrew name at the bris as it is all part of the 'Jewish identification ceremony.' Interestingly, our patriarch Abraham, who performed the first bris (on himself,) was given a new name on that occasion. Previously his name was Avram; at his bris the letter 'Hey' was added and his name became Avraham. The message of bris milah is that man must improve and refine. At the outset of a Jew's life the amending process begins. That was Rabbi Akiva's message. G-dGod gives only so much and we must perfect the rest.

For Abraham the act of ritual circumcision was a conclusion - the attainment of perfection. He had lived his life dedicated to G-dGod and His Will. To later generations circumcision was a sign of the covenant that G-dGod made with Abraham reminding us to strive towards the perfection that Abraham reached. A boy who is not circumcised is lacking his essential spiritual connection to the Jewish people.

Yet the bris is also an inaugural ceremony. It is not an end, but a beginning. It starts the child's spiritual development and the beginning of his fulfillment of G-dGod's life-designation for man - the adherence of Torah and Mitzvos.

Back to the top of the page


G-dGod chose the male place of gender as the part of the body to impart His Covenant because from there begins the process of bringing down a soul from Heaven and creating a new generation. Interestingly, before Abraham fathered Isaac he was commanded by G-dGod to circumcise himself. Only then did Sarah become pregnant with the second of the patriarchs.

Over the years circumcision has been found to be medically beneficial. For years medical researchers claimed that it reduced penile cancers and urinary tract infections and added to easier hygiene thus pediatrics academies routinely recommended circumcision for male infants. Later studies questioned the validity of earlier research and soon academies held back on recommending circumcision for all male infants. However, Jews never performed circumcision for medical, cosmetic, or hygienic reasons. It is purely an act of faith and commitment. Hence, traditional Jews have stayed away from the heated debate of circumcision's health benefits. If they exist, fine. If not, we circumcise anyway just as we have been doing it for thousands of years. And Jews shall continue doing it until the end of time with pride and valor.

Back to the top of the page


Because the act of ritual circumcision is one of holiness and faith and manifests our commitment to the mitzvah that G-dGod instructed Abraham, Jews always sought a virtuous Jewish personality to perform their son's bris, not merely a secular individual who knew the technique and was taught to recite blessings. The mohel should be one steeped in Torah knowledge and trained in the medical and physiological aspects of circumcision. A mohel should be a righteous, G-dGod fearing, observant Jew in the tradition of the first mohel, our patriarch Abraham.

Back to the top of the page


The bris should be performed on the eighth day of the child's life, counting the day of his birth as the first day, provided that he was born before sundown. Although the Torah gives no specific reason for it being performed on the eighth day, it states twice (see Bereishis/Genisis 17:12 and Vayikra/Leviticus 12:3) that it must be done then. A child who is underweight or who has a health condition that may compromise his healing process or capacity to undergo the operation must have his bris delayed. One should consult with their mohel and pediatrician before determining these delays.

There is great significance and symbolism in Jewish law and tradition in the number 'eight'. For an extensive discussion on the topic, see Rabbi Krohn's book on bris milah published by Artscroll⁄Mesorah, p. 52). Interestingly though, the clotting factor in an infant is highest on the eight day. The major clotting agents, vitamin K and prothrombin, do not reach peak levels in the blood until the eighth day of life. One study showed that by the eighth day prothrombin levels reach 110 percent of normal. Dr Armand J. Quick, author of several books on the control of bleeding said, "It hardly seems accidental that the rite of circumcision was postponed until the eighth day by the Mosaic law."

A bris may never be performed at night, nor may it be done before the eighth day.

Ritual circumcision is perhaps the only religious commandment that is observed by all segments of Jewry - Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and the non-affiliated. It is a time of joy and celebration for the family, a time of overwhelming feelings of gratitude and fulfillment that makes the bris day one to remember forever.

Back to the top of the page


866.846.6900 (toll free)
718.846.6900 (in NY)

© Copyright 2005 Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Designed by TBIQ Technologies (