Our Sages deduce from the words “On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised,”1 that circumcision, milah, is to be performed only during the day and not at night.2

Since this statement only came with the Giving of the Torah, the law prohibiting milah during the night3 was instituted as well only after the Torah was given; prior to G‑d’s giving the Torah to the Jewish people, milah could be performed not only during the day, but at night as well.

Thus the Midrash relates4 that while the Jews were still in Egypt, just prior to the Exodus, many of them had yet to be circumcised. After G‑d made the aroma of Moshe’s Paschal offering waft over the entire land of Egypt, Jews came to Moshe and asked to partake of his Paschal offering. Moshe told them that they could only partake of it if they were circumcised. Upon hearing this, those Jews who were as yet uncircumcised readily agreed to circumcise themselves.

We see from this Midrash that many Jews circumcised themselves on the night of Pesach.5 This requires further clarification. While it is true that prior to Matan Torah, milah was permissible at night, why didn’t G‑d bring about circumstances that would motivate those Jews who were as yet uncircumcised to perform the circumcision during the daylight hours? Wouldn’t it have been better to perform milah during the day, even prior to the Giving of the Torah?

There are those6 who respond to this question by stating that since the night of the Exodus was on such a level7 that the “night shone like the day,”8 therefore it was considered as if their circumcision had actually taken place during the daytime.

But why was it necessary to have their circumcisions when the “night shone like day,” when the Jewishpeople at that time could have just as easily circumcised themselves during the day?

The exodus from Egypt was entirely in a manner of Pesach — “leaping,”9 above and beyond the physical confines of nature. For according to nature, it was absolutely impossible for the Jewishpeople to escape from Egypt.

This was so both on a physical plane — Egypt was so mighty that not even a single slave could escape,10 let alone an entire nation — as well as on a spiritual plane, whereby the Jews were so mired in the morass of Egyptian depravity and unholiness that they could not extricate themselves from this muck on their own.11

Only by dint of a Divine illumination that completely transcended the order of nature12 — where light and darkness, day and night, were truly as one — were all the material and spiritual straits and limitations of Egypt abolished and the Jews able to leave the land of Egypt as a free people, free in body and free in spirit.

This is why the preparation to leave Egypt consisted of the Pesach offering and circumcision, for both these commandments are indicative of spiritual services that transcend limitation:

Pesach, as mentioned earlier, denotes “leaping,” while milah is an eternal covenant with G‑d — an everlasting bond that knows no boundaries and limitations.

This also explains why the positive commandments of both Pesach and milah are unique in that the failure to perform them results in the punishment of kores,13 excision of the soul’s connection with G‑d, something not found with regard to other positive commandments.

For when we are dealing with such transcendent levels of holiness, the possibility of intermediate levels simply does not exist — either one is eternally and infinitely bound up with G‑d, or he is not.

This is why the revelation of “night shining like the day” has a specific connection to milah, for “night shining like the day” denotes the utterly transcendent level of a Jew’s service, which is reflected in the spiritual service of milah.

This true “leap” of the mitzvah of milah took place expressly prior to Matan Torah, for only then was the “leap” truly boundless — it took the Jews out of the domain of unholiness and established them within the orbit of holiness.

Moreover, the milah of the Jewishpeople prior to the Exodus removed them from the depths of the Forty-Nine Gates of Unholiness and united them with the revelation of G‑d in His “full glory and essence.” Truly, this was a “leap” that knew no bounds. Consequently, at that moment, all boundaries between day and night disappeared as well.

Based on Likkutei Sichos,Vol. XVII, pp. 125-130.