Torah Portion: Lech Lecha
Every male among you shall be circumcised (Bereishis 17:10)
The mitzvah of milah-circumcision is learned from the verse, This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised; and this commandment is repeated in the book of Vayikra, as is written: On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised (Vayikra 12:3).
Among the roots of this commandment: Hashem willed that there be a permanent sign on the bodies of the People who are called by His Name. This was in order to make them distinct from the other nations in the form of their bodies as they are distinct in the form of their souls, whose source and destiny are not equal [to those of the nations]. And Hashem wished to perfect the character of the Chosen People, but He willed that this perfection be effected by human volition. He therefore did not create [a Jew] complete at birth, in order to hint to him that just as it is in your hands to complete the form of your body, so, too, it is in your hands to complete the form of your soul—if you do the right actions.
Among the details of the mitzvah: The mohel recites the blessing: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us regarding circumcision.” Then the father of the boy [or the rabbinical court, if the father is not there] recites the blessing “Blessed are You… Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to bring him into the covenant of Avraham, our forefather.” The people standing there respond: “[Amen.] Just as he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into the Torah, the marriage canopy, and good deeds.”
This commandment applies in all places and at all times. It applies only to men, but women have no obligation regarding the circumcision of their sons. One who transgress this commandment and did not circumcise himself after reaching the age of thirteen years and one day [violates this positive commandment for every subsequent day that he did not circumcise himself. And if he died while yet uncircumcised, if his negligence was intentional] he is liable for the Divine punishment of kareis-excision. But there is no kareispenalty upon a father for not circumcised his son; rather, he transgresses a positive precept.