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Milah - Chapter One

Milah - Chapter One

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Halacha 1

Circumcision is a positive mitzvah [whose lack of fulfillment] is punishable by karet, as [Genesis 17:14] states: "And an uncircumcised male who does not circumcise his foreskin - this soul will be cut off from his people."

A father is commanded to circumcise his son, and a master, his slaves. This applies both to those who are born in his home and to those purchased by him. If the father or the master transgressed and did not circumcise them, he negated the fulfillment of a positive commandment. He is not, however, punished by karet, for karet is incurred only by the uncircumcised person himself. The court is obligated to circumcise that son or slave at the proper time and should not leave an uncircumcised male among the Jewish people or their slaves.

Halacha 2

We may not circumcise a person's son without his knowledge, unless he has transgressed and did not circumcise him. [In such an instance,] the court must circumcise [the child] against [the father's] will.

If the matter does not become known to the court and they do not circumcise him, when [the child] reaches bar mitzvah, he is obligated to circumcise himself. With each and every day that passes after he has reached bar mitzvah, he negates a positive commandment. He is not, however, liable for karet until he dies uncircumcised, having intentionally [failed to perform the mitzvah].

Halacha 3

A master is obligated to circumcise both a slave who was born as the property of a Jewish owner and a slave purchased from the gentiles. [There is, however, a difference between the two.] A home-born slave should be circumcised on the eighth day [of his life]. In contrast, a slave who is purchased should be circumcised on the day he was purchased. If he was purchased on the day he was born, he should be circumcised on that day.

Halacha 4

There are, however, slaves that are purchased who should be circumcised on the eighth day [of their lives], and home-born slaves who should be circumcised on the day they are born.

What is implied? Should one purchase a maidservant and purchase [the rights to] her fetus [separately], when she gives birth, the baby should be circumcised on the eighth day. Although the fetus itself was purchased separately, since [the master] purchased his mother before the child was born, he should be circumcised on his eighth day.

Halacha 5

If a person purchased a maidservant for her offspring, or purchased a maidservant with the intent of not immersing her as a slave, even though her offspring is born in his domain, the child should be circumcised on the day he was born.

[This ruling was granted, because] this child is considered as if he alone has been purchased [by his master], and it is as if he purchased him this day. His mother is not included among the maidservants of the Jewish people, so that the child could be considered "home-born." If his mother immersed herself after she gave birth, the child should be circumcised on the eighth day.

Halacha 6

When a person purchases a slave from the gentiles and the slave does not consent to be circumcised, we may be patient with him for twelve months. It is forbidden to maintain him for any longer period while he remains uncircumcised, and one must sell him to gentiles.

If, at the outset, while the slave was still in the possession of his gentile master, he made a stipulation that he would not be circumcised, it is permissible to maintain him although he is not circumcised, provided he accepts the seven universal laws commanded to the descendants of Noah and becomes a resident alien.

If he refuses to accept these seven laws, he should be killed immediately. A resident alien may be accepted only in the era when the laws of yovel are in effect.

Halacha 7

When a convert enters the congregation of Israel, he is obligated to undergo circumcision first. If he had been circumcised while he was a gentile, it is necessary to extract the blood of the covenant on the day that he converts.

Similarly, a child who was born without a foreskin must have blood extracted for circumcision on the eighth day. An androgynous, a child with both male and female sexual organs, must be circumcised on the eighth day. Similarly, a child born by Caesarian section and a child who has two foreskins should both be circumcised on the eighth day.

Halacha 8

Circumcision is performed only during the day, after the rising of the sun, as [Leviticus 12:3] states, "On the eighth day...," i.e., during the day, and not at night. [This applies to a circumcision performed] at the appropriate time, the eighth day [after birth], and [to a circumcision performed] after the appropriate time, from the ninth day and onward.

If one performed the circumcision after dawn, it is acceptable. It is acceptable [at any time] throughout the entire day. Nevertheless, it is a mitzvah to [perform the circumcision] early, in the beginning of the day, since "the eager perform mitzvot early."

Halacha 9

When a circumcision [is performed] at its appropriate time, [its performance] supersedes [the prohibition against labor] on the Sabbath. When it [is] not [performed] at its appropriate time, [its performance] does not supersede [the prohibition against labor] on the Sabbath or the festivals. Whether or not it is performed at its appropriate time, [its performance] supersedes [the prohibition against removing signs of] tzara'at.

What is implied? If there was a sign of tzara'at on the foreskin, it may be cut off with the foreskin. Although there is a prohibition against cutting off the signs of tzara'at, the performance of a positive commandment supersedes the observance of a negative commandment.

Halacha 10

Just as the circumcision of sons supersedes [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath, so too, the circumcision of those slaves who are circumcised on the eighth day [of their lives] supersedes [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath when the eighth day [of their life] falls on the Sabbath. There is [one] exception - a slave whose mother did not immerse herself until after she gave birth. Although such a slave is circumcised on the eighth day, his circumcision does not supersede [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath.

