The Mitzvah of Mila

The general Mitzvah:

A. The Mitzvah of Milah:[1]

It is a positive command in the Torah for a father to circumcise his son.

The greatness of the Mitzvahs:[2] The Mitzvah of Mila is the greatest command in the Torah.[3]

No Gihenom:[4] Abraham our forefather stands [in the opening of Gehennom] and selects those who are circumcised and does not allow them to enter. 

B. The law if the father did not circumcise his son [not alive, is gentile, etc]:[5]

The obligation on the Beis Din to circumcise the son:[6] In the event that one was not circumcised by his father, then it is the obligation of the local Jewish court to circumcise him while he’s still a child [i.e. on the eighth day].

Obligation on child when he becomes an adult: In the event that one was not circumcised by his father, and the local Jewish court did not circumcise him as a child, then he is obligated to circumcise himself upon reaching the age of adulthood.

Mother:[7] The mother of the child is not obligated to circumcise her son even in the event that he was not circumcised by his father, and rather the mitzvah falls upon the local Jewish court.

Other Jews:[8] It is forbidden for one to circumcise a child without the consent of the father. However, in the event that the father did not circumcise his son, and the Jewish court likewise did not circumcise him, that any individual can circumcise the son against the wishes of the father.

C. The penalty if one is not circumcised after reaching adulthood:[9]

Once a child reaches the age of adulthood, then he is liable for the penalty of excision if he remains uncircumcised.[10] [However, some Poskim[11] rule that a person is not liable for the penalty of excision until he reaches the age of 20 years old]

Transgress Kareis every day that does not do Mila:[12] An adult male Jew who was not circumcised as a child transgresses the penalty of excision every single day that he remains uncircumcised from the day that he reaches adulthood.

D. Father versus hired Mohel:

The positive command is specifically on the father to personally circumcise his son.[13] Nonetheless, in the event that he does not know how to do the circumcision, then he is to appoint another individual to do so on his behalf.[14]

Appointing a Mohel if the father knows how to circumcise:[15] Some Poskim[16] rule that if he knows how to do a circumcision and is able to do so, then he must personally circumcise his son and is not allowed to delegate the Mitzvah to another Mohel. However, other Poskim[17] rule that he may choose to delegate the mitzvah to another Mohel even in such a case that he is able to do the circumcision himself.

E. If the child was born circumcised-Hatafas Dam Bris:[18]

If the child was born circumcised, without a foreskin, then one is to perform Hatafas Dam Bris, through puncturing the limb in a way that it releases some blood.

Examination and observation: This Hatafas Dam must be done very carefully, and is only to be done after properly examining with one’s hands and eyesight and after observation of several days to make sure that he does not have a foreskin has become stuck to his limb. This examination must take place even if the observation will extend past the eighth day, in order so he not be brought to danger.

Using metal: The examination may not be done using metal.[19] However, the actual removal of the blood may be done using metal and it is not necessary for one to use one’s nails to do so.[20]

Blessing:[21] A blessing is not recited prior to performing the Hatafas Dam, unless one can see a foreskin that is attached to the limb, even if he does not know for certain that it is the foreskin but it appears to be the case.

Shabbos:[22] This performance of Hatafas Dam may not be done on Shabbos unless one knows for certain that the limb contains a foreskin that is attached to it. However, if it only appears to be so but one does not know for certain that this is the case, then it may not be performed on Shabbos even though a blessing is to be said over the Hatafas Dam.

F. If the child passed away r”l before circumcision:[23]

A Nefel [i.e. still born, or baby who died within thirty days], or any child who died prior to circumcision, is to be circumcised [by a Jew[24]] prior to the burial.[25] A blessing is not recited over the circumcision. He is also to be named at that time.[26] [Some are accustomed to performing the circumcision during the Taharah process, and not by the burial.[27] He is circumcised with any sharp material, such as a rock, glass, or knife.[28] The circumcision may be done even at night.[29] Peria is not performed.[30] If the child was buried without a circumcision, it is permitted for the child to be unearthed and circumcised.[31]]

An adult:[32] A Jewish male who was not circumcised during his lifetime, due to whatever reason, is to be circumcised prior to the burial. The foreskin is to be buried on its own.

G. Circumcising a Gentile:[33]

It is forbidden for one to circumcise a gentile unless it is done in the process of conversion.[34] This applies even during the weekday and certainly applies on Shabbos, in which case doing so is a Biblical prohibition.

For healing: It is forbidden for one to circumcise an idol worshiper for the sake of healing him from an illness or injury in the area. However, some Poskim[35] rule that it is permitted to do so for the sake of receiving compensation. However, from other Poskim[36] it is evident that it is forbidden to be done even for compensation.

For payment: Some Poskim[37] rule that it is permitted to circumcise a Gentile for the sake of receiving compensation. However, from other Poskim[38] it is evident that it is forbidden to be done even for compensation.

