It’s Time to Give Up Circumcision

A rabbi cheers as another rabbi holds his son during the circumcision ceremony at the Chabad Lubawitsch Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Berlin, Germany, March 3, 2013. Credit: AP
Judaism can survive in the post-ethnic world only if its rabbis give up the ceremony of cutting off babies‘ foreskins of their own initiative

By Yigal Ben-Nun | HAARETZ

Circumcision, eating restrictions and resting on Shabbat differentiated Jews from the polytheistic nations of the Hellenist world and the Roman Empire. But during the period of the Jewish commonwealth and most of the Persian period, residents of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah didn’t circumcise their sons. All the kings of Israel and Judah, from King David through Zedekiah, were uncircumcised. The prophets, from Amos and Hosea to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, were also uncircumcised.

So why did the Jews adopt this problematic, sickening act as the sole definer of their identity? Hasn’t the time come for Judaism to abandon male circumcision, out of the same loathing that we feel toward female circumcision?

In the Bible, the phrase “And she conceived and bore a son” appears around 65 times, but not the obvious follow-up: “She conceived and bore a son and circumcised him and named him X.” The reason is obvious: The theological command that appears in the cycle of stories about Abraham in the Book of Genesis was written only toward the end of the Persian era. Only then did cutting off the foreskin of an 8-day-old baby receive the significance of forging a covenant between the people and its God.

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