Marrying a Jew & Brit Milah Dilemma Explained

Ask The Messianic Rabbi: Marrying a Jew & Brit Milah Dilemma Explained

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

Shalom, and welcome to ‘Ask the Messianic Rabbi’, a series where we discuss and answer your questions.

Each week, we receive dozens of questions, and aim to answer each and every one; but apologize in advance for any delayed response.

The idea to ‘ask a rabbi’, is very common in Judaism, which is why there are hundreds of websites and channels that answer all kinds of questions. We are delighted to be a part of this development, and aim to contribute and bless the Body of Messiah with some of our knowledge.

Every time, we will choose one anonymous question, and answer it in depth, and to the best of our ability. It is important to add, that our answers are general and represent regular situations, while other circumstances would call for different answers.

Additionally, it is important to clarify that I’m the leader of the Roeh Israel congregation, and that gives me the authority – as well as the spiritual responsibility – in my congregation.

Yet, I do not have the same authority over you, and so I can only advise and give my opinion. At the same time, I encourage you to turn to your congregational leader, or to a local congregational leader, and to consult face-to-face. This series does not replace your need for personal consultation with your local leadership, in any way. Thanks for your understanding. And thanks for the great trust you put in us, as well.

Our first question is:

“What happens when you marry a Jewish person? Can you have a Brit Milah for your son?”

In short, the answer is: yes, and it is even good to do so.

Let’s take a step back and take a look at the background and essence of the commandment of the brit milah (or: circumcision). And also a bit at the background of the discussion on the topic of circumcision in the New Testament.

Until today, Jews still keep the commandment of the Brit Milah, and now here rises the question whether we keep it because it’s commanded in the Torah, or because of the covenant with Abraham.

The common understanding is that circumcision became obligatory since the giving of the Torah, in Leviticus 12 verse 3:

“And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised”.

and that it was not obligatory beforehand.

I do not completely agree with this approach, because I think tradition is an essential factor; especially, when it is rooted in the Scriptures. Let look at the tradition of ‘gid hanashe’ (or: the sciatic nerve), for example.

The sciatic nerve is located on the back of the hip of a mammal and we are forbidden to eat it.

This prohibition is connected to the struggle at Jabbok between Jacob and the Angel of God. Jacob won the fight, but ended up limping, as his hip got dislocated, and Genesis 32 verse 32 explains that:

“Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh.”

And so, even though the sciatic nerve is not literally commanded in the Torah, the People of Israel still keeps this tradition.

So, what is the answer?

Do we keep the circumcision as a covenant with Abraham, or because it is a commandment in the Torah?

I presume it is a combination of both:
- Tradition, by means of the covenant with Avraham, and:
- A clear commandment in the Torah.

This combination transforms the brit milah into a corner stone of the Jewish culture, which is why the majority of the People of Israel – including some of the most secular Jews – circumcise their 8-day old sons.

It is this very combination, that preserved the Brit Milah and kept it relevant until today.

Now, when we look at the New Testament, Shaul circumcises Timothy because one of his parents was Jewish (see: Acts chapter 16). But, on the other hand, Shaul opposes circumcision for non-Jews.

The Brit Milah ceremony is not only a ‘biblical’ matter, and it is not only about the actual keeping of the commandment itself.

Circumcision in itself is also one of the secrets of the very existence and identity of the People of Israel. And as I mentioned earlier, even Jews who are completely secular, and who might ignore all the other commandments, often still just keep the brit milah by circumcising their baby boys, as they feel it connects them to their Jewish identity.

In my opinion, Shaul opposes the Brit Milah ceremony for non-Jews mostly due to the rational fear of legalism. We know there were attempts to convert non-Jews to Judaism by force, as we read in Acts 15 verse 5:

“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.’”

Shaul opposes religious legalism, but not Brit Milah itself! We know so, because Shaul himself circumcised Timothy.

And so, if one of the parents is Jewish, it is possible and even preferred to circumcise a baby boy on the 8th day.

You are more than welcome to continue this discussion in the comments below, and we also invite you to send in more such important questions which we will address anonymously.

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