The BRIT MILAH (Hebrew : בְּרִית מִילָה, pronounced
; Ashkenazi pronunciation: , "covenant of circumcision "; Yiddish
pronunciation: bris ) is a Jewish religious male circumcision
ceremony performed by a mohel ("circumciser") on the eighth day of the
infant's life. The brit milah is followed by a celebratory meal
(seudat mitzvah ).
* 1 Biblical references
* 2 Ceremony
* 2.2 Time and place
* 2.2.1 Postponement for health reasons
* 2.2.2 Adult circumcision
* 2.3 Anesthetic
* 2.4 Kvater
* 3 Ritual components
* 3.1 Uncovering, priah
* 3.2 Metzitzah
* 3.2.1 Metzitzah B\'Peh (oral suction)
* 3.2.2 Barriers
* 3.3 Hatafat dam brit
* 4 Milah l\'shem giur
* 5 Reasons for circumcision
* 6 Reform
* 7 The anti-circumcision movement and brit shalom
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links
Religious male circumcision
Religious male circumcision See also: Covenant
(biblical) § Abrahamic covenant See also: Feast of the Circumcision
of Christ "Isaac's Circumcision", Regensburg Pentateuch, c1300
According to the
Hebrew Bible (Genesis 17:10-14) God commanded the
Abraham to be circumcised, an act to be followed by
10 This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and
thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And
ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be
a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you. 12 And he that is eight days
old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your
generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any
foreigner, that is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house,
and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and
My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And
the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his
foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken
Leviticus 12:3 provides: "And in the eighth day the flesh of
his foreskin shall be circumcised."
According to the
Hebrew Bible , it was "a reproach" for an Israelite
to be uncircumcised (Joshua 5:9.) The term arelim ("uncircumcised" )
is used opprobriously, denoting the
Philistines and other
Israelites (I Samuel 14:6, 31:4; II Samuel 1:20) and used in
conjunction with tameh (unpure) for heathen (Isaiah 52:1). The word
arel ("uncircumcised" ) is also employed for "impermeable" (Leviticus
26:41, "their uncircumcised hearts"; compare Jeremiah 9:25; Ezekiel
44:7,9); it is also applied to the first three years' fruit of a tree,
which is forbidden (
Israelites born in the wilderness after the Exodus from
Egypt were not circumcised. Joshua 5:2-9, explains, "all the people
that came out" of Egypt were circumcised, but those "born in the
wilderness" were not. Therefore, Joshua, before the celebration of the
Passover , had them circumcised at
Gilgal specifically before they
entered Canaan. Abraham, too, was circumcised when he moved into
The prophetic tradition emphasizes that God expects people to be good
as well as pious, and that non-
Jews will be judged based on their
ethical behavior, see
Noahide Law . Thus, Jeremiah 9:25-26 says that
circumcised and uncircumcised will be punished alike by the Lord; for
"all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of
uncircumcised in heart."
The penalty of non-observance is kareth (spiritual excision from the
Jewish nation), as noted in Genesis 17:1-14. Conversion to
Israelites in Biblical times necessitated circumcision, otherwise
one could not partake in the
Passover offering (Exodus 12:48). Today,
as in the time of Abraham, it is required of converts in Orthodox ,
Conservative and Reform
Judaism . (Genesis 34:14-16).
As found in Genesis 17:1-14, brit milah is considered to be so
important that should the eighth day fall on the Sabbath , actions
that would normally be forbidden because of the sanctity of the day
are permitted in order to fulfill the requirement to circumcise. The
Talmud , when discussing the importance of Milah, compares it to being
equal to all other mitzvot (commandments) based on the gematria for
brit of 612 (Tractate Nedarim 32a).
Covenants in ancient times were sometimes sealed by severing an
animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant
will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning "to seal a
covenant" translates literally as "to cut". It is presumed by Jewish
scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such
a sealing of the covenant.
