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Bais HaVaad on the Parsha, Parshas Lech Lecha

Pain Relief

Excerpted and adapted from a shiur by Dayan Yitzhak Grossman

October 26, 2023


On that very day was Avraham circumcised with Yishmael his son. 

Bereishis 17:26

There is a dispute in the Midrash whether Avraham experienced a normal bris milah with pain or a miraculous one with no action on his part and no pain. Most mefarshim, like the Imrei Yosher, accept the first view as normative, and many of them maintain that a bris milah must entail some pain, so anesthesia must be avoided.

Some poskim offer other arguments against anesthesia. First, some require that the mohel be made a shaliach (proxy), and an adult undergoing a bris under general anesthesia will be unable to appoint a proxy. Second, they note that the minhag Yisrael was never to use anesthesia at a bris. Third, the Sheivet Halevi argues that the small element of danger from the anesthesia should be avoided.

Other poskim, including the Maharsham and R’ Ovadia Yosef, permit anesthesia at a bris. They note that no classic sources explicitly state that pain is a requirement for bris milah, and the shlichus is entirely valid because the mohel has the proper kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah. Finally, they reject the consideration of danger, because anesthesia is used regularly today in surgery.

A third group of poskim, including the Ma’archei Lev and Rav Elyashiv (cited in Nishmas Avraham), holds that one should be machmir to avoid anesthesia during a bris in normal situations, but for adults or for children in unique circumstances where the bris may be especially painful, one may be lenient.

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