Bnei Yishmael and Bnei Keturah:[39] Some Poskim[40] rule that although the descendants of Yishamel are not obligated in the command of circumcision, nonetheless, the descendants of Ketura are obligated in circumcision being that they are descendants of Abraham who were born after he was commanded to circumcise himself and his offspring, and this command applies eternally for all generations towards his descendants who were born from that time and onwards. Accordingly, they rule that since historically the descendants of Yishmael became intermingled with the descendants of Ketura, that therefore it is an obligation to circumcise all descendants of Yishmael, as perhaps they are in truth a descendent of Ketura. According to this opinion, it is not only allowed but even a mitzvah to circumcise a Gentile who comes from the lands of Yishmael. Accordingly, a Jew may perform circumcisions on Muslim boys when they reach 13 years of age.[41] However, other Poskim[42] rule that in truth the descendants of neither Yishmael or Ketura were ever obligated to be circumcised, and hence it is forbidden for a Jew to circumcise a Muslim due to the above prohibition against circumcising a Gentile. Practically, the main opinion follows this latter approach.[43]

The son of a Jewish father and Gentile mother:[44] The son of a Jewish father Gentile mother is not Jewish, and hence it is forbidden to circumcise the son outside of the process of conversion.

H. Bris of a Mamzeir:[45]

A Mamzer child, which is defined as a child who was born from an Erva defined relation [i.e. of adultery or incest], is considered like a regular Jew and is hence to be circumcised as usual.

The blessings and ceremony: All of the usual blessings are to be recited upon doing the circumcision, as is usually done, until the words Koreis Habris [i.e. Al Hamila, Lehachniso Beveriso Shel Avraham Avinu, Hagafen, Asher Kidesh Yedid Mibeten]. However, the prayer of Kayeim Es Hayeled Hazeh which is normally recited after the blessing of Koreis Habris, is not to be recited as one is not to supplicate on behalf of such a child.[46] [Likewise, those in attendance of the circumcision are not to recite the blessing of Kisheim Shenichnas.[47]]

Publicizing that the child is a Mamzer:[48] One is to publicize at the time of the circumcision that the child is a Mamzer.

Naming the child: Some Poskim[49] write that a Mamzer is to be named the name “Kidur” which is a play on the verse which describes a flipped generation.

Where to perform the circumcision: Some Poskim[50] write that the circumcision of a Mamzer should not take place in the regular area where circumcisions take place, such as rather than circumcising the child inside of the Shul he should rather be circumcised by the entrance of the Shul.

_____________________________________________________________

[1] Michaber Y.D. 260:1; Kiddushin 29a; Shevach Habris 7:1

[2] Michaber and Rama Y.D. 260:1; Nedarim 32; Levush 260a

The reason: Some Poskim rule that this is with exception to the Mitzvah of Tzitzis which is even greater than the Mitzvah of circumcision. [Poskim brought and negated in Yad Avraham 260]

[3] The reason: As we find the penalty of excision given for a man who does not circumcise himself once he has reached adulthood. [Shach 260:1] Likewise, there were 13 covenants that were made over this command, as the word covenant [i.e. Bris] is written 13 times regarding this mitzvah. [Beis Yosef 260] Likewise, the circumcision is the only mitzvah that is engraved within our very body on a constant basis. [Levush ibid] Likewise, we find that it pushes off the prohibition of Shabbos. [Yad Avraham 260]

[4] Taz 263:3

[5] Michaber Y.D. 261:1

[6] Michaber Y.D. 261:1;

[7] Rama Y.D. 261:1; Tur 261

[8] Rama Y.D. 261:1; Tur 261 in name of Rambam

[9] Michaber and Rama Y.D. 261:1

[10] Michaber ibid

[11] Yad Avraham 261 in name of Rambam Pirush Hamishnayos Sanhedrin 7:4; Rav Poalim 3 O.C. 37;

[12] Rama ibid; Tur ibid

[13] Michaber Y.D. 260:1; Kiddushin 29a; Shevach Habris 7:1

[14] Rama 261:1; Chochmas Adam 149:1; Misgeres Hashulchan 163:1

[15] See Bris Avos 1:10; Otzer Habris 3:3; Shevach Habris 7:1 footnote 3

[16] Possible implication of Michaber 260:1 and Rama 261:1; Gilyon Maharsha 260

[17]

[18] Michaber Y.D. 263:4

[19] Michaber Y.D. 263:4 as explained in Taz 263:2

[20] Taz 263:2 in negation of Yeish Mefarshim

[21] Shach 263:4; Tur 263; Bach 263

[22] Shach 263:4; Bach 263

[23] Michaber Y.D. 263:5; 353:6; O.C. 526:10; Admur 526:19-20; Rav David Abudarham; Rosh Moed Katan

[24] Kitzur SHU”A 199:4; Aruch Hashulchan 526:19; Admur 526:19

[25] The reason: This is done to arouse mercy from heaven, and so the child merit resurrection in the future.  [Michaber 263:5]

