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Is a Boy Jewish without a Brit Milah?


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Adar 21, 5781
I am interested to know if the boys mother and father are halachicly Jewish and they have a boy. If they dont have a brit milah on the boy, a) is he Jewish? b) what are the implications of not having a brit milah for the boy? Can he still have a bar mitzvah? get married halachicly etc etc?
Shalom u'vracha, The mitzvah of circumcision is more important than any other commandment mentioned in the Torah (Shulchan Aruch y”d, 260). The reason is that circumcision is not just any other private mitzvah but rather a general and basic mitzvah that changes the whole essence of the Jew and his basic identity. The newly circumcized child enters the sanctity of Klal Yisrael and comes under the wings of the Divine. (Aruch Hashulchan, 265, 5). That is why its value is so great. Our sages taught us that circumcision saves a person from the punishments of Gehenom and one who intentionally is not circumcised has no share in the next world (see Beit Yosef, 260). From a halakhic point of view, however, it is certain that any child born to a Jewish mother is definitely considered a Jew even without having undergone a circumcision. This is because Jewish identity starts from the soul (neshama). Anyone who was born from a Jewish mother has a holy neshama. The completion of a circumcision is intended to reveal the inner soul of the Jew and bring him into the sanctity of ‘klal Yisrael’. (See Peninei Halacha, Brit Milah, 2). A child who has not been circumcised by the age of bar mitzvah is still obligated to fulfill every mitzvah- the same as any other Jew. From the age of bar mitzvah, the duty to have a brit is now incumbent upon him, as opposed to his father. However, even if uncircumcised, he certainly can and is even obligated to marry according to the halachah. There have been halachik decisors ( poskim) who have ruled that it is forbidden to give an uncircumcised Jew an ‘aliyah’ to the Torah or to count him as part of a minyan. There were even those who ruled that it is wrong to officiate at a wedding involved with such a groom until he is circumcised . This is because he has committed such a fundamental offense towards Judaism. Additionally, it was felt that by banning him from an ‘aliyah’ and other honors in a synagogue, that this could convince him to change course and undergo a circumcision (see Minchat Yitzchak, 4:10). Other great rabbis have ruled that there is no objection in giving him an aliyah and it is even the proper thing to do so. The hope is that we can draw him closer to the Torah by doing so. (Seridei Eish, I:11, Igrot Moshe 2:33). In practical terms, it seems that it depends on the specific case. However, in general, in our generation we should try hard and in a pro-active way to draw in assimiliated Jews who may be far from Judaism. In conclusion; an uncircumcised Jewish child is a Jew with a holy soul, and must obey all the commandments. Spiritually, he is detached from the sanctity of Klal Yisrael, and we should use a positive approach to draw them closer to Torah and mitzvot.
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