Halacha 11

[The circumcision of the following individuals] does not supersede [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath:
a child who was born without a foreskin;
a child who was born in the eighth month of pregnancy before his development was completed; he is considered to be a stillborn, for he will not live;
a child born by Caesarian section;
an androgynous; and
a person with two foreskins.

These individuals are circumcised on [the following] Sunday, the ninth day of their lives.

Halacha 12

When a child is born beyn hash'mashot, which is a period when it is undetermined whether it is considered day or night, we count from the night, and he is circumcised on the ninth day [following the day he was born], which could be the eighth day.

When a child is born beyn hash'mashot on Friday, his circumcision does not supersede the Sabbath prohibitions, because the Sabbath prohibitions are never superseded because of a doubtful situation. Rather, he should be circumcised on [the following] Sunday.

Halacha 13

[The following principles apply when] a child is born in the eighth month [of pregnancy]:1 If the child's nails and hair are completely formed, we assume that this is a completely formed infant that should have been born in the seventh month, but whose birth was delayed. Hence, the baby may be carried on the Sabbath, is not considered to be a stone, and may be circumcised on the Sabbath.

If, however, when the baby was born, its hair and nails were incompletely formed, we can be certain that this child is in its eighth month of development and should not have been born until the ninth month, but was born prematurely. Therefore, he is considered as a stone and may not be moved on the Sabbath.

Nevertheless, if such an infant remains alive for thirty days, he is considered to be a child who will live and is governed by all the same rules as other infants.2
Whenever a human child lives longer than thirty days, it is no longer considered to be a stillborn.

Halacha 14

[The following rules apply when] a child is born in the seventh month of gestation: If a child is born with his limbs completely formed,3 we assume that he will live and he should be circumcised on the eighth day [even if it falls on the Sabbath].

If there is a question whether a child4 was born in the seventh month or in the eighth month, he can be circumcised on the Sabbath. The rationale is: If he was born in the seventh month and his limbs are completely formed, it is appropriate that [his circumcision] supersede [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath. If he was born in the eighth month, circumcising him [does not constitute a violation of the Sabbath prohibitions].5
It is like cutting meat, because he is like a stillborn if he is, in fact, born in the eighth month.

Halacha 15

When a child's head emerges from his mother's birth canal beyn hash'mashot on Friday, but his entire body does not emerge until after the Sabbath night [has commenced], the child should not be circumcised on the Sabbath.6

Whenever a child's circumcision does not supersede the Sabbath prohibitions, [such circumcision] also does not supersede the prohibitions of the first day of a festival.7 It does, however, supersede the prohibitions of the second day of a festival.8 On Rosh HaShanah, however, it does not supersede [the prohibitions] of either the first or the second day.9 Similarly, a circumcision that is not carried out at the appropriate time10 does not supersede [the prohibitions of either of] the two days of Rosh HaShanah.11

Halacha 16

A sick person should not be circumcised until he regains his health. Seven full days should be counted from the time he regains his health until he is circumcised.

When does the above apply? When he recovers from high fever or from a similar illness. If, however, a person's eyes hurt, as soon as his eyes heal he may be circumcised immediately. The same applies in all similar circumstances.

Halacha 17

A child whose complexion is very yellowish12 on the eighth day of his life13 should not be circumcised until his blood recovers and his complexion returns to that of an ordinary healthy child.

Similarly, if his complexion is overly red,14 as if he had been painted, he should not be circumcised until his blood recovers and his complexion returns to that of an ordinary healthy child.15 This is an example of sickness, and great care must be taken regarding this matter.

Halacha 18

When a woman circumcised her first son and he died because the circumcision sapped his strength, and similarly, circumcised her second son and he also died because of the circumcision, she should not circumcise her third son at the appropriate time. Rather, she should wait until he becomes older and his strength increases. [This applies regardless of whether] the first two children were sired by the same father or not.

We should not circumcise a child who is afflicted with any sickness at all, since the danger to life takes precedence over everything. Circumcision can be performed at a later date, while it is impossible to bring a single Jewish soul back to life.

Commentary Halacha 1

Circumcision is a positive mitzvah - Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 215) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 2) consider this one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

[whose lack of fulfillment] is punished by - Circumcision and the Paschal sacrifices are the only positive commandments for which the Torah prescribes punishment if they are not fulfilled. In both instances, the punishment is the same (karet).

karet - Premature death at the hand of God (Mo'ed Katan 28a) and a severe spiritual punishment, the "soul's being cut off," and not being granted a share in the world to come (Hilchot Teshuvah 8:1,5).

as [Genesis 17:14] states: "And an uncircumcised male who does not circumcise his foreskin - this soul will be cut off from his people." - The citation of the verse from Genesis is significant. In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Chulin 7:6), the Rambam writes that our fulfillment of this mitzvah is not based on God's commandment to Abraham, but rather on the commandment issued to Moses (Leviticus 12:3), "On the eighth day, the child's foreskin will be circumcised." Nevertheless, the commandment to Abraham is still significant, and many particulars concerning circumcision are derived from it.

