Question: My wife gave birth this past Shabbat and the birth was by C-section. Is my son still eligible to undergo his Berit Milah on the eighth day, i.e. this coming Shabbat?
Answer: The Torah states regarding the birth of a baby boy: “And on the eighth day shall the flesh of his foreskin be circumcised.” This means that the child is to be circumcised on the eighth day since his birth.
The Mishnah (Shabbat 128b) states that the Mitzvah of Milah supersedes Shabbat meaning that a child’s Berit Milah is performed on Shabbat as well. Although one may have thought that a Berit Milah should not be performed on Shabbat since doing so constitutes actual Shabbat desecration, nevertheless, the Gemara (ibid. 132a) explains that according to all opinions, the Mitzvah Milah takes precedence over Shabbat. Our Sages derived this from several verses in the Torah.
The Gemara further explains that the only time a Milah may be performed on Shabbat is when the child is being circumcised on the eight day since his birth. However, if the Milah could not be held on the eighth day of the child’s life for whatever reason, such as if the child was jaundiced and the Milah had to be postponed for several days, the Milah may no longer be held on Shabbat, for the Milah only supersedes Shabbat on the eighth day since birth since it is on this day that there is a special Mitzvah to circumcise the child on this day.
Regarding a child born by C-section, the Sages of the Talmud (Shabbat 135a) disagree regarding when his Milah should be held. Rav Asseh maintains that a child born by C-section should not have his Milah on his eighth day since birth; rather, his Milah should be held the day he is born. Rav Asseh proves this from the language of the verse from which he extrapolates that the Torah only meant that the Milah should be held on the eighth day when discussing a regular delivery; however, when the child was born by C-section, he should be circumcised on his first day of life.
Nevertheless, Abaye disagreed with Rav Asseh on the basis that even of the verse in the Torah was referring specifically to a child born by regular delivery, all of the generations from the days of Avraham Avinu prior to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai nonetheless circumcised their baby boys on the eighth day. On account of this, according to Abaye, even a child born by C-section is to have his Milah on the eighth day.
The Rishonim disagree whom the Halacha follows. Some are of the opinion that a child born by C-section should have his Milah on the day he was born while others maintain that the Milah is held on the eighth day. Most Poskim write that we are in doubt whom the Halacha follows and as a result of this doubt, we wait until the eighth day to circumcise the child. This is indeed the ruling of the great Poskim and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 262, Section 3).
Thus, halachically speaking, a child born by C-section is circumcised on the eighth day; however, since we are in doubt whether or not the proper time for such a child’s Berit Milah is truly on this day, his Milah does not take precedence over Shabbat, for the Mitzvah of Milah only supersedes Shabbat when we are sure that Shabbat is the eighth day since the child’s birth and we are certainly commanded to circumcise him specifically on this day. However, when this is subject to doubt, the child’s Milah no longer takes precedence over Shabbat. Thus, the Berit Milah should be held the next day, on Sunday.