Is Circumcision Really Important?

I was reading a Jewish Magazine’s blog and they reported that the city of San Francisco is discussing outlawing Circumcision on any male under the age of 18, which would seriously interfere with the commandment to Jewish people to circumcise their sons on the eighth day following their birth. Jews have had to face restrictive laws like this before, in the Soviet Union and under the Nazis. It’s just surprising that one would find such restrictions in liberal San Francisco.

After reading the article and comments, I threw my two cents in and voiced my opinion and was surprised to see the kinds of responses from other readers. Apparently there is a sizable minority of men against circumcision and want to make it illegal. Their arguments were full of venom, misstatements and bogus non-facts. They even attacked Jewish ritual circumcision, calling it barbaric mutilation. I soon had the feeling I was in the midst of a propaganda blitz. They even said circumcision passages in the scriptures were added later and were never part of the Abrahamic covenant. When I asked for documentation, they quoted the documentary hypothesis by Wellhausen; the foundation of classical, liberal Protestantism; a theological construction long proven dubious, and hardly the basis of Jewish practice, but it suited the purposes of the foreskin lobby.

The critical issue for me is Jewish circumcision. It is the first and foremost covenantal sign between God and the Jewish people. So important is circumcision, that no where in Scripture is there such a thing as an uncircumcised Jew. The wife of Moses did not want her sons circumcised but God almost killed Moses for not circumcising his sons. In Bereshit, we are told that when the servant of Abraham made a vow, Abraham told him to put his hand under his thigh as he swore, i.e., on his circumcision mark, because it was the sign of the covenant, and the only thing at the time that was holy, as there were no written scriptures he could put his hand to. When the Jewish people entered the Land after the Exodus, all men had to be circumcised before entering the Land. Uncircumcised men were forbidden to eat the Passover meal. Yeshua was circumcised as were all the Apostles, and even Paul circumcised Timothy. From a purely biblical standpoint, circumcision is not an option, it’s a prerequisite for being a Jewish male.

When the Soviet Union fell, many Jewish men, long forbidden to be circumcised arranged to have the covenant surgery. For them, it was part of what it means to be a Jew. I have known some Jewish men who were not circumcised, the children of Holocaust survivors. Their parents didn’t want them to be physically identified as Jews. Later, as adults, they elected to have the surgery done, to complete their sense of Jewish identity. They were angry with their parents for not doing it for them when they were infants.

If other people don’t want their children circumcised, it’s not a problem. Banning Jewish circumcision on infants violates the separation of Church and State, which people are quick to quote when they don’t want religion to weigh in on social and moral issues, but conveniently forget when they want to impose their opinions on a four thousand-year old religion. The real irony is that the same people who are pretending to protect the infant from pain and unnecessary surgery, citing the rights of the child, are the same people who would be happy to snuff out their lives in abortion. Why aren’t they standing up for the rights of the children being aborted? The reason is that this is really not about those rights. It’s another attack on Jewish practice.

The bottom line is that no law imposed by the city of San Francisco will keep Jews from Circumcising their sons. In the time of the Maccabees, the Syrians outlawed circumcision. Jews did it anyway, and they overthrew the Syrians and took back the Temple. That’s why we celebrate Chanukah. San Francisco can enact their laws, and who knows… it might yet fall into the sea.


20 thoughts on “Is Circumcision Really Important?

  1. Yes! Awesome post. The ending line is classic, I laughed hard.

    >> The reason is that this is really not about those rights.

    Bingo. I’d go a bit further and suggest it’s really about ridding the culture of religious ideas, particularly ones that have fallen out of our enlightened favor.