A father - and not a mother (Kiddushin 29a)

is commanded to circumcise his son - Although when the son reaches the age of bar mitzvah, he is obligated by the mitzvah. Until that time, the father is responsible for the fulfillment of the mitzvah.

The Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 2) questions the extent of the father's responsibility. If the father does not circumcise his son before the latter reaches majority, is the father still charged with the mitzvah (together with the son) or is the son solely responsible for the mitzvah?

Likkutei Sichot (Vol. 11) explains that the question is dependent on a difference of opinion between the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. The Babylonian Talmud (Kiddushin 29a) derives the mitzvah from the verse (Genesis 21:4), "And Avraham circumcised his son, Isaac." This indicates that the mitzvah is primarily the father's (although after the son reaches adulthood, he also becomes responsible). In contrast, the Jerusalem Talmud (Kiddushin 1:7) quotes as a proof-text for the mitzvah (Leviticus 12:3), "On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." The Korban Eidah explains that this implies the mitzvah is the son's. Since he is not able to perform it himself as a youth, however, his father is given the responsibility while the child is a minor.

Likkutei Sichot continues, explaining that the Rambam's position is obvious from his discussion of the blessings recited for the mitzvot in Hilchot Berachot, Chapter 11. In Halachah 11 of that chapter, the Rambam explains that if one performs a mitzvah on one's own behalf, one should use the form, "who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to...." In contrast, if one performs a mitzvah on behalf of another person, one uses the form, "... and commanded us concerning...."

Rav Yitzchak ben Sheshet (Responsum 131) notes that the Rambam (Hilchot Bikkurim 11:5) rules that one should recite the blessing "...concerning the redemption of a son," implying that the mitzvah is not the father's, but the son's (merely that as an infant, the son cannot fulfill it). In contrast, in Chapter 3, Halachah 1, the Rambam states that a father should recite the blessing "... to circumcise...," implying that the mitzvah is his.

and a master, his slaves. - Here, the responsibility for the mitzvah is surely the master's. This circumcision is one of the stages in the process by which the slave attains the status of eved C'na'ani, an intermediate rung between a gentile and a Jew. He is obligated to fulfill all the negative commandments and all those positive commandments that are not associated with a specific time. (See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 12:11.)

This applies both to those who are born in his home - i.e., a non-Jewish maidservant gave birth to a male child

and to those purchased by him. - See Genesis 17:27, which relates that Abraham circumcised both these categories of servants.

If the father or the master transgressed and did not circumcise them, he negated the fulfillment of a positive commandment. - Note the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Shabbat 19:6):

If a person transgressed and did not circumcise his son or his servants born in his home... on the eighth day, he transgresses a very great and severe mitzvah, to which there is no comparison among the other mitzvot. He can never compensate for [the lack of fulfillment of] this mitzvah.
His sin is much more severe than a person who did not build a sukkah on Sukkot, or one who did not eat matzah on Pesach.

He is not, however, punished by karet, for karet is incurred only by the uncircumcised person himself. - This is obvious from the proof-text quoted above.

The court is obligated to circumcise that son or slave at the proper time and should not leave an uncircumcised male among the Jewish people or their slaves. - Kiddushin, loc. cit., interprets Genesis 17:10, "You must circumcise every male," as a charge to the Jewish court, making them responsible for circumcising every member of the people.

Commentary Halacha 2

We may not circumcise a person's son without his knowledge - See Hilchot Chovel UMazik 7:13-14, where the Rambam describes the prohibition against "stealing" the performance of a mitzvah from a colleague, and the fine of ten gold pieces for doing so. The Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 382:1) explicitly associates this concept with circumcising a person's son without his knowledge.

unless he has transgressed and did not circumcise him. - The Rambam's phraseology has raised questions among the halachic authorities. Is his intent that once the father has allowed the eighth day to pass, the obligation falls on the court, or is his intent that only after the father makes it obvious that he does not want to circumcise his son that they become responsible? Similarly, the question has been raised what should be done if the father is unaware that a son has been born to him, or is prevented from carrying out the circumcision by factors beyond his control. Should the circumcision be carried out on the eighth day, or should the family wait until the father returns? See Avnei Nezer (Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 318) and Rav Kapach's commentary.

[In such an instance,] the court must circumcise - the obligation mentioned in the previous halachah falls upon them

[the child] against [the father's] will. - Even if he protests, the mitzvah should be performed.

If the matter does not become known to the court and they do not circumcise him, when [the child] reaches bar mitzvah he is obligated to circumcise himself. - Tzafenat Paneach explains that there are three aspects to the mitzvah of circumcision:

a) to remove the foreskin;
b) to be circumcised;
c) not to be uncircumcised. (See Chapter 2, Halachah 1.)< /p>

The first aspect involves a single deed. The second and third dimensions, however, are ongoing qualities that a person continues to possess even after the deed of circumcision is completed. Thus, the Or Zarua quotes Menachot 43b, which relates that when King David entered the bathhouse, he was upset for he was "naked," without mitzvot. When he remembered that he was circumcised, he relaxed, realizing that he was still involved with the performance of a mitzvah.

