In this video, Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs discusses the two ceremonies associated with the birth of a baby boy; the circumcision and the redemption ceremony of a first born son.
Drawing, as ever, on his extensive command of sources and stories, he explores the rationale behind the circumcision ritual and its details. He discusses Maimonides’s answers to the obvious question, why did God create men with foreskins if they are to be removed?
He considers the proof from the Torah, cited in the Talmud, that women are not obligated to circumcise their sons, and introduces the query of the Tosefot, who ask why we need a biblical verse when it is clear that circumcision is a time bound, positive commandment, for which women are not obligated. R. Hayyim Soloveichik’s response to Tosefot’s question seems forced, but maybe, Rabbi Jacobs suggests, it was badly phrased.
Having touched on the laws of circumcision he looks at the ceremony and the role of the various participants, before discussing the question of hygiene, first raised by 19th century doctors, and the modification of contemporary practice.
Rabbi Jacobs turns to the symbolism of the pidyan haben ceremony. Although it takes place following the birth of a boy, it is a celebration dedicated to the mother, since it is her first born who is redeemed and not necessarily that of the father.
Finally Rabbi Jacobs discusses the conventions and traditions associated with naming the baby. As always his talk is peppered with anecdotes and personal recollections, making this video entertaining as well as educational.