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Published by: outdash2 on May 08, 2013
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d haTa
 
11
da fa
When TiMing iS everyThing: A cloSer looK AT briS biology
he ritual of circumcision is an essential commandmentin Judaism. The excision of the foreskin of Jewishmales is a sign representing the covenant between the Jewish nation and their Creator. The centrality of thispractice in Judaism originates from the book of Genesis, whenG-d tells Abraham that every male shall be circumcised at theage of eight days, throughout their generations [1]. G-d told Abraham that he would be lacking perfection until undergoing circumcision [2]. G-d later gives this commandment to the entire Jewish nation just before the Exodus from Egypt,establishing circumcision as a covenant between Him and the Jewish peoplefor all generations to come. This is meant to convey the idea thatjust as we must physically perfect ourselves through
Brit Milah 
, somust we spiritually perfect ourselves as well [3].
 The Jewish sages provide many ideas about the signicance of 
 waiting eight days to circumcise Jewish males. The
 Midrash 
teachesthat Jews wait eight days in order to provide the newborn withenough strength to have this pivotal commandment performedon him [4]. However, it is unclear what “strength” means in thispassage. Maimonides is the only sage to interpret this
 Midrash 
asreferring to physical strength [5]. He focuses on the biologicalaspect of this teaching, while virtually all other rabbinic opinionsfocus on the spiritual component.Commenting on this same idea, Rabbi David Halevi Segalsuggests that “strength” refers to the spiritual strength of thebaby, rather than the physical strength. His proof for this ideais found in a
 Midrash 
that discusses the Biblical commandment
forbidding the sacricing of a newborn animal until it is eight
days old [6]. The
 Midrash 
compares this to a person who must see
the queen’s face rst before his request to see the king’s face isgranted. In this parable, the queen’s face is analogous to the Sab
-
bath. A newborn animal sacrice can be offered only after the
holiness of a Sabbath has passed. Extrapolating from this teach-ing, Rabbi Segal provides essential insight into waiting eight daysfor the circumcision of a baby. He teaches that the infant mustalso experience the Sabbath before entering into this crucial cov-enant because of the great holiness and spirituality that this day provides. According to this
 Midrash 
, this is the logic behind the
T
eight days [7].Rabbi David Halevi Segal offers another explanation for wait-ing eight days for circumcision. In the Babylonian Talmud,
 Niddah 
 30b, the
Talmud 
states that
in utero
a baby learns the entire
Torah 
 and then at birth forgets what he or she learned [8]. Rabbi DavidHalevi Segal suggests that the infant needs this time to mourn the
Torah 
that was forgotten [9]. There is another teaching from The
Talmud 
which describes that after giving birth to a boy, the motheris ritually impure for seven days. By the eighth day, when this im-purity is no longer relevant, the parents are happier and thereforein a better state of mind to circumcise their son [10]. Aside from the spiritual aspects of circumcision, this ritualhas biological implications that are important to consider.In hu-
mans, vitamin K plays a vital role in the modication of proteins
needed for coagulation and other metabolic pathways.In adults,
insufcient levels of vitamin K can lead to disproportionately ex
-cessive bleeding in response to even a minor injury. In infants, in-
sufcient levels of this critical vitamin can have dire consequenc
-es. Lack of vitamin K in newborns can manifest ashemorrhagicdisease of the newborn, which can result insevere bleeding, in-
cluding intracranial bleeding, causing subsequent brain damage to
the newborn [11]. While Vitamin K is primarily synthesized by bacteria in thecolon, some of the vitamin is gleaned from the diet. Infants, how-ever, have a different vitamin K synthesis dynamic, and they havelower levels of the vitamin for multiple reasons. Firstly, the in-
fant’s gut ora is still developing, so vitamin K production from
intestinal bacteria is limited. Additionally, plants, especially green,leafy vegetables, are a major source of vitamin K, and babies do
not have sufcient dietary stores, due to their limited ability to
intake solid food. In infants, even though vitamin K is formed,
Th Miash tahs that Jws wait ihtays i  t pvi th wbwith uh stth t hav this pivtammamt pm  him.

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