This indicates that, even years after his circumcision, he was considered to be fulfilling the mitzvah. In contrast, with regard to the mitzvot of tefillin and tzitzit, although he had just removed them, he was no longer considered to be involved in the performance of these mitzvot.

With each and every day that passes after he has reached bar mitzvah, he negates a positive commandment. - Some of the manuscript editions of the Mishneh Torah state, "It is as if he negates a commandment." The mitzvah of circumcision is not negated until the person dies without fulfilling it. Unlike tefillin or tzitzit, where each day a person performs a different mitzvah, there is only one mitzvah of circumcision (Rav Kapach).

He is not, however, liable for karet until he dies uncircumcised - As mentioned above, there are two dimensions to the punishment of karet: premature death and the cutting off of the soul. According to the Rambam, a person who does not circumcise himself is liable only for the second aspect of this punishment, since until he dies, it is not known whether he will perform the mitzvah or not (Kessef Mishneh).

The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's statements, stating that each day he does not perform the mitzvah, he is liable for karet and is worthy of premature death. (Even according to the Ra'avad, were the person to circumcise himself, he would no longer be liable for karet).

having intentionally - but not if he was unaware of the mitzvah or was prevented from fulfilling it by forces beyond his control

[failed to perform the mitzvah]. - The Rambam's phraseology raises the question whether a person is liable forkaret if he initially failed to perform the mitzvah intentionally, and then was prevented from fulfilling it by forces beyond his control.

Commentary Halacha 3

A master is obligated to circumcise both a slave who was born as the property of a Jewish owner - i.e., the "home-born slave" mentioned in Genesis 17:12

and a slave purchased from the gentiles. - Such servants are also mentioned in the above verse.

[There is, however, a difference between the two.] A home- born slave should be circumcised on the eighth day [of his life] - as is a Jewish child. The above verse states that "all those born in your house" - i.e., also slaves - should be circumcised on the eighth day (Rashi, Shabbat 135b).

In contrast, a slave who is purchased should be circumcised on the day he was purchased. - Since Genesis 17:13 repeats the commandment, "Circumcise all home-born [slaves] and those purchased with your money," we can assume that there are slaves who are to be circumcised immediately (Rashi, loc. cit.).

If he was purchased on the day he was born, he should be circumcised on that day - provided, of course, that the surgery will not affect the infant's health. (Note the Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, Chapter 49, which explains that both physically and spiritually, a child is not prepared for circumcision until the eighth day.)

Commentary Halacha 4

There are, however - certain exceptions to the rules mentioned in the previous halachah that are also mentioned in Shabbat 135b. There are some

slaves that are purchased who should be circumcised on the eighth day [of their lives] - as explained in this halachah

and - some

home-born slaves who should be circumcised on the day they are born - as explained in the following halachah.

What is implied? Should one purchase a maidservant and purchase [the rights to] her fetus [separately] - This is possible when the maidservant herself belonged to one master and the fetus to another (Rambam in his responsa).

when she gives birth the baby should be circumcised on the eighth day. Although the fetus itself was purchased separately, since [the master] purchased his mother before the child was born - the child is considered "home-born" and

he should be circumcised on his eighth day. - The Kessef Mishneh relates that, according to the Rambam, even if the master at first purchased only the rights to the fetus, and then purchased the mother, since she gave birth while in his domain, the slave is considered "home-born," and is circumcised on the eighth day.

Commentary Halacha 5

If a person purchased a maidservant for her offspring - In his responsum cited above, the Rambam compares this to a person who buys a tree for its fruit - i.e., he is not the actual owner of the tree, but is entitled to all the fruit it produces. Similarly, in this instance, the master is not the owner of the maidservant; what he has purchased is the right to her offspring. Therefore, none of the offspring are considered "home-born," and must be circumcised immediately.

or purchased a maidservant with the intent of not immersing her as a slave - Through immersion in a mikveh, a female maidservant becomes a shifchah C'na'anit and attains the intermediate status mentioned in the Commentary on Halachah 1.

As the Rambam mentions in the following halachah, it is possible to purchase a gentile slave and maintain possession of him or her without changing his or her status in the above manner.

even though her offspring is born in his domain, the child should be circumcised on the day he was born. - The first instance mentioned does not require explanation. With regard to the second category, the Rambam elaborates:

[This ruling was granted, because] this child is considered as if he alone has been purchased [by his master], and it is as if he purchased him this day. His mother is not included among the maidservants of the Jewish people, so that the child could be considered 47homeborn." - In the responsum cited above, the Rambam explains that the concept of a "home-born" slave is derived from God's commandment to Abraham. All the members of Abraham's household had accepted his beliefs and way of life. In contrast, a slave who is unwilling to accept the mitzvot cannot be considered part of a Jewish household, and her children are not "home-born."

