There are many rites of passage during a man’s life, and many come during the first few decades after birth. Whether religiously driven or by societal “norms,” these monumental life events include things like puberty, graduation, first kiss, first fight, graduation (high school or university), marriage and others. For Jewish males, one of the most important days in their life is their brit milah ceremony. One of the oldest Jewish traditions is the covenant of circumcision that can be traced back to the days of Abraham. Like every tradition and ritual in the Jewish faith, there are strict rules and laws that govern how things should be done and circumcision of newborn Jewish boys is no exception. One of the big questions is when do babies get circumcised in the Jewish religion?
In the Torah, the book of Genesis states that God commanded Abraham, the Biblical Jewish patriarch, that he must circumcise himself to establish a covenant of flesh between him and God. It was also commanded that all of Abraham’s descendants under his house be circumcised to create the bond between man and God. For those not circumcised, they will not have the favor of God and must be separated from his people.
Why Eight Days Old?
According to the scripture, God commanded this task of Abraham when he was 99 years old. Following his own circumcision, Abraham circumcised all the males in his household. A year later, when Abraham was 100 and his wife, Sarah, was 90, God sent angels to let them know that Sarah was to give birth to a son. Issac, the heir to Abraham’s family name, was born and was the first to be circumcised on the 8th day of his life, as instructed by God. The Jewish circumcision age does not have much reason other than that it was instructed by God, but there are some theories as to why the eighth day is so important.
The first has to do with experiencing at least one Shabbat before the ceremony. Because of the eight-day calendar, this ensures that the baby greets the Shabbat queen (name given by sages and mystics) and embraces the holiness of one Shabbat before entering the covenant with God. This is the same reason that offerings must be at least eight days old before being brought into Temple. Living through one Shabbat helps heal the soul of the newborn that just entered the physical world.
Another reason to wait until the 8th day is to make sure that the baby is healthy and free of any health complications that could pose a problem for the procedure. While circumcision is a routine procedure, the baby still needs to be strong enough to endure.
According to Jewish law, a woman is considered to be “ritually impure” for at least seven days following the birth of a boy. It would be unfair and saddening for the parents to be unable to partake in such a monumental and joyous celebration.
The brit milah is a physical sign of the eternal covenant that the newborn baby boy will always share with God. This bond is built on faith and transcends intellect, so that is why it is done shortly after birth and not when the baby boy is old enough to make his own decisions. God created the world in seven days and the number seven represents the physical, natural world. Eight is significant in the fact that it represents infinite and beyond the natural world and that the child is entering a religion built on faith. For more than 3,000 years, Jewish newborn boys have been circumcised on the eighth day of their life and this will continue into the future. For all your questions regarding the holy celebration of your baby boy’s brit milah, contact Dr. Andrew Krinsky of Tamarac. He has been performing religious circumcisions as an ordained and Jewish-trained mohel. This special day for you and your child requires an experienced mohel to ensure the best experience for your baby boy.