According to Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 29, Shem Ben Noach performed Avraham’s Bris. My question concerns the other opinion in Beresheit Rabba 49b that Avraham performed it himself.

According to this opinion, how was Avraham’s Brit valid? I don’t have a source, but I recall a non-Jew cannot become a ger by giving himself a Brit milah.

I do know Shulchan Aruch Yorah Deah 264:1 stipulates:

אבל עובד כוכבים אפי' הוא מהול לא ימול כלל

Although the above quote concerns if one were already circumcised, one can possibly infer their circumcisions are not valid.

I understand one might cite the Gemara in Avodah Zara (10b I think) that Ketiah Bar Shalom’s self-performed Bris is a proof that a a non-Jew should be able to do it. However, my inquiry concerns Avraham’s act with respect to Shulchan Aruch. It goes without saying this proceeds from the assumption that Avraham acted in accordance with Torah law prior to its endowment to Bnei Yisrael.

  • I realized that my question can also address the former opinion, as Shem wasn’t a Jew either. Oct 30, 2020 at 0:55
  • If it required a Jew, who at the time could have qualified? What your asking for is impossible, no?
    – Double AA
    Oct 30, 2020 at 1:07
  • @DoubleAA True, I was guessing someone would cite an exception or another point of information I had not yet considered to answer the question. Oct 30, 2020 at 1:13
  • 1
    It is worth noting the other Midrashim which list alternative methods in which he was circumcised. In Batei Midrashos 45 - hebrewbooks.org/… Rabban Gamliel says it was the malach Rafael that performed the milah...
    – Dov
    Oct 30, 2020 at 8:29
  • 1
    And in Midrash Tanchuma, Lech Lecha 17 - sefaria.org/… it says a scorpion bit him and he was resultantly circumcised.
    – Dov
    Oct 30, 2020 at 8:31

3 Answers 3


It would be helpful to quote the entire text of the Shulchan Aruch there:

אבל עובד כוכבים אפי' הוא מהול לא ימול כלל ואם מל אין צריך לחזור ולמול פעם שנית:

So, according to the plain reading of Shulchan Aruch, although lichatchila the nonjew, should not do mila, bidieved it counts.

The Ramma is more problematic:

הגה: וי"א דחייבים לחזור ולהטיף ממנו דם ברית (טור בשם סמ"ג) וכן עיקר

This sounds like more of a problem if we equate needing hatafas dam bris to being a non mahul. And the truth is Shach #3 says Beis Yosef really holds like this as seen in his commentary in the Tur.

But if you look in the Beis Yosef, you'll see he holds the need for hatafas dam bris is not the same as saying he does not actually have a bris mila. Beis Yosef says this person who had mila done from a nonjew is no better than a child who was born without an arla, whom we rule needs hatafas dam bris.

So then Avraham could have given himself a bris mila, and that is a real bris mila. If he then wanted to take into consideration the opinion that he needs to do hatafas dam bris again, he would then be able to do hatafas dam bris, as he would already be a baal bris.

This answer is given in accordance with their presumption of the OP that Avraham's mila made him a Jew and these laws would apply. Obviously if that is not the case, there is no question to begin with.

  • A non jew born mahul needs HTB leikuva for gerut. If the beit yosef holds this person who had mila done from a nonjew is no better than a child who was born without an arla, then the person would remain fully non jewish until HTB from a jew. I don't understand your logic at all
    – Double AA
    Oct 30, 2020 at 17:22
  • The BY is comparing him to a Jew who was nolad mahul who would still need hatafas dam bris, not to a nonjew who was born mahul. The BY here is dealing with Rambam's opinion. The idea you are quoting is the Rosh. If you can source from the Rambam that a nolad mahul goy needs hatafas dam bris li'ikuva, that would at least be a starting point for this discussion. It still wouldn't prove what BY meant.
    – user6591
    Oct 30, 2020 at 17:51

I found a potential answer from "Insights to the daf" on Avodah Zara 10b 1

The PORAS YOSEF explains that Keti'a's Bris Milah indeed could have been effective. He suggests that the law that a Nochri's act of Milah is ineffective is true only when the Nochri is not trying to convert. If he is trying to convert, then his act of Milah is effective. This is based on the concept of "Gito v'Yado Ba'im k'Echad" -- "his Get and his hand come simultaneously." The Gemara in Kidushin (23a) teaches that when a master gives his slave a Get Shichrur, the slave acquires the document only through the mechanism of "Gito v'Yado Ba'im k'Echad." Since a slave is unable to acquire anything (even his Get Shichrur) while he is a slave, the only way he can become free by receiving a Get Shichrur is if "the Get Shichrur and his freedom (literally 'hand') come simultaneously." Similarly, when a Nochri performs Milah to himself with intention to become Jewish, his "Milah and conversion come simultaneously."


Here's the reid. Some say according to minchas chinuch that goy can give himself mila if did tevila first since happens at same time. Here also mila happens at same time, so considered mald.

Others say that's why hashem helped Avraham do mila. According to Midrash.

Shiras David and according to maharil Diskin once a person has tzivui of mila he's considered mal. That's reason why gemara a.z 27a says yisraelim areilim are called mahul. Since Avraham had the mitzva therefore he was considered mald.

All these answers arent pashut, including that shem did it. See radal there PDE 29. Rav Chaim Kanievsky learns Shem was able to do the mila because he was born mal. Eventhough gemara says a goy with mila is an arel, that drasha was only said by Matan Torah.

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