Memory of this tradition has been preserved in traditional Christian
churches according to the
Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke . The Feast of the
Circumcision of Christ is kept as a feast eight days after Nativity in
a number of churches including the
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church , Catholic
Lutheran and some
Anglican Communion churches. In Orthodox
Christian tradition, children are officially named on the eighth day
after birth with special naming prayers.
Significantly, the tradition of baptism universally replaced
circumcision amongst Christians as the primary rite of passage as
found in Paul\'s
Epistle to the Colossians
Epistle to the Colossians and in Acts of the Apostles
Jewish circumcision in Venice around 1780 Musée d\'Art et
d\'Histoire du Judaïsme
A mohel is a Jew trained in the practice of brit milah, the "covenant
of circumcision." According to traditional Jewish law, in the absence
of a grown free Jewish male expert, anyone who has the required skills
is also authorized to perform the circumcision, provided that he or
she is Jewish. However, most streams of non-Orthodox
female mohels , called mohalot (Hebrew : מוֹהֲלוֹת, plural
of מוֹהֶלֶת mohelet, feminine of mohel), without restriction.
In 1984, Deborah Cohen became the first certified Reform mohelet; she
was certified by the Berit Mila program of Reform Judaism.
TIME AND PLACE
Chair of Elijah used during the brit milah ceremony - Musée
d\'Art et d\'Histoire du Judaïsme
It is customary for the brit to be held in a synagogue, but it can
also be held at home or any other suitable location. The brit is
performed on the eighth day from the baby's birth, taking into
consideration that according to the Jewish calendar, the day begins at
the sunset of the day before. If the baby is born on Sunday before
sunset, the Brit will be held the following Sunday. However, if the
baby is born on Sunday night after sunset, the Brit is on the
following Monday. The brit takes place on the eighth day following
birth even if that day is
Shabbat or a holiday. A brit is
traditionally performed in the morning, but it may be performed any
time during daylight hours.
Postponement For Health Reasons
Family circumcision set and trunk, ca. eighteenth century Wooden
box covered in cow hide with silver implements: silver trays, clip,
pointer, silver flask, spice vessel.
Talmud explicitly instructs that a boy must not be circumcised if
he had two brothers who died due to complications arising from their
Maimonides says that this excluded paternal
half-brothers. This may be due to a concern about hemophilia .
An Israeli study found a high rate of urinary tract infections if the
bandage is left on too long.
If the child is born prematurely or has other serious medical
problems, the brit milah will be postponed until the doctors and mohel
deem the child strong enough.
In recent years, the circumcision of adult
Jews who were not
circumcised as infants has become more common than previously thought.
In such cases, the brit milah will be done at the earliest date that
can be arranged. The actual circumcision will be private, and other
elements of the ceremony (e.g., the celebratory meal) may be modified
to accommodate the desires of the one being circumcised.
Most prominent acharonim rule that the mitzvah of brit milah lies in
the pain it causes, and anesthetic, sedation, or ointment should
generally not be used. However, it is traditionally common to feed
the infant a drop of wine or other sweet liquid to soothe him.
Eliezer Waldenberg ,
Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg ,
Shmuel Wosner , Moshe
Feinstein and others agree that the child should not be sedated,
although pain relieving ointment may be used under certain conditions;
Shmuel Wosner particularly asserts that the act ought to be painful,
Regarding an adult circumcision, pain is ideal, but not mandatory. In
a letter to the editor published in
The New York Times
The New York Times on January 3,
David Tendler disagrees with the above and writes,
"It is a biblical prohibition to cause anyone unnecessary pain". Rabbi
Tendler recommends the use of an analgesic cream .
not be used, however, because
Lidocaine has been linked to several
pediatric near-death episodes.
The title of kvater among Ashkenazi
Jews is for the person who
carries the baby from the mother to the father, who in turn carries
him to the mohel . This honor is usually given to a couple without
children, as a merit or segula (efficacious remedy) that they should
have children of their own. The origin of the term is Middle High
German gevater(e) ("godfather").