[26] Michaber 353:6

[27] Ruach Chaim 353; Gesher Hachaim 147 that so is the custom; Nitei Gavriel 135:26

[28] See Michaber 263:5; Admur 526:19; Nitei Gavriel 135:25

[29] Nitei Gavriel; 135:27

[30] Nitei Gavriel 135:24

[31] Bechor Shur Sanhedrin 47; Kneses Yechezkal 44, brought in Gilyon Maharsha 353; See Poskim in Rav Akiva Eiger 353

[32] Shach 263:6; See Michaber Y.D. 353:6; Nitei Gavriel 75:20

[33] Rama Y.D. 263:5; Beis Yosef 263 in name of Rabbeinu Yerucham

[34] The reason: As Abraham our forefathers stands [in the opening of Gehennom] and selects those who are circumcised [in order to tell if they are of Jewish identity and of his descendents] and does not allow them to enter. Accordingly, it is forbidden to circumcise a gentile as through doing so one abolishes the sign that is used by Abraham to protect his descendants from entering purgatory. [Taz 263:3] Alternatively, this is due to an intrinsic prohibition against circumcising a gentile as why should we remove his shame from and engraved within the signature of holiness that is unique for the Jewish people. [Shach 263:8 in name of Levush 263 and that so is implied from Rama ibid and Beis Yosef] Alternatively, the reason is because it is forbidden for one to heal an idol worshiper for free without getting paid, and hence this prohibition only applies if the Gentile has an injury in the area and requires the circumcision for his healing and likewise only applies if he will not be paid for the job. However, intrinsically there is no prohibition against circumcising a gentile during the weekday, and hence one may perform a circumcision on a gentile if he is paid to do so. [Shach ibid in his personal opinion in negation of Shach ibid; Beir Heiytiv 263:4]

[35] Shach 263:8; Beir Heiytiv 263:4

[36] Taz 263:3; Shach 263:8 in name of Levush 263 and that so is implied from Rama ibid and Beis Yosef

[37] Shach 263:8; Beir Heiytiv 263:4; See Yabia Omer 1:16; Y.D. 2:19; E.H. 2:4-3

[38] Taz 263:3; Shach 263:8 in name of Levush 263 and that so is implied from Rama ibid and Beis Yosef

[39] See Shagas Aryeh 49; Pischei Teshuvah 263:14

[40] Rambam Hilchos

[41] Shagas Aryeh ibid

The reason we do not follow the majority population: Although Sancheirev mixed all the nations with each other and it is hence found that there is no country with a majority Bnei Ketura population, nonetheless, we do not argue that we should follow the majority regarding the circumcision obligation of Bnei Ketura, and on the contrary we say that everyone in the country is obligated to be circumcised due to the minority of Bnei Ketura that is mixed within them. The reason for this is because the rule of following the majority only applies to the Jewish people, and does not apply towards Gentiles by which one must be stringent to follow even the minority. [Noda Beyehuda Tinyana E.H. 72 in answer to the question of the Shagas Aryeh ibid against the Rambam; Peri Megadim Reish Shaar Hataruvos Chakira 3; Pischei Teshuvah 263:14] Alternatively, the reason that we do not follow the majority by the Gentile population of a country, is because there always remains a minority of the indigenous people in their land. Thus, there are certainly some descendants of the original Bnei Ketura from Biblical times who currently live in lands of Yishmael and these indigenous Bnei Ketura have the status of Kavua. [See Levush E.H. 4; Likkutei Sichos Parshas Shoftim Vol. 19 Sicha 2]

[42] Rashi ibid

[43] Shagas Aryeh ibid

The reason we do not follow the majority population: As aside for the fact that the main opinion follows that of Rashi that Bnei Ketura are not obligated in circumcision, furthermore, even according the opinion of the Rambam, ever since Sancheirev mixed all the nations with each other there no longer exists any country with a majority Bnei Ketura population, and since the Torah holds that one is to follow the majority, therefore there is no longer any circumcision obligation on any Gentile. [Shagas Aryeh ibid, brought in Pischei Teshuvah ibid]

[44] Beis Yitzchak E.H. 29; Seridei Eish 1:46; 2:60-61; Chelkas Yaakov Y.D. 149; Koveitz Hamayan 37

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that it is permitted to circumcise the child of a Jewish father and Gentile mother without blessings, even if it is not done for the sake of conversion. According to this opinion, there is no prohibition to circumcise a gentile in exchange for payment. [Yabia Omer 1:16; Y.D. 2:19; E.H. 2:4-3]

[45] Michaber 263:4

[46] The reason: As the Jewish people who are holy do not desire for the Mamzer population to become established. [Shach 263:9]

[47] Shach 263:9 in name of Maharil

[48] Rama 263:4

[49] Taz 263:8 in name of Maharil

[50] Taz 263:8 and Shach 263:11 in name of Maharil

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