  2. It surprises me not that this is proposed in San fransisco , what amazes me is that it has not already happened. S.F. being the big liberal haven and an area filled with people who feel no need for religion that asks of its adherents any permanent commitment Gay marriage , the occult, paganism, satanism, all prevelent and open in S.F. is the norm not the exception. Placing this new restriction on Jews and others makes it an aparent lack of faith on the part of Jews that follow the law and sends the message that we are not dedicated to our beliefs.( if we were dedicated we would risk prison and or death to follow the greater authority. )With the courts writing law on the fly , and being ultra politically correct,and making it’s own laws to impose on everyone no matter the faith or the conviction. we will soon see this as a law across the nation and another step in removal of freedoms of religion set up in our nation’s constitution . As Jews do we forget the demands of the Nazzis and the Russians “the nazzis say you are a Jew , DIE” the russians and others say You are a “Jew , change your ways to comply or be inprisoned”. It makes me furious to think that a minority can drive the courts to forbid the majority the the right to keep the covenants set forth in our faith. These people , not even jews or christians are not concerned with the health or well being of 8 day olds they are often the same ones that cry out “right to choose ” so it is ok to kill your children and if you do not you must obey non jewish law and forbid circumcision. And again the anticircumcisian pro choice gang is also often the embrace the values of islam group.
    Perhaps you may consider me an illiterate , boob talking out his butt , however the more i encounter face to face the more i see this as truth . if i were to father a male child with the no circumcision law in place i would find a mohel that will do it and have it done even at the expense of my own life. are we not to have faith like our father Abraham ?
    ifear we will do as was done in Germany and this nation will outlaw all that which is Jewish. in the words of the Borg
    you will be Assimilated , resistance is futile
    Abba I pray i am wrong.

    and btw seperation of church and state toted by the liberal crowd only seems to apply when it removes rights of believers the right to speak of God right to complete biblical commandments , right to pray, and the removal of those rights if we allow this kind of thing we are acting like ostriches with our heads in the sand. ok i will get off my poorly typed soapbox


  3. Addendum:
    I do agree With You Michael that as Jews we will do as commanded , well at least the REAL Jews.My thought is this, and i ask it as a question. Are Jews that feel it is not right to circumcise their male children still Jews? Or do they negate their Jewishness by rejecting this instruction?. Is the fear of reprisal sufficient in the eyes of HaShem as to turn away from the manner of life we are instructed to live;that of a unique people.

    • If San Fran follows through and successfully restricts circumcision, get it done in San Jose. Move from San Fran and never ever buy anything from San Fran. What’s the phrase… kick the dust off? What happens if the USA restricts it..? Get it done anyway and never take your male child to a non-Jewish doctor again, otherwise Child Protection will steal your kid as soon as they see you “mutilated” your son in the name of a barbaric G-d.

  4. Actually, the fact that San Francisco wants to pass this law doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. If you look at some of the unusual laws San Francisco has proposed or passed in recent years, they all seem to be designed to manage private lives “for the greater good”. There’s an assumption that in a more liberal political environment, there would be less controls on the citizenry, greater acceptance of “differences”, and more personal freedoms, but San Francisco’s example shows us otherwise. I think San Francisco illustrates that going to either extreme of the political spectrum results in “the state” assuming greater authority over its citizens to the detrement of rights and liberties.

  5. My suspicion is that this law is being proposed and backed by homosexual men who have a foreskin fetish. Heterosexual men, for the most part, don’t really care about the genitals of other men. So it seems to me that either its a religious issue, or………….

  6. Rabbi Dr.
    Nicely said.
    Many have told me it is the equivalent to the vaginal mutilation of african women of certain tribes , however most i know fully understand the difference as one being control over the people and causing infections ,pain ,and disability , and the other as a practice of faith that actualy decreases genital infection. wow who would have guessed…

  7. There are a couple of other issues here.

    First, there is no such thing as “separation of church and state.” READ THE CONSTITUTION. It says the government is to stay out of the affairs of religious establishments, and not establish a national religion. There is NO prohibition against religious groups being involved in government, and in fact it gives the right to practice one’s religion freely. (That is the part the muslims so cutely use against us.)

