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Mishnah Shabbat 18-19: From Birth to Circumcision

Greco-Roman Period
In the context of Sabbath law, a number of issues pertaining to children, birth, and circumcision are discussed. Circumcision was a central rite connected with Jewish identity in the ancient world. Its status as a positive commandment meant that it overrode the Sabbath prohibitions.

18-2 …Calves and young donkeys may be pulled along in the public domain [on the
Sabbath]. A woman may pull her child along. Rabbi Judah said- “When [is this the case]?
When the child lifts up one [leg] and puts down the other; if he only drags [his legs], it is

3 It is forbidden to deliver cattle of their offspring on the festival-day, but it is permitted
to assist [the newborn animal]. But it is permitted to deliver a woman of her baby on the
Sabbath and to summon a midwife from one place to another, and to violate the Sabbath
for the mother’s sake and to tie up the umbilical cord. Rabbi Yose says- “It is also
permitted to cut it. And all that is necessary for circumcision is permitted on the

19-5 A baby boy is circumcised on the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh,or twelfth [day after
his birth], but never earlier or later. How is this? According to the usual way, [it is done]
on the eighth day. If he was born at twilight, 192 he is circumcised on the ninth day. 193 If
[he was born] at twilight on the eve of the Sabbath, he is circumcised on the tenth day. If
a festival-day falls after [that] Sabbath, he is circumcised on the eleventh day. If the two
festival-days of the New Year [fall after that Sabbath], he is circumcised on the twelfth
day. A sick baby is not circumcised until he becomes well.

191. Trans. S. Berrin.

192. When there is a doubt over whether it is part of the previous day or the next.

193. It is permitted to set aside the Sabbath regulations only to circumcise a boy on what is definitely his
eighth day.

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