Covenant Throughout The Ages
From the time of our father Avraham, circumcision has been the cornerstone
of Jewish identity. We acknowledge this in our prayer after meals
daily “we are grateful to You for your covenant that you have sealed into
The rabbis of the Talmud indicated to us that the Jewish people accepted
this commandment of circumcision willingly and happily and therefore it
has persisted amongst Israel uninterruptedly for all of these many
generations since the time of Avraham.
Though many claims of physical health benefits have been made over time
for the efficacy of this procedure, the Jewish people have always viewed
it as being the supreme symbol of personal Jewish identity and role.
Over the ages the enemies of the Jewish people have attempted to ban
Jewish circumcision. The great classical Greeks considered it to be a
mutilation of the body and, in that body worshipping culture, it was held
to be repugnant and unacceptable.
Much more recently the “progressive, democratic, peace-loving” Soviet
Union prevented Jewish circumcision. In all cases, from Antiochus to
Gorbachev, there were Jews who risked all to fulfill the commandment of
However, it bears note that the enemies of the Jews saw in Jewish
circumcision a spiritual weapon that would help guarantee the Jews
survival against the prevailing government, mores and culture.
As is often the case, our enemies are more astute in recognizing and
identifying our true strengths than we Jews are ourselves.
The commandment of circumcision is that the procedure is to take place on
the eighth day of the young boy’s life. There are physical circumstances
that can allow for a postponement of the actual circumcision but the
obligation remains a personal responsibility upon the Jew throughout life.
For instance, the Talmud records that a person who is a hemophiliac
obviously should not undergo a possible life-threatening procedure such as
circumcision. However, even though that person has more than a legitimate
excuse for remaining uncircumcised he is still considered to be
uncircumcised according to halacha and is therefore excluded from those
rituals that the Torah explicitly requires that only circumcised Jews may
This is a further indication of the stress and importance that the Torah
places upon this commandment and how vital it is to the Jewish being and
It is therefore most understandable why the performance of this
commandment occasions the necessity for a festive meal and a great
gathering of friends and family.
It is not only the circumcision of that actual child that is being
celebrated as much as it is a celebration of the ceremony itself - an
affirmation of Jewish tradition and identity that is millennia old.
Over the centuries, Jews have paid with their lives for being circumcised
but the ceremony itself is seen as an affirmation of life and holy
Physical health benefits have been ascribed to the procedure and its
result. But, Jews perform this commandment out of belief, joy and
conscience and not out of any other considerations.
Rabbi Berel Wein