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The Talmud often says that someone with an orloh (foreskin) is disgusting (e.g. Yevamot 71a). The Steinsaltz Edition explains:

ומעירים: ואיצטריך למכתב [והוצרך לכתוב] "ערל", ואיצטריך למכתב [והוצרך לכתוב] "כל בן נכר". דאי כתב רחמנא [שאילו כתבה התורה] "ערל" בלבד, הייתי אומר משום דמאיס [שהוא מאוס] בזה שיש לו ערלה, ולכן הוא דחוי. אבל בן נכר, דלא מאיס [שאינו מאוס] בגופו — אימא [אמור] שלא. ולהיפך: ואי כתב רחמנא [ואילו כתבה התורה] רק "כל בן נכר" הייתי אומר: משום שאין לבו לשמים, ולכן אסור לו לאכול את הפסח, אבל ערל ישראל שלבו לשמים ורק מחמת אונס אינו יכול למול, אימא [אמור] שלא, על כן צריכא [צריך] שייכתבו שני הדברים

Given that this is so, why wait eight days to remove the orloh? It would seem to me, that if the infant is healthy enough to have the circumcision performed earlier, eliminating this source of disgust (מאוס) should have been preferable. That the parents are now happy because the mother is no longer טמאה (ritually impure), and that the father has to be happy to do a mitsva is not enough of a reason for the child to have to suffer for eight days with something repulsive.

I should add: The reason that we don't wait for the child to become bar-mitsva age is because we don't want him to remain repulsive for so long, so why is waiting eight days OK?

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  • The Maharal famously speaks about the koach of the numbers and says 6 is representative of the physical sphere (e.g. 6 days of active creation) 7 is symbolic of the spiritual (shabbos etc.) and 8 therefore is emblematic of that which is one plane higher, above the spiritual, so we make a point of doing the bris (at least from a symbolic perspective) by setting the standard very early on for the child by circumcising him at a point which aspirationally transcends the ruchniyos.
    – Dov
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 8:46
  • Where in the Gemara does it says that someone with orloh is disugsting? Please add in sources if you state something that is from a source.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 8:46
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    "for the child to have to suffer for eight days" the child isn't suffering
    – robev
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 10:41
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    Maybe it's not disgusting until the mitzvah takes effect
    – Heshy
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 11:58
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    Just a thought: Who says it is מאוס before the 8th day? An apple is crisp and delicious while it is ripely fresh, but when it spoils and it is past its expiration it is repugnant. The ערלה on an infant before the eighth day is in its proper place, it isn't מאוס, it doesn't represent a violation of God's will (on the contrary!). After the eighth day however when it is no longer proper to be present, it is מאוס. Its presence after the eighth day on the baby would represent a rejection of ברית אברהם and would thus be repulsive. Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 12:11

2 Answers 2

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In answer to the question to why Abraham did not circumcise himself prior to being commanded to do so by God, the Brisker Rov (R. Isaac Ze'ev Soloveitchik) is reported as suggesting that a shem orlah (designation as an orlah) does not emerge until there is a commandment to circumcise. Accordingly prior to being commanded there is no shem orlah (designation as an orlah) and the orlah would not be deemed repugnant (מאוס) before such time.

R. Elyaqim Dvorkes (Aliba de-Hilkhetha, vol. 27. P. 46):

מובא בשם הגרי"ז מבריסק זצ"ל שחידש דכל זמן שאין שם של ערלה, לא שייך דין מילה שהוא הסרת הערלה, רק ע"י הציווי למול את הערלה קיבלה הערלה שַם ערלה, זה אמור כלפי אברהם אבינו שלא היה יכול למול עצמו קודם שנצטוה, אולם לאחר שנצטוה וכבר יש כאן שַם ערלה אז יש חיוב מילה

It is brought down in the name of the Gri”z from Brisk of blessed memory that he novelly suggested that any time there isn’t a shem orlah (designation as an orlah), then a din milah (judgement dictating circumcision) which is the removal of the orlah is irrelevant. It is only by means of the instruction to circumcise the orlah that the orlah gets its designation as an orlah (shem orlah). And it is that which is said as regards to Abraham our Patriarch, in explanation to why he did not circumcise himself prior to being commanded. For it is only after and consequent to him being commanded [to circumcise] that the designation as an orlah arose and thus the obligation to circumcise.

R. Eliezer Freifeld also quotes the Brisker Rov to such effect (Imre Eliezer, p. 59):

כל מה שהערלה הוא מאוס הוא רק מחמת הציווי "והיה תמים" אבל קודם לא היה כאן ערלה כלל ולא שייך בזה מצות מילה

Everything about an orlah which is repulsive is only due to the commandment [to circumcise] and “be thou wholehearted” (Gen. 17:1), however prior to then there wasn’t an orlah at all and the commandment to circumcise was inapplicable.

