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I had heard possibly a Midrash that says that the pain of the brit milah (circumcision) is most severe 3 days after the procedure.

I hunted through some of the commentaries in Mikra'ot Gedolot. First I looked at the beginning of Vayera where some commentaries say that G-d visited Avraham on the 3rd day after his brit. I didn't see anything confirming the fact that the pain is most severe.

The story of Shechem seems a bit more direct in explaining this phenomena, as it says in Breishit 34:35 "It was on the 3rd day (i.e. after they were circumcised) when they were aching." However, many of the commentaries here, too say that the pain is not necessarily more severe on the 3rd day than on the first two.

So, I'm not certain exactly where this thought comes from and if it really is the case. Perhaps, if there is a mohel among our readers, can he confirm or dispute this? If this is true, why does it take 3 days? What happens during the first two that makes things "flare up" more severely on the 3rd?

BTW - if this is a question that should be move to a "medical" SE site, let me know.

  • Maybe there's someone on here who's experienced bris in adulthood (such as a convert or perhaps a BT) who could verify whether this is true or not. As for mine, I was too young to remember. :-D – ezra Jan 17 '18 at 5:08
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    I didn't understand your question, as you admit that you know that the Meforshim say so. If you want to line it up with medical knowledge - you should surely ask doctors. From my personal experience of Milah@18 I felt it went on easing day by day. – Al Berko Jan 17 '18 at 14:51
  • @AlBerko Considering that you had yours as an adult, if you can correlate your personal experience with medical evidence, consider posting that as an answer, instead of kvetching why I ask the question. – DanF Jan 17 '18 at 15:25
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    This is exactly what I don't want to do. Is this a poll, an experiment you want to conduct to verify Meforshim's claims? Are we again in Torah vs Science nightmare? Why would you want to go there? That's what I don't understand about your question. – Al Berko Jan 17 '18 at 22:34
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    @AlBerko I agree. Not to mention your experience might be different than others. And, perhaps the Meforshim were talking concerning something ruchnius, that there is more pain from the milah on the third day. – ezra Jan 18 '18 at 4:22
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This comes from IbnEzra on the pasuk in Vayishlach about the people of Shechem. The Mishna in Shabbos Perek 9 Mishna 3 cites this pasuk.

Vayishlach 34:25

וַיְהִי֩ בַיּ֨וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֜י בִּֽהְיוֹתָ֣ם כֹּֽאֲבִ֗ים וַיִּקְח֣וּ שְׁנֵֽי־בְנֵֽי־יַֽ֠עֲקֹ֠ב שִׁמְע֨וֹן וְלֵוִ֜י אֲחֵ֤י דִינָה֙ אִ֣ישׁ חַרְבּ֔וֹ וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ עַל־הָעִ֖יר בֶּ֑טַח וַיַּֽהַרְג֖וּ כָּל־זָכָֽר:

Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that Jacob's two sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword, and they came upon the city with confidence, and they slew every male.

Ibn Ezra says that on the third day the pain of the circumcision was at it height. The way it appears from what he says, is that the trauma and pain builds up to a maximum by the third day and then the healing process starts in earnest.

ביום השלישי – הוא לעולם קשה, שהוא חצי המרובע.

Similarly, רד"צ הופמן agrees with the IbnEzra that the pain was at its worst on the third day.

ביום השלישי – כי אז הכאב גדול ביותר; השווה מסכת שבת, פרק ט׳ משנה ג׳ ותוספות יו״ט שם.

The mishna says that we learn from this pasuk that

?מנין שמרחיצין את המלה ביום השלישי שחל להיות בשבת

Rav Kahati explains (in the name of the Meiri) that the first two days were also a סכנה and allowed to heat water on שבת, but that Shimon and Levi were considering whether or not to actually kill the people of Shechem, but they realized that if they did not do it on the third day, the people of Shechem would be recovering and be able to fight back.

He also cites תוספות יום טוב and תפארת ישראל

ויש אומרים שדווקא ביום השלישי מתגברים הכאבים והנימול מסוכן הוא אבל ביום השני למילתו אין בו סכנה

My translation

There are those that say that it is specifically the third day that the circumcised person is in danger, however on the second day, there is no danger.

Daas Zekainim and Chizkuni are cited by Art Scroll as stating that it took three days for everyone to have been circumcised and be in pain and weakened from the operation. They then attacked while they were all weak before they were able to recover. This is also said by Ri Bechor Shor

{ביום השלישי בהיותם כאבים} – כי בשלשה ימים נימולו כולם, וביום שהיו כולם נימולים וכואבים באו עליהם. (ר״י בכור שורא בשם ורבי יוסף קרא אמר)

Rashbam said that by the third day, they were all suffering from the pain of the first two days and had not yet started to heal.

בהיותם כאבים – לפי דרך ארץ ופשוטו של מקרא: אז היו כאבים מיום ראשון ושני.

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The gemara in Shabbos in R'Elazar D'mila says that we see from shchem that by adults the 3rd day is the most painful and dangerous, and that it is a machlokes tanaim if this is true by a baby, and that Rava paskened l'kula and then was chayish that he should have pasken the other way (with a huge machlokes rishonim what exactly was on each tzad, and that halacha l'maaisa we pasken l'kula - so yes, l'maskanas hagemara the 3rd day is the most painful.

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I see that I was beaten time-wise by Sabbahillel...

Mefarshim from here.

Onkelos, Ibn Ezra, Radak, Bechor Shor, Hakesav Vehakabbalah (quoting Tur quoting Rashi), Rabbeinu Bachya/Bechayei, Torah Temimah, and Rav David Tzvi Hoffman to Bereishis 34:25 all say that it was because the third day was harshest. This is also the simple understanding of the Midrash brought in Bava Metzia 86b, and quoted by Rashi at the beginning of Vayera. See Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 2:14 who Paskens this way Lehalacha, against many Rishonim (see Torah Temimah here, who also proves that this is agreed upon based on the Gemara in Bava Metzia, and quotes Ran in support as well).

There are 2 possible explanations that I found:

R"B says this in the name of Chachmei Hateva, and associates it with "כוכב מאדים", so likely not due to pure science:

ידוע מדרך חכמת הטבע כי כל שלישי חלוש בכל הנבראים כולם, בין שהוא יום שלישי ללידה בין שהוא יום שלישי לימות העולם, שהרי יום שלישי כוכב מאדים, ומפני זה יגדל הכאב בכל מכה ביום השלישי ויהיה הנימול ביום השלישי למילה יותר חלוש.

The Jerusalem Post (as per Professor Michael Tal, and Professor Marshall Devor) notes the medical reality as such:

It is true that the third day following tissue damage usually constitutes the peak of suffering, and this phenomenon was noted in Genesis.

There is a lot of discussion relating to the Gemara and Mishna in Shabbos, see Sabbahillel's discussion, as well as various other Mefarshim to Bereishis 34:25.

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