If his mother immersed herself after she gave birth - This shows that the stipulation that she need not be immersed (see the following halachah) is nullified and considered of no consequence. Therefore, she is considered to be part of the household, and

the child should be circumcised on the eighth day. - The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's decision and maintains that unless the mother immerses herself before giving birth, the child should be circumcised immediately. Rabbenu Nissim, in his notes to Shabbat 135b, supports the Rambam's decision, explaining that the Sages did not reach a final ruling on the matter, and hence the more stringent approach should be taken.

Commentary Halacha 6

When a person purchases a slave from the gentiles and the slave does not consent - Note the difference of opinion in Yevamot 48b, whether this leniency is granted if the slave refuses outright to be circumcised.

to be circumcised, we may be patient with him for twelve months - lest he change his mind and accept his status within the Jewish people.

It is forbidden to maintain him for any longer period while he remains uncircumcised, and one must sell him to gentiles. - He must, however, agree to accept the seven universal laws mentioned below. Otherwise, he should be slain (Kessef Mishneh).

If, at the outset, while the slave was still in the possession of his gentile master, he made a stipulation that he would not be circumcised - Rav Kapach maintains that the stipulation was made by the slave's master. Since the slave is considered to be chattel, his own say is of no concern.

it is permissible to maintain him although he is not circumcised, provided he accepts the seven universal laws commanded to the descendants of Noah - The prohibitions against idol worship, cursing God, murder, theft, adultery, eating flesh taken from a living animal, and the obligation to establish a court system. (See Hilchot Melachim 9:1-2.)

and becomes a resident alien. - In Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 10:6, the Rambam writes that it is forbidden to allow gentiles who do not accept these seven laws to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, a gentile who does is called a resident alien - i.e., a non-Jew who may dwell among us.

If he refuses to accept these seven laws - The slave must formally accept the performance of these mitzvot in the presence of a Rabbinic court.

he should be killed immediately. - The Kessef Mishneh explains that the Rambam's decision depends on his statement (Hilchot Melachim 8:9) that we must do everything in our power to influence the gentiles to observe these seven laws.

The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's statement, explaining that in the present era, we may not kill any gentiles for refusing to observe these seven laws. The commentaries differ whether the Rambam would accept the Ra'avad's decision (and his statement here is, like many of the other laws he states, reflective of the Messianic era), or whether permission is granted to kill a slave for refusing to follow these laws in the present age as well.

A resident alien may be accepted only in the era when the laws of yovel - The Jubilee year

are in effect. - The Jubilee must be observed only when the entire Jewish people are dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, when the tribes of Reuven and Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh were exiled by the kingdom of Assyria (see II Kings, Chapter 16), the observance of the Jubilee was nullified (Hilchot Shemitah V'Yovel 10:8).

Commentary Halacha 7

When a convert enters the congregation of Israel, he is obligated to undergo circumcision first. - Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 13:1-4 states:

With three acts, Israel entered into a covenant [with God]: circumcision, immersion [in the mikveh], and [the offering of] sacrifices.... Similarly, with regard to future generations, when a gentile wants to enter into the covenant, take refuge under the wings of the Divine Presence, and accept the yoke of the Torah, he must undergo circumcision, immersion, and the offering of a sacrifice.

The phrase "accept the yoke of the Torah" indicates that before performing these deeds, the prospective convert must resolve to fulfill the mitzvot.

If he had been circumcised while he was a gentile - and not by a Jew for the purpose of conversion. Note Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 13:7 which relates that even if a gentile circumcises himself for the purpose of conversion, it is insufficient.

it is necessary to extract the blood of the covenant - a superficial cut is made on the shaft of the penis, and a small amount of blood extracted.

The expression "blood of the covenant" is derived from the interpretation of Exodus 24:8, "This is the blood of the covenant which God established with you," in certain texts of Nedarim 31b and the Mechilta's interpretation of Zechariah 9:11, "Because of the blood of your covenant, I have sent forth your prisoners from the pit."

on the day that he converts. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 268:2) states that one should wait until the wound of the circumcision is completely healed before immersing in the mikveh and completing the process of conversion.

Similarly, a child who was born without a foreskin - Our Sages mention this as a sign of a high spiritual level, citing Moses and Shem (Noah's son) as examples of children born without a foreskin.

must have blood extracted for circumcision - Were we to be sure the child did not have a foreskin, there would be no need for the extraction of blood. The blood is extracted lest the child have a thin foreskin that is not readily noticeable (Shabbat 135a). Note the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 263:4), which requires the extraction of blood and states that we must inspect such a child carefully - but gently - to see whether he possesses a thin foreskin or not. (Perhaps the expression "thin foreskin" refers to the membrane removed by pri'ah.)

It must be noted that there are Rishonim (see Rashi,Shabbat 134a) who maintain that the extraction of the "blood of the covenant" is not a by-product of a search for a thin membrane, but rather serves an independent purpose: The Jews' covenant with God is established through their blood.

on the eighth day. - Note Chapter 3, Halachah 6, which states that a blessing is not recited for this activity.

