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General Overview

According to our sages, Brit Milah is the greatest of all mitzvot in the Torah. It is so important that Jews throughout the ages have braved oppressive regimes and harsh conditions to give their children a proper circumcision. What is it about this act that is so essential to Judaism?

“This is My Brit (covenant) that you shall observe between Me and you and your children after you, to circumcise your every male. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall become the sign of a Brit between Me and you.” (Genesis 17:10-11)

These are the words G-d said to our forefather Abraham, the first Jew. Today, Brit has become synonymous with circumcision, but the word actually means covenant. Brit Milah is the only commandment in the Torah referred to as a covenant, which indicates how powerful and fundamental it is to Judaism.

Because Brit Milah is such a fundamental Mitzvah, the Torah commands that it be done on the eighth day of a child’s life, which is considered the earliest possible time. According to Kabbalah, there is a deeper significance to the eighth day. Seven refers to the natural cycle of life, since there are seven days in a week, while eight is symbolic of moving beyond nature, beyond the things we understand with our finite minds. Therefore, the Brit takes place on the eighth day to signify that the profound connection between G-d and the Jewish people transcends reason and intellect.