After the ceremony, a celebratory meal takes place. At the birkat
hamazon , additional introductory lines, known as Nodeh Leshimcha, are
added. These lines praise God and request the permission of God, the
Torah , Kohanim and distinguished people present to proceed with the
grace. When the four main blessings are concluded, special ha-Rachaman
prayers are recited. They request various blessings by God that
* the parents of the baby, to help them raise him wisely;
* the sandek (companion of child);
* the baby boy to have strength and grow up to trust in God and
perceive Him three times a year ;
* the mohel for unhesitatingly performing the ritual;
* to send the
Jewish Messiah speedily in the merit of this mitzvah ;
* to send Elijah the prophet, known as "The Righteous Kohen", so
that God's covenant can be fulfilled with the re-establishment of the
throne of King
Infant after brit
At the neonatal stage, the inner preputial epithelium is still linked
with the surface of the glans . The mitzvah is executed only when
this epithelium is either removed, or permanently peeled back to
uncover the glans. On medical circumcisions performed by surgeons,
the epithelium is removed along with the foreskin, to prevent post
operative penile adhesion and its complications. However, on ritual
circumcisions performed by a mohel, the epithelium is most commonly
peeled off only after the foreskin has been amputated. This procedure
is called priah (Hebrew : פריעה), which means: 'uncovering'.
The main goal of "priah" (also known as "bris periah"), is to remove
as much of the inner layer of the foreskin as possible and prevent the
movement of the shaft skin, what creates the look and function of what
is known as a "low and tight" circumcision.
According to Rabbinic interpretation of traditional Jewish sources,
the 'priah' has been performed as part of the Jewish circumcision
Israelites first inhabited the Land of
Israel . However,
the Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, states that many
Jews attempted to restore their foreskins, and that
similar action was taken during the Hadrianic persecution, a period in
which a prohibition against circumcision was issued. Thus, the writers
of the dictionary hypothesize that the more severe method practiced
today was probably begun in order to prevent the possibility of
restoring the foreskin after circumcision, and therefore the rabbis
added the requirement of cutting the foreskin in periah. The frenulum
may also be cut away at the same time, in a procedure called
frenectomy . According to Shaye J. D. Cohen, in Why Aren't Jewish
Women Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism, pg 25, the Torah
only commands circumcision (milah.)
David Gollaher has written that
the rabbis added the procedure of priah to discourage men from trying
to restore their foreskins: ‘Once established, priah was deemed
essential to circumcision; if the mohel failed to cut away enough
tissue, the operation was deemed insufficient to comply with God's
covenant’ and ‘Depending on the strictness of individual rabbis,
boys (or men thought to have been inadequately cut) were subjected to
The guard (top center) is slid over the foreskin as close to the
glans as possible to allow for maximum removal of the former without
any injury to the latter. The scalpel is used to detach the foreskin,
and the underlying blue bag is a sterilization pouch for the metal
tools. The tube (center left) was used for metzitzah In addition to
milah (the actual circumcision) and p'riah, mentioned above, the
Shabbat 19:2) mentions a third step, metzitzah,
translated as suction, as one of the steps involved in the
circumcision rite. The
Talmud writes that a "
Mohel (Circumciser) who
does not suck, creates a danger and should be dismissed from
Rashi on that Talmudic passage explains that this step is
in order to draw some blood from deep inside the wound to prevent
danger to the baby. There are other modern antiseptic and antibiotic
techniques—all used as part of the brit milah today—which many say
accomplish the intended purpose of metzitzah, however, since metzitzah
is one of the four steps to fulfill Mitzvah, it continues to be
practiced by many Orthodox and Hassidic Jews.