The Ramah mentions several other instances when blood must be extracted: a child who was circumcised before the eighth day (Yoreh De'ah 262:1), circumcised at night ( loc. cit.), or circumcised by a gentile ( loc. cit., 264:1) should have blood extracted for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah. (Note also the commentary on Chapter 2, Halachah 1.)

An androgynous, a child with both male and female sexual organs - Androgynous is a combination of the Greek words meaning "man" and "woman." (See Hilchot Ishut 2:24.) Note also Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 12:4, which states:

The status of a tumtum and an androgynous is doubtful. Therefore, the stringencies of both a man and a woman are applied to them, and they are obligated by all [the mitzvot]. If, however, they transgress, they are not [punished by] lashing.

Because of this unique status, an androgynous

must be circumcised on the eighth day - lest he be obligated to undergo circumcision.

See Tiferet Yisrael (Shabbat 19:3), who writes:

There are those who say there is no such thing as an androgynous. Their statements are false.... I beheld such a phenomenon with my own eyes. Twelve years ago, I myself circumcised a child with this condition.

Similarly, a child born by Caesarian section - Shabbat 135a explains as follows: The commandment for circumcision on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3) is stated directly after the verse that relates that a woman who gives birth becomes ritually impure. Since a woman does not contract ritual impurity when she gives birth by Caesarian section, one might think that the child need not be circumcised on the eighth day. Therefore, the Rambam clarified the matter. (See also Halachah 11.)

and a child who has two foreskins - This refers to a birth abnormality. Rashi (Shabbat 135b) mentions two interpretations: a person with a single penis that is covered by two foreskins; alternatively, a person with two penises.

should both be circumcised on the eighth day. - Nevertheless, as explained in Halachah 11, none of the individuals mentioned in this halachah are circumcised on the eighth day if it falls on the Sabbath.

Commentary Halacha 8

Circumcision is performed only during the day - This applies to all circumcisions - those of children, servants, and converts

after the rising of the sun - This refers to הנץ החמה, the rising of the sun on the horizon.

as [Leviticus 12:3] states, "On the eighth day...," i.e., during the day - only,

and not at night. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Megillah 2:4), the Rambam writes that the day extends from dawn to the appearance of the stars. It is preferable, however, to perform all acts that must be carried out during the day after the rising of the sun.

Although according to the Rambam, the day extends until the appearance of the stars, circumcision should be carried out before sunset (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 266:9).

The proof-text quoted mentions the eighth day. Nevertheless, Yevamot 72b uses the rules of Biblical exegesis to demonstrate that

[This applies to both a circumcision performed] at the appropriate time, the eighth day [after birth], and [to a circumcision performed] after the appropriate time, from the ninth day and onward.

If one performed the circumcision after dawn - alot hashachar, the appearance of the first rays of the sun, approximately an hour before the sun itself actually appears on the horizon.

it is acceptable. It is acceptable [at any time] throughout the entire day. Nevertheless, it is a mitzvah to [perform the circumcision] early, in the beginning of the day, since "the eager perform mitzvot early." - Pesachim 4a derives this concept from the description in Genesis 22:3 of Abraham's rising early in the morning to perform the akedah.

Commentary Halacha 9

When a circumcision [is performed] at its appropriate time - on the eighth day.

[its performance] supersedes [the prohibition against labor] - Cutting off the foreskin is otherwise forbidden because it causes bleeding (Hilchot Shabbat 8:7-8).

on the Sabbath. - Shabbat 132a relates that the verse, "On the eighth day, the child's foreskin will be circumcised," is a Torah decree, requiring circumcision on the eighth day regardless of the day on which it falls.

When it [is] not [performed] at its appropriate time, [its performance] does not supersede [the prohibition against labor] on the Sabbath or the festivals. - The observance of the Sabbath and festivals involves both a positive and negative commandment. Therefore, circumcision, which is merely a positive commandment, does not supersede their observance.

Whether or not it is performed at its appropriate time - Note Rav Kapach, who asks how is it possible for a sign of tzara'at to be already definitely determined as such by the eighth day of a child's life.

[its performance] supersedes [the prohibition against removing signs of] tzara'at. - Tzara'at is a skin condition resembling leprosy. Deuteronomy 24:8 forbids removing such a mark, and Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 308) considers this to be one of the 365 prohibitions of the Torah. (See also Hilchot Tum'at Tzara'at, Chapter 10.)

What is implied? If there was a sign of tzara'at on the foreskin, it may be cut off with the foreskin. Although there is a prohibition against cutting off the signs of tzara'at, the performance of a positive commandment supersedes the observance of a negative commandment. - In contrast to the permission granted to circumcise on the Sabbath, this is not an exception made with regard to circumcision, but rather a general rule that applies throughout Torah law (see Hilchot Tzitzit 3:6).

