robert karasov, m.d.
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History and Traditions

Brit Milah is a 3500 year old Jewish  ritual that was first performed by our ancestor Abraham. It means the “covenant of circumcision” and is often referred to by its Yiddush name as a bris. It is one of the most central rituals in Judaism. In the book of Genesis, God commanded Abraham to circumcise his son Isaac on the 8th day. We learn from this that the obligation to perform a bris falls to the father (according to Orthodox Judaism) or to the parents  (according to Conservative and Reform Judaism). The Mohel acts as an agent of the parents. A Mohel is an observant Jew (each movement defines this differently) who is trained in the laws of Brit Milah and skilled in the performance of circumcision.

The 8th day is sacred and the bris is only postponed for the health of the baby (or if no Mohel is available).  There are many traditions for why the 8th day was chosen; however, ultimately it is because that is what is written in the Torah. An 8th day bris can be performed any day of the year, even on the Sabbath or Yom Kippur. However, if a bris has been postponed for health reasons, it cannot be performed on the Sabbath or holidays. In addition, if the 8th day falls on the Sabbath or a Holiday, as a shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) Mohel, I still cannot drive to the bris. Therefore, traditionally it is performed at a Synagogue within walking distance of the Mohel.  There are several Synagogues in St. Louis Park within walking distance of my house.

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