Health Issues

It is of utmost importance that the brit, ritual circumcision, be held on the eighth day after the child’s birth. However, in the case of certain medical circumstances, when there is even a remote possibility that the child is not strong enough to undergo the surgical procedure, Jewish law requires that the circumcision be postponed until he has recovered. As Maimonides puts it, “It is always possible to perform a circumcision, whereas one cannot bring a Jewish soul back to life.”

Thus, if the baby is born premature, weak, or ill in any way, or if he is diagnosed with a health condition such as jaundice or an eye infection, the circumcision is temporarily postponed. We wait for the child’s full recovery before performing the circumcision. In certain cases, we wait seven full days after his recovery before performing the brit. Contact a competent rabbi or mohel, ritual circumciser, to discuss any circumstances that may necessitate a postponement.

In the case of twin boys, when one is healthy and can undergo a circumcision while the other is not, we make each brit separately; we do not wait to circumcise them both at the same time.

The Surgical Knife

The circumcision is almost painless for the child. Ritual circumcision is performed using a finely honed blade of surgical steel, like a scalpel, and a non-constricting guard which is placed over the foreskin. The procedure involves the removal of a small piece of skin; no actual flesh or muscle is cut at all.

A newborn will tend to cry as soon as his diaper is opened and he is uncovered. This may be due to a need to feel enclosed, or merely because he is feeling cold. As a mohel, I have always noticed that the baby starts to cry before the procedure has even begun. Notice, also, that the infant stops crying shortly after the procedure has been completed, and then usually falls asleep.

Many experienced mohels would not use a clamp, since it crushes and severs the skin, the nerve endings, and the blood vessels, causing extreme pain and trauma to the child.

Health Benefits

Studies have shown that there are medical benefits to being circumcised. However, the reason for circumcising Jewish boys is a religious one: it fulfills a commandment from G‑d.