Commentary Halacha 10

Just as the circumcision of sons supersedes [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath, so too, the circumcision of those slaves who are circumcised on the eighth day [of their lives] - The "home-born" slaves mentioned in Halachot 3-4. In contrast, slaves who were purchased, and therefore should be circumcised on the day they were purchased (or born), should not be circumcised on the Sabbath.

supersedes [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath when the eighth day [of their life] falls on the Sabbath. -Kiryat Melech cites Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 29, which relates that Abraham circumcised all his servants on Yom Kippur.

Significantly, Rabbenu Yerucham differs, and writes that only the circumcisions of Jews, and not of their servants, supersedes the Sabbath prohibitions. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 267:2) quotes the Rambam's view.

There is [one] exception - a slave whose mother did not immerse herself until after she gave birth. - See Halachah 5 and commentary.

Although such a slave is circumcised on the eighth day, his circumcision does not supersede [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath. - When the eighth day of such a person's life falls on the Sabbath, he is circumcised on Sunday, the ninth day of his life.

Commentary Halacha 11

[The circumcision of the following individuals] does not supersede [the prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath: a child who was born without a foreskin; - Since, as stated in Halachah 7, the blood is extracted from him only because of a suspicion that he has a hidden foreskin, this activity does not supersede the Sabbath prohibitions.

a child who was born in the eighth month of pregancy before his development was completed; he is considered to be a stillborn, for he will not live; - As explained in Halachah 13, the circumcision is not carried out on the eighth day because of the probability that the child will not live.

a child born by Caesarian section; - See Halachah 7.

an androgynous; and a person with two foreskins. - because we are unsure of the nature of the obligation of circumcision in these instances.

These individuals are circumcised on [the following] Sunday, the ninth day of their lives. - They should not be circumcised before the eighth day.

Commentary Halacha 12

When a child is born beyn hash'mashot - the period between sunset and the appearance of three stars. (See Hilchot Shabbat 5:4.)

which is a period of doubt whether it is considered day or night, we count from the night - Were we to count from the day, it is possible that the circumcision would be carried out before the proper time.

and he is circumcised on the ninth day [following the day he was born,] which could be the eighth day. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 262:7) states that night depends on the appearance of three stars, and not on when the evening service is recited.

When a child is born beyn hash'mashot on Friday - he should not be circumcised on the following Friday, as explained above. Nor should he be circumcised on the following Sabbath (although it is the ninth day of his life), since

his circumcision does not supersede the Sabbath prohibitions, because the Sabbath prohibitions are never superseded because of a doubtful situation. Rather, he should be circumcised on [the following] Sunday. - Thus, he is circumcised on the 10th day of his life. (See Shabbat 19:5.)

Commentary Halacha 16

A sick person - This applies not only to children who are circumcised on the eighth day of their lives, but also to those (e.g., converts or slaves) who are circumcised when they are older.

should not be circumcised until he regains his health. - lest the child's life be endangered. (See Halachah 18.)

Seven full days should be counted from the time he regains his health until he is circumcised. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Shabbat 19:5), the Rambam writes:

Until he fully recovers from his illness and the weakness from his sickness passes. He should wait seven days from the time the weakness passes.... Only afterwards, should he be circumcised.

Thus, we see that the Rambam intends that the person to be circumcised fully regain his health, and then wait an additional seven days.

When does the above apply? When he recovers from high fever - Our translation is based on the Kessef Mishneh.

or from a similar illness. - i.e., an illness that affects a person's entire body (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 262:2)

If, however, a person's eyes hurt, as soon as his eyes heal he may be circumcised immediately - i.e., on the same day of his recovery. Note the Turei Zahav 262:3, which explains that since the circumcision has been postponed, it may be further delayed and should not be carried out on Thursday or Friday, so that the child will not have pain on the Sabbath.

The same applies in all similar circumstances - i.e., sicknesses in which the person's entire body is not affected.

FOOTNOTES
1.

The comprehension of this and the following halachah are dependent on the following two Talmudic passages:

[The prohibitions against labor on] the Sabbath are superseded for [the circumcision of a child] born in the seventh month, but not for a child born in the eighth month (Shabbat 135a).
A child born in the eighth month is like a stone and may not be carried [on the Sabbath]. His mother may, however, lean over him and nurse him....
Rabbi states: [This is when] his physical features reflect his [lack of development]; i.e., when his hair and nails are not completely formed.
[Rabbi's statements imply that] if [his hair and nails] are completely formed, he is a baby that should have been born in the seventh month, but whose birth was delayed (Yevamot 80b).

From these passages, it appears that the Sages considered that there were two periods of gestation that could produce healthy babies, a seven-month period and a nine-month period. Therefore, a baby who was born in the seventh month was considered to be healthy, and circumcision could be performed on the Sabbath.

