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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Mitzvah #2 – Get Circumcised

Posted by rabbiart on November 6, 2008

A study of the traditional 613 mitzvot (commandments/obligations) according to their order of appearance in the Torah.

Mitzvah #2: Get Circumsized

Although we hear about the seven Noahide commandments that are derived from Parshat Noah, these are not considered part of the traditional 613 mitzvot. Interested readers can see the Talmud’s list of the Noahide commandments in English online here. So we move ahead in the Tanach to the one commandment that comes from Parshat Lech – L’Cha.

The commandment to be circumcised is based on the verse Breshit 17:10. “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcized.” The commandment is given in the middle of the story where Avram and Sarai have their names changed, respectively, to Avraham and Sarah. In verse 12 HaShem tells Avraham that circumcision should take place on the eighth day, and that any male who does not get circumcized has broken the covenant, and is “cut off” from his people. The commandment is repeated in Vayikra(aka Leviticus) 12:3.

Some commandments are only in force in certain times and places. The commandment of circumcision remains in force for Jews at all times and all places. Traditionally, the obligation is considered to be an imperative for the father, or for a beth din where there is no father. In our day we might consider the obligation to be equally obligatory on all the parents of a son, whether father/mother, father/father, or mother/mother, because the heart of the matter is that Jewish males should be circumcised. The penalty for failure to observe this commandment is the punishment of kareth (being cut off from the people of Israel). There is only one other positive commandment in the entire Torah where failure to fulfill it carries this severe penalty. That is the failure to perform the ritual slaughter of the Pesach sacrifice. This mitzvah cannot be performed (as originally commanded) in our day because the Jerusalem temple no longer stands.

There are two specific brachot associated with this commandment. One is said by the mohel, and the other is said by the father. The respective texts are as follows: The mohel says (standard English translation) You are blessed, adonai elohenu, king of the world who hallowed us with His commandments and commanded us about circumcision. The parent says You are blessed, adonai elohenu, king of the world, who hallowed us with His commandments and commanded us to bring him into the covenant of Avraham our father. The community present responds to the second blessing with a proclamation – As he merited to enter the covenant, so may G-d grant him to attain Torah learning, the wedding canopy, and the performance of good deeds.

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