A Bris Too Late

Rabbi Adam Mintz of the Lincoln Square Synagogue recently made a questionable statement to the New York Times:

    Rabbi Adam Mintz, who describes his congregation of 900 families at the Lincoln Square Synagogue on the Upper West Side as “modern Orthodox” and is president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said he doesn’t think the world will end if a bris is postponed for the sake of the party. “Any mohel will tell you Sunday is the most popular day, and even among the Orthodox, people are choosing the date that’s most popular,” he said. “We have an in-house caterer, so 90 percent have it at the synagogue and 10 percent have it at home.”

This seems to imply that bris may be postponed until Sunday out of convenience. Dr. Manhattan correctly notes that a bris may only be postponed for health reasons. However, Protocols posts an e-mail sent by R. Mintz clarifying his position:

    I proceeded to explain to her [interviewer Alex Witchell] when we allow for the delay of brises and the fact that the custom has developed, at least in certain circles in America, to be more flexible when rescheduling a delayed bris. Therefore, Sunday is often the day in which these brises take place.

This is an interesting statement by Rabbi Mintz. Most Orthodox Jews would not think of postponing a bris purely for the sake of the part. However, sometimes the baby is sick, and the bris cannot be performed on the eighth day. In such cases, many people are under the impression that once you’re postponing the bris for health reasons, you can delay the bris until Sunday or a more convenient day.
The seemingly flippant presentation, “he doesn’t think the world will end if a bris is postponed for the sake of the party,” is accurate to some extent. There is a special commandment to have the bris on the eighth day. Once that day passes, the baby must still be circumcised as soon as possible – either by the father, or by the court. However, since there is no “official” time limit, people will not distinguish between a bris performed on the tenth day or a bris performed on any given Sunday.
However, this understandable assumption contradicts Jewish law. If a bris has to be delayed for health reasons, it must be preformed as soon as soon as possible. (See Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 262 :2) The only exception to this rule is that if the earliest time after the eighth day is a Shabbat, the bris is postponed until Sunday.(Rambam Hilkhot Milah 1:9) Time does matter, and a bris should not be delayed any more than it has to be.
Nibling Eli was born with jaundice, and his bris was delayed. Despite the problems coordinating out of state family members, the bris was held in their apartment on the earliest day. And yes, some family members were not able to be there.
Actually, this let to one of the most amusing conversations I had in R. Tendler’s shiur:

    Me: We don’t know when the bris will be yet. It depends on the Bilirubin numbers
    R. Tendler: What are the Bilirubin numbers?
    Me (innocently): Oh, those are the numbers that tell you how much jaundice the kid has.
    It is at this time that I’d like to point out that R. Tendler has a PhD in biology, teaches bio in the college, and lectures extensively on medical ethics.
    R. Tendler: I know what the Billirubin numbers are, I want to know what the Billirubin numbers are.

At any rate, the bris was performed as soon as we had the doctor’s ok, and everyone seems to be doing fine 6 years later.

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