The birth of your son is just around the corner, and you want to welcome your newborn son’s arrival into this world the proper way by celebrating his Bris Milah, or circumcision procedure. And that is fantastic! As discussed in one of our previous blogs, ritual circumcisions are usually performed on the eighth day after the baby’s birth, the number eight symbolizing the metaphysical or supernatural connection between God and the Jewish people. But what happens when the eighth day falls on a holiday or, more importantly, on Shabbat? Can you do a Bris on Shabbat? Is there any contradiction between the physical and ceremonial activities associated with Bris Milah and the rest, the cessation of work defining this holiest of days?

Rabbi Avraham Rappaport, a second-generation expert Mohel currently active in the MD/DC/VA area and beyond, is here to answer the can you do a Bris on Shabbat question. Let’s tune into his explanations, corroborated with sacred Jewish texts, and learn if a Shabbat Bris Milah is in any way different from a regular circumcision procedure!

What is the Perfect Time of Day for a Bris Milah?

Jewish texts are particular about the precise moment when a Mohel should perform a Bris Milah. The Torah/Bible in Genesis and Leviticus discusses the mitzvah or obligation to perform a Bris on the 8th day. However, commentators such as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon in the twelfth century, in his commentary Mishneh Torah, a code of Rabbinic Jewish religious law, places the most appropriate time for a Bris Milah on the eighth day after the baby’s birth, during the day and explains:

“Circumcisions are only performed during the daytime after sunrise, whether the operation takes place on the eighth day, the regular time, or subsequently, from the ninth day and further on, as it is said ‘on the eighth day’ (Gen. 17:12), i.e., by day, and not at night. If the circumcision takes place after daybreak, it is correct. The whole of the day is proper for circumcision.” (Mishneh Torah, Circumcision 1)

The same passage discusses the right time during the day when circumcisions should be performed. Considering that the most zealous of believers look to their religious obligations as soon as sunrise, Mishneh Torah recommends that circumcisions be performed as early in the day as possible.

Can You Do a Bris on Shabbat?

The answer to the can you do a Bris on Shabbat question will take any worry off parents’ shoulders: yes, it is possible to perform a Bris Milah on Shabbat! In fact, ritual circumcision is one of the few mitzvahs that do not clash with Shabbat’s sanctity. However, certain guidelines must be followed for a Mohel to perform a Bris Milah on Shabbat by the books:

  • Only babies delivered naturally are allowed to enter into the circumcision covenant with God on Shabbat. Therefore, babies delivered through Cesarean section will be circumcised on Sunday. This is based on the verbiage in the Torah’s commandment in Leviticus.
  • Mohels and families must prepare everything pertaining to Bris Milah (e.g., tools, meals) prior to Friday at sunset. Only essential tasks pertaining to the circumcision procedure are allowed on Shabbat. 
  • The time of birth on Friday is essential for determining whether a baby should be circumcised on Shabbat or not. For example, if a baby is born after sunset on Friday but before nightfall in Jewish Law (twilight), it’s hard to determine whether he was born on Friday or Saturday. Therefore, the Jewish Law rules to leave such circumcision procedures for Sunday in order to avoid any confusion.
  • If the circumcision was scheduled for a weekday but was delayed due to a range of unexpected circumstances, the procedure will take place during the next available weekday and not on Shabbat or a Holiday. 

Do Bris Milah and Shabbat Clash?

Again, the Mishneh Torah comes to the rescue when talking about the apparent “clash” between different mitzvot:

“When a circumcision takes place at the regular time (on the eighth day), it supersedes the prohibition of work on the Sabbath. But if it is to be performed after the regular time, it neither overrides the obligation of the Sabbath nor of the festivals.” (Mishneh Torah, Circumcision 1)

Modern interpreters have considered the sacred nature itself of Shabbat as a compelling reason why the Bris Milah and Shabbat mitzvot do not contradict each other. Shabbat is a holy day of dedication towards God and the Jewish believer’s metaphysical relationship with Him. But isn’t Bris Milah an identical celebration? After all, a Bris Milah celebrates the enlargement of the Jewish community through the addition of a new member, whose metaphysical connection with God is signified through the circumcision procedure. Therefore, Bris Milah sits on a higher level than the restrictions implied by Shabbat.

To recap, both a Bris Milah ritual circumcision and the Sabbath are covenants between God and his people. The Sabbath covenant is happily “willing” to take a back seat to the Bris covenant so long as nothing aside from the actual Bris procedure would compromise the Sabbath covenant. After all, the Torah/Bible says the Bris should be done “on the 8th day”. In the event that the Sabbath covenant would be compromised, such as, for example, by driving the baby to the Bris, then the Sabbath covenant claims, keep my covenant and do the Bris on Sunday, the 9th day, which would still be Kosher and the more proper day to perform it.

Choose Rabbi Rappaport for a Perfect Circumcision Experience!

Rabbi Rappaport is more than ready to use his expert Mohel training and celebrate your son’s Bris Milah on Shabbat! Unparalleled training and mastery of the circumcision field recommend him as the optimal Mohel choice for Bris Milah ceremonies in the MD/DC/VA area and beyond. Thousands of successful circumcisions and grateful families helped build Rabbi Rappaport’s expert Mohel reputation! So don’t hesitate to contact Rabbi Rappaport and allow him to support your newborn baby in enjoying a perfect experience in the quickest, most painless, and precise way!

“Having Rabbi Rappaport perform our son’s circumcision was a wonderful blessing. Not only did he demonstrate utmost professionalism in his surgical skill, his words and actions showed a genuine care for our son and family. Given our experience with Rabbi Rappaport, there is no doubt in our mind that we made the right decision to avoid having the circumcision performed by a medical doctor. We cannot recommend him highly enough.” – Branden & Gina Schroeder Crownsville, MD.

Let Rabbi Rappaport do the job if you plan to organize a ritual circumcision for yourself or your child. Contact him anytime on his cell at: 443-790-6541. You can also send him an email at rabbi@mdmohel.com or visit his website. He will be happy to support you in making sure you have a perfect experience!