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-d’s 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 child’s 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 danger.

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 life."


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 unspoken.


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 "Nega’im". (Nega’im 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 blemish.)

And Rebbi said: "Great is the mitzvah of milah because despite all of our forefather Abraham’s 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-d’s 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 De’ah, Ch.245) that the rarity of fatal complications due to brit, in spite of the child’s 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.