Metzitzah B\'Peh (oral Suction)
The ancient method of performing metzitzah—metzitzah b'peh, or oral
suction —has become controversial. The process has the mohel place
his mouth directly on the circumcision wound to draw blood away from
the cut. The majority of Jewish circumcision ceremonies do not use
metzitzah b'peh, but some Haredi
Jews use it. It has been
documented that the practice poses a serious risk of spreading herpes
to the infant. Proponents maintain that there is no conclusive
evidence that links herpes to Metzitza, and that attempts to limit
this practice infringe on religious freedom.
The practice has become a controversy in both secular and Jewish
medical ethics . The ritual of metzitzah is found in
19:2, which lists it as one of the four steps involved in the
Moses Sofer (1762–1839) observed that the
Talmud states that the rationale for this part of the ritual was
hygienic — i.e., to protect the health of the child. The Chasam
Sofer issued a leniency (Heter) that some consider to have been
conditional to perform metzitzah with a sponge to be used instead of
oral suction in a letter to his student,
Lazar Horowitz of
Vienna. This letter was never published among
Rabbi Sofer's responsa
but rather in the secular journal Kochvei Yitzchok. along with
letters from Dr. Wertheimer, the chief doctor of the Viennese General
Hospital. It relates the story that a mohel (who was suspected of
transmitting herpes via metzizah to infants) was checked several times
and never found to have signs of the disease and that a ban was
requested because of the "possibility of future infections". Moshe
Schick (1807–1879), a student of
Moses Sofer, states in his book of
Responsa, She’eilos u’teshuvos Maharam Schick (Orach Chaim 152,)
Moses Sofer gave the ruling in that specific instance only
because the mohel refused to step down and had secular Government
connections that prevented his removal in favor of another mohel and
the Heter may not be applied elsewhere. He also states (Yoreh Deah
244) that the practice is possibly a Sinaitic tradition, i.e., Halacha
l\'Moshe m\'Sinai . Other sources contradict this claim, with copies
Moses Sofer's responsa making no mention of the legal case or of
his ruling applying in only one situation. Rather, that responsa makes
quite clear that "metzizah" was a health measure and should never be
employed where there is a health risk to the infant.
Chaim Hezekiah Medini
Chaim Hezekiah Medini , after corresponding with the greatest Jewish
sages of the generation, concluded the practice to be Halacha l\'Moshe
m\'Sinai and elaborates on what prompted
Moses Sofer to give the above
ruling. He tells the story that a student of
Moses Sofer, Lazar
Horowitz , Chief
Rabbi of Vienna at the time and author of the
responsa Yad Elazer, needed the ruling because of a governmental
attempt to ban circumcision completely if it included metztitzah
b'peh. He therefore asked Sofer to give him permission to do brit
milah without metzitzah b’peh. When he presented the defense in
secular court, his testimony was erroneously recorded to mean that
Sofer stated it as a general ruling. The Rabbinical Council of
America , (RCA) which claims to be the largest American organization
of Orthodox rabbis, published an article by mohel Dr Yehudi Pesach
Shields in its summer 1972 issue of Tradition magazine, calling for
the abandonment of Metzitzah b'peh. Since then the RCA has issued an
opinion that advocates methods that do not involve contact between the
mohel's mouth and the open wound, such as the use of a sterile
syringe, thereby eliminating the risk of infection. According to the
Chief Rabbinate of
Israel and the
Edah HaChareidis metzitzah b'peh
should still be performed.
The practice of metzitzah b'peh was alleged to pose a serious risk in
the transfer of herpes from mohelim to eight Israeli infants, one of
whom suffered brain damage. When three New York City infants
contracted herpes after metzizah b'peh by one mohel and one of them
died, New York authorities took out a restraining order against the
mohel requiring use of a sterile glass tube, or pipette. The mohel's
attorney argued that the
New York Department of Health had not
supplied conclusive medical evidence linking his client with the
disease. In September 2005, the city withdrew the restraining order
and turned the matter over to a rabbinical court. Dr. Thomas Frieden,
the Health Commissioner of New York City, wrote, "There exists no
reasonable doubt that ‘metzitzah b'peh’ can and has caused
neonatal herpes infection....The Health Department recommends that
infants being circumcised not undergo metzitzah b'peh." In May 2006,
the Department of Health for New York State issued a protocol for the
performance of metzitzah b'peh. Dr. Antonia C. Novello , Commissioner
of Health for New York State, together with a board of rabbis and
doctors, worked, she said, to "allow the practice of metzizah b'peh to
continue while still meeting the Department of Health's responsibility
to protect the public health." Later in New York City in 2012 a
2-week-old baby died of herpes because of metzitzah b'peh.