In contrast, a baby born in the eighth month was generally considered to be unhealthy. Not only was the baby not to be circumcised on the Sabbath, but moving it at all was forbidden. Since it was likely to die, it was considered to be muktzeh. If, however, a baby born in the eighth month looks healthy, we assume that it should have been born in the seventh month, but its birth was delayed. Therefore, it is considered a healthy baby and it may be circumcised on the Sabbath.

We have used the past tense in the above explanation, because these laws are no longer practiced, and all babies are allowed to be moved on the Sabbath. Tosafot, Shabbat, loc. cit., state that at present, it is no longer possible to determine exactly when a child was conceived, and we therefore do not know the month of pregnancy the mother was in. Furthermore, the advances in medical technology have enabled the lives of many premature babies to be saved despite the fact that, without these new developments, these babies would surely not have survived. At present, it is considered a mitzvah to try to save the lives of any premature babies, even if doing so involves carrying out forbidden labors on the Sabbath.

Also, it must be emphasized that, as stated in Halachot 16-18, a child is circumcised only when it is healthy and there is no danger involved. This is surely relevant with regard to premature infants. Rarely, if ever, would a doctor grant permission for such a baby to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life.

2.

Among the ramifications of this decision are that the child's mother is free of the obligations of yibbum and chalitzah. (See Hilchot Yibbum 1:5.)

3.

Our translation is based on the commentary of the Maggid Mishneh, Hilchot Yibbum 1:5. According to this interpretation, the child's hair and nails need not be completely formed. The Kessef Mishneh offers a different interpretation. Significantly, however, in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 266:11), Rav Yosef Karo accepts the Maggid Mishneh's interpretation.

4.

According to the Maggid Mishneh's interpretation mentioned above, this refers to an instance when the child's limbs are completely formed, but his hair and nails are not. The date of his birth, however, creates a problem, because he appears to have been born in the eighth month.

[With regard to this law, the Shulchan Aruch ( loc. cit.) does not accept the Maggid Mishneh's interpretation. It is, however, quoted by the Ramah.]

5.

This rationale is not used to allow the circumcision of a child who was definitely born in the eighth month, because the Rabbinic prohibition of muktzeh is in effect. Although the Sages did not enforce that prohibition in a case of doubt (the present halachah), they did apply it when no doubt about the period of gestation exists (the previous halachah).

6.

Niddah 42b relates that the time when a child's head emerges is considered the hour of birth.

7.

See Halachah 9, which equates circumcision on festivals to circumcision on the Sabbath. In this halachah, the Rambam is adding that the prohibition against circumcision on the eighth day when it falls on the Sabbath in the various instances mentioned in Halachot 11-13 also applies on festivals.

8.

Since the celebration of the second day of a festival is only Rabbinic in origin, the fulfillment of the mitzvah of circumcision takes priority.

This represents the Rambam's view. Rabbenu Asher differs and maintains that only a circumcision that would be performed on the eighth day, were it to fall on the Sabbath, should be performed on the second day of a festival. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 266:8) quotes Rabbenu Asher's view, while the Siftei Cohen 266:8 follows the Rambam's position. [Significantly, the Noda biYhudah (Orach Chayim, Responsum 30) and the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 250) interpret the difference of opinion between the Rambam and Rabbenu Asher as applying only when the circumcision is definitely not being performed on the eighth day. (See notes 10 and 11.) According to their view, even Rabbenu Asher agrees that when a child is born during beyn hash'mashot eight days before the second day of a festival, he may be circumcised on that second day of the festival.

9.

As explained in Hilchot Sh'vitat Yom Tov 1:21-24, the rules governing the celebration of the second day of Rosh HaShanah differ from those governing the celebration of the second days of other festivals. The two days of Rosh HaShanah share the same level of holiness, and all the prohibitions that apply on the first day apply on the second, with the exception of the laws of burial. (See also Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 5:7-8.)Thus, if a child was born during beyn hash'mashot a week before Rosh HaShanah in a year when the two days of Rosh HaShanah are followed by the Sabbath, the child is not circumcised until the twelfth day of his life (Shabbat 19:5).

10.

This refers to instances when a child was sick and the circumcision was delayed, and the like.

11.

From the Rambam's phraseology, it appears that he allows such circumcisions to be carried out on the second day of other festivals. See note 8.

12.

The Rambam is referring to infantile jaundice, which is common in many newborns.

13.

The Bayit Chadash (Yoreh De'ah 263) and the Binyan Shlomo interpret the Rambam's phraseology as indicating that, in contrast to the sicknesses mentioned in the previous halachah, it is not necessary to wait seven days after the child's recovery in these instances. This is the common practice today.

14.

At present, if the child's skin color is not normal (regardless of the tinge), it is customary to delay the circumcision.

15.

Shabbat 134a relates that once, a woman approached Rabbi Natan HaBavli while he was visiting a distant community. She explained that her first two children had died after being circumcised, and was concerned whether she should circumcise her third son or not. Rabbi Natan inspected the baby and saw that he was extremely red. He advised that the circumcision be delayed until the child's complexion returned to the norm. His advice was followed and the child survived. In appreciation, the family named him Natan.

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