Rabbi blog- pro-circumcision (obviously) but against
(oral to genital wound suction)
I’m posting this because if one of the commenters. I am reposting a commenter’s comment.
With all respect for those who *choose* to observe as they do, I suggest being *completely* honest about ritual circumcision. As a fairly observant Jew, I would not personally impose my observances on others, but do want to offer my own perspective.
I’m a Jewish father, raising his son as a Jew. If waiting until adulthood was good enough for Abraham (and for Moses, by the way), it’s good enough for my little Moishele. I don’t think I have the *right* to impose it upon him in infancy.
The mitzvot are routinely over- & under- interpreted. Independent thought is itself a Jewish tradition. The bris is merely one of 613. I wish more Rabbis would interpret the bris as flexibly as the avoidance of boiling kids in their mothers’ milk. In fact, it seems to me that doctrinaire focus on the one mitzvah, while freely interpreting much of the rest is anathema to Jewish traditions of emphasizing scholarship over mere dogma. After all, the objective of all our mitzvot is to recognize, as did Rabbi Hillel, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the commentary; go and learn.”
As for the medical benefits, they constitute specious rationalization at best. For example, there are far more effective and rational ways to prevent STDs. Refraining from unprotected sex is far more effective, by several orders of magnitude, than is circumcision. *First* do *no* harm.
In my opinion, no human should be subject to inessential pain or any possibility of complications without their consent; it seems to me *that* is anathema to Rabbinic teaching. Let’s finally shed the remnants of ancient, priestly superstition and fully embrace Rabbinic Judaism in all it’s enlightenment.
And, frankly, I feel particularly irritated when those who don’t don Tefillin to pray, men who are completely clean-shaven, women who refrain from monthly Mikveh immersions, et.al, pass judgement and make such a big deal about such a little piece of my little Moishele’s flesh. He can decide for himself when it’s time, thank you, and I feel confident he will find his own path towards fulfilling the mitzvot.
more from him in comments
I agree conflicting information exists; all the more reason to leave such a decision to my son. It was good enough for Abraham to be circumcised in adulthood. It was good enough for Moses to be circumcised in adulthood.
People do, indeed, worship in different ways and have different priorities. Most of them at least attempt to justify or rationalize their priorities. I for one don’t see any rationalization for *infant* circumcision.
However, my perspective aside; many if not most Jews, many if not most Rabbis do indeed show disdain if not outright scorn for *my* decision to encourage my son follow in the footsteps of Abraham and Moses. Even you, Michael, are saying “all males *must* be circumcised” in *our* religion, inherently disallowing my choice despite my previous allusion; my wife and I are fairly observant, more observant than most I’d say. But, I digress.
So, the main question actually remains whether or not modern Jews (including Rabbis) will finally recognize and accept my son as a Jew, acknowledge the values that some of us can embrace Tikkun Olam over the superstitious dogma of our ancient, *priestly* ancestors.
P.S. I personally wouldn’t even allow my daughter (or son) to have their ears pierced until adolescence at the very earliest. I certainly wouldn’t do it to them in infancy.
more in comments
Sorry to have delayed posting a reply until after Havdalah.
FYI, our people also abstained from circumcision the entire time we wandered the desert, after the Exodus and prior to entering Eretz Yisrael. Maybe there’s an exemplar there. In any case, the accounts of Moses’ circumcision are conflicting.
The “Chabad guy” thankfully doesn’t (usually) spit in my direction. I *do* go to shul (on Shabbos, always voluntarily, always with great joy and reverence; I wish I could chant the Aleinu at three minyans each day; oy, if I were a rich man…), and the *only* reason I don’t attend Rabbi’s weekly Torah class is because I let my wife attend while I watch the kids, thank you. And I’m not at all angry with *our* Rabbis. Our Rabbis fully respect our choices. Our enlightened, erudite Rabbis happen to have six kids between them and, with the exception of one newborn, all of them are among my son’s best friends. The folk who vex me are the yentas and the nudniks who have the chutzpah to judge my son based on adherence to a single one of 613 mitzvot, to judge me for allowing my son to make adult choices for himself rather than risk potential mutilation, infection, etc. without his permission; those self-appointed mavens who are constantly kvetching and hakn a tshaynik about this or that perceived transgression, sadly and ironically with little regard for Rabbi Hillel’s golden rule. I also confess vexation for those Rabbis who would apparently prefer a return to the days of priestly Judaism; the “machers” who refuse to let my son accompany his mother in the Mikveh, etc.