In three medical papers done in Israel, Canada, and the USA, oral
suction following circumcision was suggested as a cause in 11 cases of
neonatal herpes. Researchers noted that prior to 1997, neonatal
herpes reports in
Israel were rare, and that the late incidences were
correlated with the mothers carrying the virus themselves. Rabbi
Mordechai Halperin implicates the "better hygiene and living
conditions that prevail among the younger generation", which lowered
to 60% the rate of young Israeli Chareidi mothers who carry the virus.
He explains that an "absence of antibodies in the mothers’ blood
means that their newborn sons received no such antibodies through the
placenta, and therefore are vulnerable to infection by HSV-1."
Because of the risk of infection, some rabbinical authorities have
ruled that the traditional practice of direct contact should be
replaced by using a glass tube between the wound and the mohel 's
mouth, so there is no direct oral contact. The Rabbinical Council of
America , the largest group of
Modern Orthodox rabbis, endorses this
method. The RCA paper states: "
Rabbi Schachter even reports that Rav
Yosef Dov Soloveitchik reports that his father, Rav Moshe
Soloveitchik, would not permit a mohel to perform metzitza be’peh
with direct oral contact, and that his grandfather, Rav Chaim
Soloveitchik, instructed mohelim in Brisk not to do metzitza be’peh
with direct oral contact. However, although Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik
also generally prohibited metzitza be’peh with direct oral contact,
he did not ban it by those who insisted upon it,...". The sefer
Mitzvas Hametzitzah by
Rabbi Sinai Schiffer of Baden, Germany, states
that he is in possession of letters from 36 major Russian (Lithuanian)
rabbis that categorically prohibit Metzitzah with a sponge and require
it to be done orally. Among them is
Rabbi Chaim Halevi Soloveitchik of
In September 2012, the
New York Department of Health unanimously
ruled that the practice of metztizah b'peh should require informed
consent from the parent or guardian of the child undergoing the
ritual. Prior to the ruling, several hundred rabbis, including Rabbi
David Neiderman, the executive director of the United Jewish
Organization of Williamsburg, signed a declaration stating that they
would not inform parents of the potential dangers that came with
metzitzah b'peh, even if informed consent became law.
In a Motion for preliminary injunction with intent to sue, filed
against New York City Department of Health "> Set of brit milah
Göttingen city museum
A Milah L'shem giur is a "
Circumcision for the purpose of
conversion". In Orthodox
Judaism , this procedure is usually done by
adoptive parents for adopted boys who are being converted as part of
the adoption or by families with young children converting together.
It is also required for adult converts who were not previously
circumcised, e.g. those born in countries where circumcision at birth
is not common. The conversion of a minor is valid in both Orthodox and
Judaism until a child reaches the age of majority (13 for
a boy, 12 for a girl); at that time the child has the option of
renouncing his conversion and Judaism, and the conversion will then be
considered retroactively invalid. He must be informed of his right to
renounce his conversion if he wishes. If he does not make such a
statement, it is accepted that the boy is halakhically Jewish.
Orthodox rabbis will generally not convert a non-Jewish child raised
by a mother who has not converted to Judaism.
The laws of conversion and conversion-related circumcision in
Judaism have numerous complications, and authorities
recommend that a rabbi be consulted well in advance.
