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What is the most common reason for the postonement of a Brit?



Library » Life Cycle » Circumcision » The Brit | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The most common reason for postponing the Brit is a condition called Jaundice, where the infant’s skin and eyes have a yellowish appearance. The Halachah states that with this condition, and when the child’s health is in doubt, we postpone the brit -­­ for a brit can always be done on a later date, but we can never return a life.

The word jaundice comes from the French word "jaune," meaning "yellow." It describes the yellowish or light orange appearance of the whites of the eyes and skin. Jaundice affects as many as 60% of all newborn babies.

Major Causes
Throughout life, and especially just after birth, the body generates, breaks down and regenerates red blood cells. One of their functions is to carry oxygen from the lungs through the blood stream to the tissues of the body. When the cells break down, a substance in the red cells known as hemoglobin is released and is changed into a yellow toxin entity called bilirubin. This is normally removed by the liver and is discharged from the body in the stool, through the bowels. Hence, if the baby's liver is not fully functioning, or if there is some other sort of abnormality, the bilirubin will build up in the baby's bloodstream, causing the skin and the whites of the eyes to become yellow in appearance.

Jaundice affects as many as 60% of all newborn babies
This color change progresses from head to toe, so an infant with mild jaundice may appear yellow only on his face, while one with severe jaundice will be yellow over his or her entire body. After being processed by the liver, most bilirubin is removed from the body in the stool, through the bowels. Anything that increases the number of bowel movements (such as frequent feedings) will help excrete the bilirubin.

Terms and conditions
“Physiologic jaundice” is a commonly used term for mild jaundice. Newborn infants often accumulate bilirubin because the activity of the liver is low at birth. It usually appears on the second or third day of life and peaks during the second half of the first week in full-term and near-term infants. This jaundice will often disappear within a week with­out any treatment.

“Pathologic jaundice” is a term used to describe a condition which is caused by an illness or other medical problem. For example, if a mother and baby have different blood types, the mother may pro­duce "antibodies" that destroy the newborn's red blood cells. This condition, called "Blood Group Incompatibility," can cause a sudden, serious increase in bilirubin.

Excessive jaundice, which is also called “severe hyperbilirubinemia” can lead to “Kernicterus,” a potentially irreversible bilirubin-induced neurological dysfunction (brain damage) and, if not treated, may even be fatal. The clinical risk factor for this condition includes early onset of jaundice within 24 hours of birth; a previously jaundiced sibling; East Asian dissent; male gender and more.

Recent reports suggest an increase in the frequency of kernicterus in the last decade. Research suggests it is the result of early hospital discharge, with no follow-up, as well as a failure to recognize the presence of risk factors for hyperbilirubinemia and poor underestimation of the severity of jaundice by purely visual assessment. The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, have struggled to set new recommendations for the monitoring and management of jaundice.


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Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
[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.
One who performs ritual circumcisions.