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Why Circumcise?

Why Circumcise?

The importance of the brit milah

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Photo: Marc Asnin
Photo: Marc Asnin

Congratulations! You have brought a new life into the world!

After the mad rush of joyous phone calls to family and friends, you find yourself holding your child for the very first time. You gaze at the infant, emotions running rampant. You see in this new and tiny person life, potential, future, family, continuation.

Birth is one of the only moments in life where one comes face to face with G‑dliness.

In fact, the newborn child will continue the chain of Jewish life begun thousands of years ago with our patriarch Abraham and matriarch Sarah. This new life is one more link in the chain of Jewish history.

You gaze at the infant, emotions running rampant. You see in this new and tiny person life, potential, future, family, continuation.The first person commanded to circumcise himself was Abraham, at the age of ninety-nine. G‑d told him (Genesis 17:7), “And I will establish a My covenant between Me and between you and between your seed after you throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant, to be to you for a G‑d and to your seed after you.” Demonstrating his submission to G‑d by marking the physical body with the sign of the covenant, Abraham revealed the intrinsic bond every Jew has with G‑d.

G‑d commanded the Jewish people (Leviticus 12:2), “On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” The act of circumcision, marking the completion of the body, is a human act. This teaches us that our spiritual, emotional, moral and ethical perfection requires human effort. G‑d cannot do it for us.

There are many partnerships into which a person will enter during his or her lifetime. Most of them, at some point, will come to a natural end, or will be broken by one of the parties. The brit milah, ritual circumcision, is a symbol of our partnership with G‑d. Etched in the flesh of our physical bodies, the covenant will never end or be forgotten.

The brit milah, ritual circumcision, is a symbol of our partnership with G‑d.This covenant with G‑d surpasses human comprehension. It is a bond that pledges unconditional devotion, no matter what may transpire between G‑d and individual. It is a bond that is absolute and unchallengeable. For this reason a Jew is circumcised as an infant, when he has not yet developed his capacity for reasoning or making judgements, for the covenant of circumcision is not an intellectual or calculated partnership. The circumcision of an infant demonstrates that the connection between the Jews and G‑d is beyond rationale.

G‑d chose the very organ that is the source of life, which can also be chosen to use for the basest acts, as the site to be sanctified with circumcision. This gives us the profound message that we can use every physical drive for holy purposes.

For thousands of years, even under persecution, Jews have circumcised their sons using the services of a mohel, ritual circumciser, who knows all the intricacies of performing the circumcision. By having your son ritually circumcised, you join their ranks in connecting your child with G‑d in an unbreakable covenant.

For more information, see Why Do We Have a Circumcision and The Mark of Truth.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Discussion (3)
June 27, 2016
8th day
There are various reasons given for this.

Midrash gives a fascinating parable of a king who decrees that anyone who wishes to meet him must first meet the queen. Shabbat is G-d's queen. Delaying circumcision to the 8th day ensures that every baby will have experienced at least one Shabbat before circumcision.

On a mystical level, 7 represents the natural cycle, and 8 denotes a step above nature. The decision to make a permanent mark in the body declaring the Jew's connection to G-d is certainly stepping above and beyond the rational. Hence, the connection to the 8th day.
Herman
Iceland
June 14, 2016
8th day
It's not specified as to why it must be the 8th day. Abraham circumcised his son who was 8 days old and perhaps that is why. Abraham was promised certain things by God and the circumcision sort of represents the agreement.
Anonymous
July 8, 2015
circumcision
Why circumcision on the 8th day?
David
Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.
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