Judaism , the Milah l'Shem giur procedure is also
performed for a boy whose mother has not converted, but with the
intention that the child be raised Jewish. This conversion of a child
Judaism without the conversion of the mother is allowed by
Conservative interpretations of halakha . Conservative Rabbis will
authorize it only under the condition that the child be raised as a
Jew in a single-faith household. Should the mother convert, and if the
boy has not yet reached his third birthday, the child may be immersed
in the mikveh with the mother, after the mother has already immersed,
to become Jewish. If the mother does not convert, the child may be
immersed in a mikveh, or body of natural waters, to complete the
child's conversion to Judaism. This can be done before the child is
even one year old. If the child did not immerse in the mikveh , or the
boy was too old, then the child may choose of their own accord to
become Jewish at age 13 as a Bar
Mitzvah , and complete the conversion
* The ceremony, when performed l'Shem giur, does not have to be
performed on a particular day, and does not override
Jewish Holidays .
* In Orthodox Judaism, there is a split of authorities on whether
the child receives a
Hebrew name at the Brit ceremony or upon
immersion in the
Mikvah . According to Zichron Brit LeRishonim, naming
occurs at the Brit with a different formula than the standard Brit
Milah. The more common practice among
Jews follows Rabbi
Moshe Feinstein , with naming occurring at immersion.
Where the procedure was performed but not followed by immersion or
other requirements of the conversion procedure (e.g., in Conservative
Judaism , where the mother has not converted), if the boy chooses to
complete the conversion at Bar
Mitzvah , a Milah l'shem giur performed
when the boy was an infant removes the obligation to undergo either a
full brit milah or hatafat dam brit.
REASONS FOR CIRCUMCISION
Nowadays it is generally assumed that
Judaism adopted the practice of
circumcision from neighboring cultures; their reasons for performing
the act remain to be studied.
In Of the
Special Laws, Book 1, the Jewish philosopher
Philo (20 BCE
– CE 50) gives six reasons for the practice of circumcision. He
attributes four of the reasons to "men of divine spirit and wisdom".
These include the idea that circumcision:
* protects against disease,
* secures cleanliness "in a way that is suited to the people
consecrated to God",
* causes the circumcised portion of the penis to resemble a heart,
thereby representing a physical connection between the "breath
contained within the heart is generative of thoughts, and the
generative organ itself is productive of living beings", and
* promotes prolificness by removing impediments to the flow of
Philo added two of his own reasons, including the idea that
* "signified figuratively the excision of all superfluous and
excessive pleasure" and
* "is a symbol of a man's knowing himself".
Saadia Gaon considers something to be "complete", if it lacks
nothing, but also has nothing that is unneeded. He regards the
foreskin an unneeded organ that God created in man, and so by
amputating it, the man is completed.
Moses ben Maimon "Rambam", CE 1135–1204), who apart
from being a great
Torah scholar was also a physician and philosopher,
argued that circumcision serves as a common bodily sign to members of
the same faith. He also asserted that the main purpose of the act is
to repress sexual pleasure, with the strongest reason being that it is
difficult for a woman to separate from an uncircumcised man with whom
she has had sex.
The author of
Sefer ha-Chinuch provides three reasons for the
practice of circumcision:
* To complete the form of man, by removing what he claims to be a
* To mark the chosen people, so that their bodies will be different
as their souls are. The organ chosen for the mark is the one
responsible for the sustenance of the species.
* The completion effected by circumcision is not congenital, but
left to the man. This implies that as he completes the form of his
body, so can he complete the form of his soul.
Daniel Boyarin offered two explanations for
circumcision. One is that it is a literal inscription on the Jewish
body of the name of God in the form of the letter "yud " (from
"yesod"). The second is that the act of bleeding represents a
feminization of Jewish men, significant in the sense that the covenant
represents a marriage between
Jews and (a symbolically male) God.
