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Circumcised At The Hand Of Heaven?
‘A Drop of Blood Must be Taken’
(Shabbos 135a)

 

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During the course of a bris milah, the child’s blood is drawn, forging a covenant of blood between the Jewish people and Hashem. Regarding this covenant, Scripture states, “If not for My covenant of day and of night, I would not have made the heavens and the earth,” (Yermiyahu 33:25; see Shabbos 137b).

Our sugya discusses at length whether a bris milah must be performed for a child who is born circumcised (since there is no orlah to remove). The Gemara concludes that we extract a drop of blood to forge the covenant.

 

Invalid Circumcision

The Rishonim discuss at length whether we must draw blood from a child who had an invalid circumcision. For example, suppose his circumcision was performed at night or before his eighth day of life – must blood later be drawn from him?

The Beis Yosef (Yoregh De’ah 262:1) presents what appears to be a debate among poskim. The Hagahos Maimoniyos rules that a child must have blood drawn from him if his circumcision was performed at night, while the Rosh rules that no blood must be drawn if his circumcision was performed before the eighth day.

There seems to be no reason to distinguish between the two cases, so the Beis Yosef concludes that the Hagahos Maimoniyos disagrees with the Rosh.

 

Orlah Before Eight Days?

The Rema (Darkei Moshe, ibid.), however, suggests that a distinction may be drawn between the two cases. He doesn’t elaborate, but the Acharonim offer a number of explanations.

The Eimek Yehoshua (Hilchos Milah), for example, cites the Yerushalmi (also cited by Tosafos, Yevamos 70a), which states that a child’s foreskin is not called “orlah” until his eighth day of life. Thus, if the child was circumcised before his eighth day, it would be inaccurate to say that his orlah was removed. And on his eighth day, no obligation to circumcise him comes into existence since he doesn’t – and never did – have an orlah.

In contrast, an obligation did exist vis-à-vis a child whose circumcision was performed on the night of his ninth day of life, for example. And since his circumcision was not valid, the obligation remains in place and an additional circumcision must be performed by drawing blood.

 

The Physician In The Mix

According to what we’ve explained, if a doctor, because of medical reasons, says a circumcision must be performed before the eighth day of a child’s life, it need not be performed by a Jew or during the day (see Chazon Yechezkel 15:7 citing the Beis Halevi; Encyclopedia Talmudis volume IX, p. 35, and Beis Halevi 2:47).

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