Religion & Beliefs

Circumcision: The Final Frontier

One of the questions in our little survey last week was “What makes you feel most Jewish? And a reader wrote in to say, “turning up my nose at the offer of an uncut trayf dick (a boy has gotta … Read More

By / February 5, 2007

One of the questions in our little survey last week was “What makes you feel most Jewish? And a reader wrote in to say, “turning up my nose at the offer of an uncut trayf dick (a boy has gotta have standards…)”.

Which got me thinking…

A few years back, at Hillel, I helped organized a “Love Your Body Day” in partnership with a feminist-run sex shop, and we had a “situation”. The issue at the center of our brouhaha? Not masturbation. Not new-agey meditation. Not naughty language or dirty pictures.

Circumcision.

Because a group approached me about participating in the event, a group opposed to circumcision. They had some leaflets they wanted to set out at Hillel, and although I thought for a long time about it, I found that I could NOT be that pluralistic. I finally said no.

Because if anything is Jewish, circumcision is Jewish. If anything crosses Jewish denominational boundaries, it’s the need for a bris. Right?

Religiously, it goes back pretty damn far. It’s a biblical covenant, commanded in Genesis and performed for the first time by Abraham, on himself and Isaac. Ever since we’ve been ritualizing the procedure, performing the brit mila on our little boys when they turn eight days old (ONLY delayed in the case of a health risk to the baby). It’s so important that you can perform a bris on Shabbat or a holiday. Technically, the circumcision is the religious responsibility of the father (complicated in intermarriages like mine, where the mom is Jewish). And technically we DO NOT do it for health reasons. It’s all about HaShem, baby.

Of course, from a historical perspective, it’s not a Jewish invention any more than latkes or dreidels. It far predates us. But that’s okay, since people who take this stuff super-seriously don’t believe in silly things like “history” or “secular thought.”

And now there is certainly a growing movement that challenges the medical/sexual benefits of getting snipped, even a Jewish movement to do the same, and recently I’ve met my first Jewish boys with turtlenecks. Besides which, I know a family in an arrested mid-conversion state because they don’t want to forcibly circumcise their pre-teen son. It’s tricky.

So I wanted to broach the subject here, and see what our readers have to say.

Anyone out there want to rant? Anyone out there with a foreskin?