Seemingly the same would apply to an infant, about whom it is commanded to circumcise on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12, Lev. 12:3). Prior to the eighth day there is no commandment that the orlah be removed and thus there is no shem orlah (designation as an orlah) and it is therefore not repugnant. It is only once there is a din milah that a shem orlah emerges along with its attendant baggage of being repugnant.

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  • The meforshim say that the orloh comes from the serpent who impregnated eve. It wouldnt be any different before or after eight days.
    – interested
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 21:36
  • @interested So you disagree with the Brisker Rov?! Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 13:14
  • @interested Hazal say (Shabboth 146a): בשעה שבא נחש על חוה הטיל בה זוהמא ישראל שעמדו על הר סיני פסקה זוהמתן In our post-Sinaitic context that is irrelevant. Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 14:14
  • "the meforshim". If your question is based on these unamed meforshim then you should say so in the question itself. Otherwise this is a valid answer.
    – robev
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 19:42
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The Torah teaches us (Vayikra 22:27) that from the 8th day, a bullock, sheep or goat is accepted as a offering for G-d:

When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under its dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire to the Lord.

The Midrash (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, chapter 29) connects this idea to the fact that Isaac was circumcised on the 8th day, thus, says the Midrash:

Thou mayest learn that everyone who brings his son for circumcision is as though (he were) a high priest bringing his meal offering and his drink offering upon the top of the altar.

Similary, on Bereishsis 17:13, the Rabbeinu Bahya explains:

A Midrashic approach to our verse views the commandment as similar to the offering of a sacrifice. Just as when a person offers a sacrifice on the altar and the blood of the offering achieves atonement for him, so the blood lost by the person being circumcised acts as atonement for him. This is why this rite has to be performed on the eighth day of the baby’s life. Just as an animal sacrifice is not admissible as such until the eighth day of the animal’s life (compare Leviticus 22, 27: ומיום השמיני והלאה ירצה, “and from the eighth day on it will be welcome as a sacrifice for G-d. In connection with the sacrificial offering the Torah writes (Exodus 29,33) ואכלו אותם אשר כפר בהם, “They- who received atonement through them (the offerings)- shall eat them;” so we make a festive meal to celebrate the induction of the circumcised baby into the Jewish community. In fact, the effect of the circumcision is far greater than that of an animal sacrifice. An animal sacrifice represents only a financial sacrifice by the donor whereas the rite of circumcision involves his body. The organ which is cut is one that radiates feelings to all parts of the body of the person concerned. This is why it is called ראש הגויה, “head of the whole body” in Negaim 6,7. This is why this organ was chosen to serve as a demonstration of self-sacrifice and why someone who undergoes circumcision is considered in the eyes of G-d as if he had sacrificed his entire body on G-d’s behalf. This is also why in Psalms 50,5 the psalmist Assaph describes circumcision as “who made a covenant with Me over sacrifice.” G-d Himself describes His pious as having made a covenant with Him by means of circumcising themselves.

So, according to these sources, the reason why we wait 8 days, is because it is considered as if you bring a offering, as the Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer explains.

See also the explanation given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos, volume 3, p. 834).

You ask, "This doesnt answer why a child has to be in such a disgusting state for seven days"- to this, I would like to add in the commentary of the Rambam in his Moreh Nevuchim (3:49) that the reason we wait 8 days, is because it is not safe for the baby to give his bris milah before the 8th day:

The circumcision must take place on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3), because all living beings are after birth, within the first seven days, very weak and exceedingly tender, as if they were still in the womb of their mother; not until the eighth day can they be counted among those that enjoy the light of the world. That this is also the case with beasts may be inferred from the words of Scripture: "Seven days shall it be under the dam" (Lev. 22:27), as if it had no vitality before the end of that period. In the same manner man is circumcised after the completion of seven days. The period has been fixed, and has not been left to everybody's judgment.

So, "This doesnt answer why a child has to be in such a disgusting state for seven days"- in this case it seems that the concept of pikuach nefesh is obviously more important. It is not safe to perform the Bris before the eighth day according to the Rambam.

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  • Animals are not in a disgusting state till then. This doesnt answer why a child has to be in such a disgusting state for seven days. A servant child does not wait eight days.
    – interested
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 9:08
  • I already wrote that babies of servants are given a bris the day they are born. How is it safe for them.
    – interested
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 21:27
  • Who are you considering to be a servant? This is the opinion of the Rambam in his Guide for the Perplexed. However, I would like to point out that the number 8 has a deeper meaning. See what the Lubavitcher Rebbe is writing in the source I mentioned. How do you know that the child is suffering to a great extent if it has not his bris until the 8th day?
    – Shmuel
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 21:33

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