Brit Milah - Why Do We Do It?

The mitzvah of ritual circumcision is carried out when a baby boy is eight days old.

Of course, if a baby is too small or sickly the procedure is delayed, to be carried out once the mohel has given the go ahead. But a deferred brit will never take place on a Shabbat or Yom Tov.

The first ever baby to be circumcised at the age of eight days was Isaac – his father Abraham, who received the divine commandment to perform the mitzvah, was 99 when he circumcised himself.

The commandment to circumcise every male Jewish baby is fundamental to our faith. In Genesis 17, Abraham was told: “Every male among you shall be circumcised…and it shall be a sign of a covenant”.

The Brit Milah is a kind of external marker indicating the eternal bond between the Jewish people and their God. Of course, one may ask why God created man uncircumcised, leaving the final step in the covenant for us to undertake. In fact, when we circumcise our sons we learn that just as we have it in our power to perfect ourselves physically, human beings are also more than capable of the spiritual perfection.

In cases where a child grows up without circumcision having been performed, he takes on the responsibility to ensure it is carried out – up until this point, the task belongs to his father. A medically performed circumcision will not suffice however – the operation must be carried out ritually, with the precise intention of forging a blood pact between God and the Jewish people.

There are many scientific arguments in favour of circumcision – as operations go, it is relatively risk free and may reduce the chances of developing certain cancers. But this should not really be a relevant argument for the Jewish community – the Torah commands us to circumcise our sons and in doing so, we safeguard our people for all eternity.

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