    I think Rabbi Michael is right on target. G-d commanded us to circumcise on the 8th day, as an outward sign of his covenant with us through Abraham. Are we so ashamed of our G-d that we will kow-tow to the festerings and fulminatings of groups of mostly non-Jews who don’t want us to be allowed to practice our religion without interference? By the way, most of those nuts are WOMEN, who think they are big-time authorities on circumcision!

    Secondly, there are many individuals and groups who have taken on the quest to eliminate infant circumcision. Their basis is that they object to the parents making the decision to remove a perfectly functional part of a person’s body without his informed consent. Well, of course that is stupid on its face, because the baby obviously cannot do that. They want him to wait until he is 18, and then have an adult circumcision if he so chooses. They post videos showing the baby screaming his poor little head off, but if you watch closely, you can see the sound is dubbed in. I had an adult circumcision. It was not the horror story some people fear, but it was a heck of a lot worse than being done by the Mohel on the 8th day, for sure.

    Part of this bunch of nut cases consists of Jewish groups who are against circumcision. I suppose one can well question just how Jewish they are, but they publicly represent themselves as Jews.

    Rabbi, my compliments on your comparison of circumcision to abortion. Right on!

  8. Good David;
    I fully agree with you and fully undersstand the “separation of church and state issue as being invalid at best and at worst an illegal re writing of the constitution by the courts ( who’s infinite wisdumdhas twisted so many other aspects of the constitution Loathed by socialist ,or communistic society) in all reality the right to worship fully in our chosen manner is a right established in that stately doccument. It is a big part of the reason this nation was formed in the first place. other than my poor wording in the previous post i really believe we are on the same page here and i anm honored to be in agreement based on my own research with the likes our brothers and sisters here. LOL maybe i am not as dumb as i look

  9. Regardless of whether or not they get bans like this put in place, the practice of circumcisions is already being squeezed. I recently heard of a midwife who lost her license because she did a circ. Rumor has it that it was another midwife who did not agree with circs that turned her in. Apparently doing circs is not considered within the scope of what a midwife is supposedly licensed to do. This makes no sense when one considers that they can deliver babies and stitch up tears. Like I said, it makes no sense unless the people that wrote the rules don’t like circumcision.

    It is time that those of us that agree with circumcision make our voices heard as well.


    • Jeff. It could be that midwives are not licensed for the procedure, like Podiatrists are licensed to work on feet, but not hands. I am going to check with a midwife friend and ask about it. Thanks for raising the issue.

  10. I think circumcision is considered surgery, and Mohels are the only ones permitted to do that, other than MDs.

    Sewing up a tear after birth is done on the woman, not the baby, and is considered part of the birth process, which the midwife is permitted to do.

  11. As A paramedic and National Registered Medical Assistant like Midwives we are Physician extenders and do not have authority beyond our scope of training . in many areas still midwives are still not required to be formally trained nor certified. to perform a Circumcision would be an invasive procedure outside the scope of practice for the midwife , paramedic or Medical assistant, it is indeed considered surgery as an incision is made and there can be complications if improperly done if i had heard of a mid wife doing a circumcision i would have also reported her as it is practicing medicine without a license

  12. Wow. I hope you all realize that you just listed all the reasons that San Francisco is considering doing the ban. In what way is a jeweler medically trained to do a circumcision and a midwife who does deliveries is not?

    As someone who has been involved in many Brit Milahs over the last ten years, I can tell you that one of the main reasons that a midwife is even asked to do an eighth day circumcision is that they cannot find someone else to do it. Many, if not most physicians will not do them after the first couple of days or not in a hospital. This is often due to insurance reasons, but is also sometimes for bigoted reasons. That’s right! Many mothers turn to a midwife because of anti-Jewish sentiment. Even if they are not Jewish.

    But that is not the worse part. The other main reason that they turn to a midwife is that the local Jewish Mo’el will not do an eighth day circumcision on a gentile baby for parents who just want to follow the biblical command. I wonder if there might be similar motives on this blog?

