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Why is a child circumcised on the eighth day of his life?

by AskMoses Editing Staff

  

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Question:

Hi! I wondered why the Brit milah is done on the 8th day after a baby is born? What is special about day #8?

Thanks, James L.

Answer:

The Torah says clearly: "And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised."1 

As with all the mitzvahs of the Torah, there are many reasons for circumcision on the 8th day. Here are a few of those reasons:

1. The Mechilta d'Rashbi maintains that we wait until the 8th day in order that the child should experience the holiness of Shabbat before entering into the covenant with G-d.

2. The Zohar explains that circumcision is akin to offering the child as a sacrifice to G-d. Just as an animal cannot be sacrificed before the 8th day2, so too, circumcision must wait until the 8th day.

3. The Halachic authority and royal physician, Maimonides, notes that a child is too weak during the first week of his life to endure a circumcision.

4. According to the Talmud, we wait until the first day when the mother of the child is tahor.3

5. The Chassidic masters explain that seven represents natural order (seven days of the week, seven years in a sabbatical, and seven Sefirot), eight represents the supernatural (one above seven/nature). The Brit is on the eighth day because it forms a supernatural and supra-rational covenant between the Jew and G-d.

Footnotes

  • 1. Leviticus 12:3
  • 2. Leviticus 22:27
  • 3. See Leviticus ch. 12

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Also...

Posted by: Nicole, Northridge, CA on Oct 14, 2010

It turns out that the 8th day is also when vitamin K levels are highest in a baby, leading to a quicker healing time.


RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Circumcision » The Brit

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Brit
[Lit. Covenant] Circumcision. The act of removing ones foreskin 8 days after birth, perpetuating a covenant with G-d originally established by the Patriarch Abraham.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
tahor
Ritually pure.