This article cites varying opinions regarding the use a mohelet - woman circumciser. There are opinions allowing it, though.


There is a controversy in tractate Avodah Zarah 27a regarding this very issue between Daru bar Papa who cites in the name of Rav and Rabbi Yochanan. Here is the substance of the argument. Daru b. Papa held that only someone who is obligated to observe the precept of circumcision can act as Mohel for others, whereas R. Yochanan felt that a woman can act as a Mohelet as indicated in the story of Tziporah (see Exodus 4:24‑26 for details). You could say she was a Moyhel of a goy’ol (pardon the pun!)...

In practical terms, R. Yosef Caro, the Halacha follows R. Yochanan and a woman may act as Mohelet (Yoreh Deah 264:1) but Maimonides adds one stipulation: this only applies in the event that a male Mohel is not available (MT, Hilchot Milah 2:1). However, Rema cites authorities who differ on this matter

The article author cites a theory which, to me, seems speculative. Is there any reason emanating from Responsa or some Rabbinical decision or custom that discourages or prevents the use of mohalot? It seems that their use is rare in Orthodox circumcision but somewhat common in Reform circumcisions.

  • What is the speculation? May 12, 2015 at 18:48
  • @joshwaxman, it goes on to make some amateurish Freudian analysis. I approve of DanF's editorial decision to leave it out.
    – Yishai
    May 12, 2015 at 18:51
  • @Yishai Why thank you ;-) It wasn't as much the content, itself. I left it out mainly b/c I don't think it's that relevant to my question. It's a "sidebar". At any rate, I don't agree with his analysis that this is a reason. "Amateurish" is a great term, in this situation!
    – DanF
    May 12, 2015 at 18:55
  • 1
    Perhaps it's because of Rambam's stipulation mentioned above. How often is there a female mohelet available but not a male mohel? At least for Ashkenazim, we might also be concerned for the Rema's citations as well.
    – Daniel
    May 12, 2015 at 19:10
  • Out of fear of probably wanting to employ their skills so as to convert the baby to their own ranks.
    – user18041
    Apr 25, 2019 at 3:23

2 Answers 2


You've already cited the relevant source, but maybe it's worth seeing the Shulchan Arukh (YD 264:1) inside:

הכל כשרים למול אפי' עבד אשה וקטן וערל ישראל שמתו אחיו מחמת מילה ואם יש ישראל גדול שיודע למול הוא קודם לכלם (וי"א דאשה לא תמול וכן נוהגין להדר אחר איש).‏
All can circumcise, even a slave or a woman or a child or an uncircumcised Jew. And if there is a adult Jew that knows how to circumcise, he is preferred to all. (And some say a women should not circumcise, and thus is the custom to seek out a man.) (my translation based on Arukh haShulchan ad loc)

Note that "adult Jew" in the Hebrew is grammatically male, and purposefully so. (This is how the Shakh, Levush, Beer Heitev, and Arukh haShulchan, and it seems from the Beit Yosef there that he is trying to rule like the Rambam (Milah 2:1) where this point could not be clearer. I can't really imagine anyone arguing on this.)

We see the Shulchan Arukh and Rama both prefer that the circumsiser be male, and thus the common practice. It just doesn't happen very often at all that a baby on day 8 has a woman who knows how to circumcise available but no such man, and why would a woman spend time studying the process for that off chance?

  • 2
    Well, if she's a doctor who performs medical circumcisions anyway, she might spend time studying the process. +1.
    – Fred
    May 13, 2015 at 19:37
  • I wonder if there were any cases at the beginning of covid where the mom was a doctor, the dad wasn't, and nobody else could come in the house. If she knew the medicine already she could spend the 8 days learning the halacha.
    – Heshy
    Feb 2 at 16:45

TL:DR Because most (traditional) authorities hold that if there is a man who is able to do the circumcision, it is preferable that it be performed by a man.

It's a machlokes in Avodah Zarah 27a whether a woman can be a mohel. Daru b. Papa says in the name of Rav, that only someone who is obligated to observe the precept of circumcision can act as Mohel for others. R. Yochanan holds that a woman can act as a Mohelet.

Most authorities including Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 264:1 & 265:11) hold that a woman may be a mohel, however, if there is a male who is able to do it, it is preferable that it be done by a male. This is probably one reason

For more, see:

YU Lecure by R' Dani Rapp on "Can a Woman Be a Mohel"

pdf of Marei Mekomos (sources) for lecture

Details history, and lists the positions of many authorities

(In the last source, the author does seem quite biased and reform-centric, particularly in the last 2 sections (V & VI). He seems to want to ignore the fact that the majority of authorities permit women to serve as mohalot b'di'avad, despite the fact that he himself admits it in section IV.)

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