The Eighth Day

Question

Why is circumcision performed at eight days old? Why not wait until the child is old enough to choose to have it done because he wants to?

3 months

Answers

  1. Circumcision is an extremely central milestone in the life of a Jew. Aside from the fact that it is a commandment (the first ever given to a Jew), it is also the entry of the child into the covenant of Abraham and into the covenant between God and the Jewish People.

    Judaism teaches that the purpose of the human being is to change and improve the natural world, both physically and spiritually. Circumcision is the symbol of the ability of a person to change the physical world. It is also an indelible sign on the body part that symbolizes continuity, regarding the eternal attachment of the Jewish People to a covenant with the Creator.

    Circumcision is based on the Biblical commandment in Genesis 17:12 and in Leviticus 12:3, which explicitly states “the eighth day.” The rationales for this mitzvah being done on the eighth day from birth are many:

    1. Seven symbolizes the natural world (7 days of creation). Eight is one beyond nature, symbolizing the ability of the human to improve himself and the natural world. The circumcision is symbolic of man’s ability to change, improve and add to the natural world.

    2. Eight days always includes a Shabbat, which means that the child experiences the sanctity of Shabbat and a “taste of the world to come” before the pain of circumcision.

    3. According to Maimonides, the eighth day after birth is the earliest day at which the blood will clot properly in the wound and is early enough in the child’s life so that the pain and trauma will not have a detrimental impact on him.

    On a personal note, our youngest daughter just had a baby boy and made the bris on the eighth day. It was done at home with only the parents, the mohel, the baby and his siblings present due to the COVID-19 situation. We are anxiously awaiting to see the photos! May we all share many more happy occasions together! Amen.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team