In this post, Skylar refers to teshuvos from the Seride Esh and R. AY Kook which rule that a male non-Jew may not convert if he is unable to undergo milah.

Does pikuach nefesh completely push off the mitzvah of milah for a born Jew, e.g. in the case of a hemophiliac?

  • 2
    "completely push off" as opposed to what?
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:40
  • @Yirmeyahu: say, for example, that there is some therapy available that would allow a hemophiliac to recover from a wound. (I think that indeed there are such temporary treatments nowadays - blood-clotting factors - but IANAD.) Would he be obligated halachically to undergo this treatment in order to be able to get a bris, or would we say that he is not obligated in the mitzvah at all because of his condition? (I suspect that the former is correct, but I don't know of any sources.)
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 16:31
  • @Yirmeyahu as opposed to the weight of this mitzvah requiring negotiation with pikuach nefesh, especially with the mitzvah's life scope as Shalom mentions in his answer. In other words, the premise of my question: perhaps, in the face of aggadic evidence of the import of this mitzvah (e.g. afterlife), we might be more lenient than usual WRT pikuach nefesh.
    – yitznewton
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 17:19
  • Is it possible to get an exacty mareh makom for those teshuvas quoted?
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 11:02
  • Ask Skylar at the blog...
    – yitznewton
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


Basically yes. The Gemara talks about if several boys in this family died from circumcision (which was the sign of hereditary hemophilia), then the next boys should not have it.

As always there's some discussion about it -- I recall in yeshiva we split hairs over whether we say there is still an obligation of circumcision but it's overridden due to saving a life, or do we say there is no obligation per se; and I recall a shiur from R' Osher Weiss where he quoted the Avnei Neizer who proposed the novel idea that medical concerns (less than totally-life-threatening) may mean a person shouldn't, say, drink on Purim this year, but the calculus is different if the person will never be able to fulfill the mitzva in their life (e.g. circumcision). The Avnei Neizer shows his Hassidic stripes as he then justifies this (you can take it or leave it as you like): "perhaps you were sent into this reincarnation just to do that one mitzvah, and if you fail, your soul will need another go-round?"

  • 2
    +1. It should probably also be noted, though, that the usual rule that "a mitzvah that couldn't be performed due to duress can't be considered done" (אונס כמאן דעביד לא אמרינן) applies here too. For at least certain mitzvos where being circumcised is a prerequisite (eating the korban pesach, a kohen serving in the Beis Hamikdash, etc.) - this person, even though his being uncircumcised is no fault of his own, is still barred from them.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 20:10

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