    So, tell me what I should tell a family who wants to have their son circumcised on the eighth day but is told to get lost by the local Mo’el and the local medical community? Shalom, Jeff.

    • Actually, the city of San Fran is saying it is an unnecessary procedure, and claim they should give the child the right to make his own choice when he turns 18. I checked with a number of midwives and found there is legitimate training they can go through to be certified to do circumcisions. If they have the training, there should be no problem. As far as doing them on the 8th day, there are many physicians who will. I have been in many circumcisions over the last three decades and even in small isolated communities without much of a Jewish population, they have Jewish doctors who are trained and willing to do them for Jewish families (or other families) in the area (they call me in to do the blessings). You are right that the the usual reasons to do it on the first or second day is the insurance companies.

      It has been my experience that local mohels will do circumcisions on non-Jewish babies, and just not pronounce the covenant blessings over them that they do for Jewish babies, which is correct. I believe the reason a person might turn to a midwife for the surgery is the same reason they go to a midwife for any birth; they want to avoid the hospital, medical establishment if at all possible.

      Jeff, if it were me, I would point out to the family that as long as the circumcision is performed on or after the eighth day, it is fine. If there are medical issues, Jewish circumcisions are delayed. Russians who were not permitted circumcision under communism had them performed as adults. There is nothing holier about the eighth day. Its the first day the mitzvah is able to be performed. If they can have it done on the eighth day, its preferable and they should. If they can’t, then doing it later is also performance of the mitzvah. I would tell them if they can’t do it the eighth day, let them find someone to do it soon after the eighth day.

      • Shalom Dr Shiffman,

        Thanks for the well thought out reply. I will have to look into whether midwives in our state can receive that particular training. I do believe that it is state by state regarding the rules about something like that. As to the local Mo’els doing them here, I can tell you with certainty that it is not the case. I have met with parents who have begged them to do it and with little success.

        Here in the Southwest, there are very few options for someone who wishes to have one done. It is also a fact that many of the Messianic families in our area are lower income and do not have the ability to pay what is often an exorbinant fee if they find someone willing to perform it. Once again, that is why they have turned to the midwives to do them. With regards to San Francisco, they can claim any reasoning that they want, but it still usually boils down to religious persecution. And if they can go after a midwife, then how difficult will it be for them to go after the local jewleler who serves as the Mo’el. Thanks for your time.

  13. Messiahs Way, who here said anything about a Jeweler? We were talking about midwives vs. Mohels or physicians.

    I don’t know who you are, but your knowledge is quite lacking, beginning with your lack of understanding of what is going on in San Francisco vs. what we are discussing here. Many Mohels are happy to do a Gentile, but just will not treat it as a B’rit Milah. Also, the fact is that many urologists, especially Jewish ones, will happily do a Gentile baby, and it would not have to be on the first or second day either.

    I don’t know where you get your information, but you need to find a more reliable source.

    • Actually David, where we live, the local Mo’el is a jeweler by trade. So in what sane world is he considered more acceptible than a Midwife who studied under a doctor to learn to do circumcisions?

      And I will again stand by my statement that many of the Jewish Mo’els will not perform circs on Messianic babies. I have seen it too many times for you to tell me it doesn’t exist. My point is that any attack on nonphysician performed circumcisions should be a concern. To steal from Martin Niemöller, first they came for the midwives and I was silent.

  14. Mohels, if I am not mistake, are trained and certified, or licensed, to do circumcisions. Midwives are not. Maybe yours is a jeweler by trade, but I understand many Mohels are urologists, and hence well qualified to do circumcisions. You don’t just grab the first Mohel you find. You do have to look for a good recorf of his prior work.

    There once was a Mohel who made a serious slip when doing a bris. When he appeared in court, he was asked if he had said anything just after he made the first cut. He responded, “I might have said, ‘oops’.”

  15. Pingback: 2010 in review « Drschiffman's Blog

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