Bris Milah, ritual circumcision, is one of the most fundamental precepts of the Jewish religion. It is referred to in the Torah as the covenant of Abraham, since our forefather Abraham was the first to receive the commandment concerning circumcision from G-d. “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations” (Genesis 17:12). More than any other Jewish ritual, Bris Milah is an expression of Jewish identity. Its fulfillment symbolizes an affirmation of faith in Abraham’s ancient, and still vibrant, covenant with G-d. Through ritual circumcision, parents create with their precious child yet another link in the continuing chain of our people that has proudly survived the challenges to its physical and spiritual existence for thousands of years.
Traditionally, the parents engage a mohel to perform the Bris. A mohel is a person who is specially trained in the medical and surgical techniques of circumcision. In addition to being an expert in his field, the mohel is also an expert in the Jewish laws pertaining to Bris Milah. A doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital within the first few days after birth, does not fulfill the requirements of a Bris Milah and is not considered valid according to Jewish law. The Bris must be performed by a Jewish person who understands, upholds and practices the tenets of the Jewish religion and is specially trained to function as a mohel.
The Bris of a healthy baby is done on the eighth day of life (counting the day of birth). This is so even if the eighth day falls on Shabbos, Yom Kippur or any other Jewish festival. However, in the case of a baby born by Caesarean section, the Bris is not performed on Shabbos or on a festival, but on the day following. Bris Milah may not be performed before the eighth day or at night. In the event that a baby is not in perfect health — even if not seriously ill — the Bris is delayed until both the doctor and the mohel are in agreement as to the healthy status of the baby. A common example of this situation is newborn jaundice. However, in the case of serious illness, a delay of one week following full recovery is required.