As I previously alluded, my wife and I are fairly observant in many respects. However, I won’t enumerate further just to wear our observance as some badge of holy honor. I will point out, however, that you and I are strangers to one another, that you haven’t asked me a single question in the interest of getting to know me better, yet you seem to presume knowledge and understanding of me based solely on my stance regarding one of 613 mitzvot?!!! Frankly, I think it highly presumptuous of you to extrapolate such, to also presume I have not yet reached your level of learning. I will refrain from making presumptuous replies in-kind. Rather than presume, let me ask: How do you feel about wearing garments made of linen interwoven with wool, wearing Tzitzit and Tefillin, trying to manage in the modern world without being able to borrow on interest, residing in a Sukkah all the days of Sukkot, refraining from haircuts and shaving? While we’re at it, please instruct me; how are sentencing “sorcerers” to death, allowing judges to sentence “deserving” convicts to decapitation, immolation, stoning, and strangulation counted among “ALL (the) mitzvot (which) contribute to Tikkun Olam”; do these particular precepts *taken literally* make you “proud to be a part of a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation'” or do you take at least a few of them metaphorically?
(Pardon a bit of cultural chauvinism, but I suggest we leave to the goyim, et.al, fundamentalist literalism based on mere dogma and superstition.)
P.P.S. All these non-sequiturs aside, I still believe *infant* circumcision inherently constitutes an involuntary violation, making it one among many mitzvot which invite and warrant broad interpretation, but I’m perfectly willing to listen to reasoned counterpoint that isn’t steeped in dogma. Finally, please bear in mind I have *not* advocated legal prohibition.
more in comments
Dear Rabbi Jason,
Please pardon me for belaboring. With all respect, I propose a different tactic to better position us to counter legislation which could put Jewish ritual in jeopardy. I propose a learned Rabbi such as yourself… and I do mean that in all sincerity having followed your blogs and Facebook posts for some time… I suggest a learned Rabbi such as yourself admit that the opponents to circumcision have a few valid points and respond by developing new metaphors for ritual circumcision, metaphors that manage to adhere to the spirit of the mitzvah without subjecting innocent persons to inessential pain or possibility of medical complications. Be a pioneer. Offer such options and the “war on circumcision” might become moot. I’m sure there’s some way to reinterpret the mitzvah and I’m sure you are among those who are capable of doing such to the satisfaction of all but the ultra-orthodox.
One thought occurs to me as a result of some additional research today: it seems that the original Brit Milah involved only the tip of the foreskin and sometimes only poking with a sharp object so that a bit of blood was drawn. It wasn’t until overreaction to modernism circa 140 C.E. which led to the Peri’ah, i.e., complete amputation of the entire foreskin.
more in comments
I appreciate your more conciliatory approach. Thank you. I must confess to having become increasingly thin-skinned in proportion to disrespect for my son, for my scholarship, and for my piety (or presumed lack, thereof) that some Londsmen have exhibited over the years. I try to refrain from basing my arguments on credentializing but my wife and I do study Torah, we take the mitzvot very seriously, and we deeply considered our choices.
Of course, parents should have the right to raise their children in their faith as they see fit, but we should also recognize that there are slippery-slopes, that lines must be drawn somewhere, that we can’t allow, for extreme example, faiths that would promote religious infanticide. Furthermore, we constantly prioritize the mitzvot. Pardon me for citing another extreme hypothetical; would it be better to lie and thereby save an innocent life, or to tell the truth and thereby sacrifice the next Anne Frank? We do have mitzvot that conflict with the bris: Torah prohibits marking and altering the body, and the causing of pain to any living creature.
I concur with Rabbi Jason that circumcision is under attack. I gave great consideration to the title of his piece, in fact. “Being Honest About Ritual Circumcision” is the very reason I felt compelled to both tell my personal story and to acknowledge that “being (totally) honest” demands that we at least consider whether some critics of circumcision might actually have a valid argument or two. I suggest the best way to fend off the attack on our rituals should start with open, honest, intellectual (and Rabbinical) discourse rather than closed-minded (and Priestly) dogma. We should admit that most of us *very* freely interpret many of the 613 mitzvot and that there’s sufficient rationale for re-thinking what turns out to be a somewhat militant over-interpretation made circa 140 C.E.
…… More conversation continues…..
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