The heavens and the earth and all
that is found in them exist and are preserved in the merit of the great mitzvah of brit
milah, as it is written (Jeremiah, 33:25): "If not for my covenant, I
would not have put in place the day and night and the laws of heaven and earth."
The Zohar states (parshas
pikuday, p. 225b): When the child is circumcised at eight days of age, the blood shed
is laid by the angels before G-ds palace. When the power of severe judgment is
aroused in the world, the Holy One, blessed is He, looks at that blood and does not allow
evil influences to do any harm.
King David felt bereft of Mitzvot
whenever he had to bathe, for in the bath he could neither wear tzitzit, do Mitzvot,
nor study Torah. When he thought of the brit Milah, he realized that he has one
mitzvah embedded in his body at every moment of his life.
A Mohel must be very
precautions about the childs health before performing the circumcision. Things such
as low birth weight and the appearance of mild jaundice a condition dismissed by
contemporary medical opinions as insignificant are regarded by mohalim as
reason for delaying the brit, since they are mentioned in the Talmud as signs of
Another precaution observed by mohalim, over
and above medical guidelines, is to postpone a brit for seven days after an
infection, despite the fact that the child may now appear healthy.
As the Rambam puts it: "It is possible to
perform a brit milah after its time, but it is impossible to restore a lost
The severed foreskin is buried for
the reason that this enables it to "grow", i.e. produce positivity, rather than
the negativity it presently represents. Being that the earth is the source of growth of
good things, it should, therefore, be covered with earth. Any other method of disposing it
would disable it from accomplishing this transformation.
Another reason for this practice is
as follows: The severed foreskin is regarded as the portion of the evil influences which
have now been removed from the child. The serpent which was punished in Genesis to
feed off the dust of the earth is an incarnation of evil. It is, therefore,
appropriate to have the portion of evil become part of the food of the partner of evil.
A special seriousness is attached to
the meal following the circumcision. It is considered so holy, that one who refuses an
invitation is regarded as excommunicated in heaven. So that people should not have the
opportunity to spurn such a holy gathering, one does not invite guests, but rather
notifies them as to when and where the festive meal will be held, leaving the invitation
The Mishnah teaches (Nedarim
31b): Rabbi Yishmael said: "Great is the mitzvah of milah for
thirteen covenants were made over it. (The word "covenant" appears 13 times in
connection with circumcision.)"
Rabbi Yosi said: "Great is the mitzvah of
milah for it supercedes the severity of shabbat, (i.e. when the eighth day
after birth is shabbat we perform the milah on that day, despite its
necessitating many types of work that would otherwise be forbidden)."
Rabbi Yehoshua said: "Great is the mitzvah of
milah for Moses was not given even an hour to delay it."
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha said: "Great is the mitzvah
of milah for all the good deeds of Moses did not protect him when he delayed
the milah (of his son Eliezer), as it says (Exodus, 4:24): And G-d
encountered him and sought to put him to death."
Rabbi Nechemia said: "Great is the mitzvah of
milah for it overrides the laws of "Negaim". (Negaim
are spiritual blemishes that are manifest in skin defects. Although it is strictly
forbidden to remove such skin, if the effected skin is on the sight of the milah, we
perform the milah despite the fact that it is resulting in the removal of the
And Rebbi said: "Great is the mitzvah of
milah because despite all of our forefather Abrahams good deeds, he was still
not called a complete person until he performed milah upon himself, as it says,
only after his circumcision: Walk before Me and be complete."
When we examine all the mitzvoth,
we find no mitzvah that the Jews fulfilled with as much sacrifice as they did by milah.
When a child is born, his parents caress and kiss him; everything is done to protect him
from harm. They ensure his ideal environment with controlled room temperature and
ventilation. They feed him as much as he requires and worry about his every need. When he
cries, they rush to calm him. Their wish is to see that nothing unpleasant happens to him.
And yet, since G-d has commanded us (Genesis,
17:12): "When eight days old, every male among you is to be circumcised," we
do not hesitate to perform this mitzvah. If not for G-ds commanding us to do
so, no parent would allow the slightest scratch on their baby, let alone unnecessary
surgery and the removal of the foreskin.
But since G-d commanded us: "Have every male
among you circumcised," we perform the mitzvah with wholehearted joy. Clearly,
it is the special power of this mitzvah that gives the parents both the courage and
joy to fulfill it.
Another form of sacrifice by
circumcision is the self-sacrifice involved. Many mitzvoth require sacrifice,
sometimes even fasting and abstinence from food and drink, or great financial loss. The
greatest loss, however, is that of a part of the body. Yet, when it came down to it, when
given the opportunity, those older Russian Jews who had not yet been circumcised, were
jumping onto the operating table, offering their bodies for circumcision.
Yet another form of self-sacrifice
endured by Jews for the mitzvah of milah, is this that they carried out this
mitzvah even in times when it was forbidden by the government. There are many
stories of people who risked their life in performing circumcisions during the Holocaust.
The Mechilta comments on the verse (Parshas
Yisro; on the verse 20:3): "...To those who love Me, and guard my
commandments" -- these are the Jews who lived in Israel at the time when the
occupying nations forbade circumcision and lost their lives in the fulfillment of this mitzvah.
The Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe
Sofer-Schreiber, the Rabbi of Pressburg, often referred to by the title of his major
published work), mentions in his Responsa (Yoreh Deah, Ch.245) that the
rarity of fatal complications due to brit, in spite of the childs delicacy at
such a tender age, is clearly because the mitzvah exerts a protective power over
the newly-circumcised child. From his words it is evident that only the fulfillment of the
mitzvah exactly as ordained for all generations has this special protective power.