The Reform societies established in Frankfurt and Berlin regarded
circumcision as barbaric and wished to abolish it. However, while
prominent rabbis such as
Abraham Geiger believed the ritual to be
barbaric and outdated, they refrained from instituting any change in
this matter. In 1843, when a father in Frankfurt refused to circumcise
his son, rabbis of all shades in Germany stated it was mandated by
Jewish law; even
Samuel Holdheim affirmed this. By 1871, Reform
rabbinic leadership in Germany reasserted "the supreme importance of
circumcision in Judaism", while affirming the traditional viewpoint
that non-circumcised are
Jews nonetheless. Although the issue of
circumcision of converts continues to be debated, the necessity of
Brit Milah for Jewish infant boys has been stressed in every
subsequent Reform rabbis manual or guide. Since 1984 Reform Judaism
has trained and certified over 300 of their own practicing mohalim in
THE ANTI-CIRCUMCISION MOVEMENT AND BRIT SHALOM
Circumcision controversies and Brit shalom (naming
Jews choose not to circumcise their sons. Among
the reasons for their choice are the claims that circumcision is an
act of violence against a helpless infant, that it is painful and
traumatic, and can cause further complications down the road,
including serious disability and even death. They are assisted by a
small number of Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis, and have
developed a welcoming ceremony that they call the brit shalom
("Covenant Peace") for such children, also accepted by Humanistic
This ceremony of brit shalom is not officially approved of by the
Reform or Reconstructionist rabbinical organizations, who make the
recommendation that male infants should be circumcised, though the
issue of converts remains controversial and circumcision of converts
is not mandatory in either movement.
The connection of the Reform movement to an anti-circumcision,
pro-symbolic stance is a historical one. From the early days of the
movement in Germany, some classical Reformers hoped to replace ritual
circumcision "with a symbolic act, as has been done for other bloody
practices, such as the sacrifices". In the US, an official Reform
resolution in 1893 announced converts are no longer mandated to
undergo the ritual, and this ambivalence towards the practice has
carried over to classical-minded Reform
Jews today. In Elyse
Wechterman's essay A Plea for Inclusion, she argues that, even in the
absence of circumcision, committed
Jews should never be turned away,
especially by a movement "where no other ritual observance is
mandated". She goes on to advocate an alternate covenant ceremony,
brit atifah, for both boys and girls as a welcoming ritual into
Judaism. With a continuing negativity towards circumcision still
present within a minority of modern-day Reform, Judaic scholar Jon
Levenson has warned that if they "continue to judge brit milah to be
not only medically unnecessary but also brutalizing and mutilating ...
the abhorrence of it expressed by some early Reform leaders will
return with a vengeance", proclaiming that circumcision will be "the
latest front in the battle over the Jewish future in America".
Many European Jewish fathers during the nineteenth century chose not
to circumcise their sons, including
Theodor Herzl . However, unlike
many other forms of religious observance, it remained one of the last
rituals Jewish communities could enforce. In most of Europe, both the
government and the unlearned Jewish masses believed circumcision to be
a rite akin to baptism, and the law allowed communities not to
register uncircumcised children as Jewish. This legal maneuver spurred
several debates addressing the advisibility of its use, since many
parents later chose to convert to Christianity. In early 20th-century
Chaim Soloveitchik advised his colleagues to reject this
measure, stating that uncircumcised Jewish males are no less Jewish
Jews who violate other commandments.
Circumcision of Jesus
* ^ Tractate Shabbat: Chapter 19, Regulations ordained by R.
Eliezer concerning circumcision on the Sabbath, accessed on 23 April
* ^ "Circumcision." Mark Popovsky. Encyclopedia of Psychology and
David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden and Stanton Marlan. New
York: Springer, 2010. pp.153-154.
* ^ Luke 2:21 (King James Version): "And when eight days were
accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called
JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the
* ^ In the northern European calculation, which abstracts from the
day from which the count begins, the interval was of seven days.
* ^ "The
Circumcision (Obrezanie) of the Lord:".
* ^ "The Prayer for the Naming of a Child on the Eighth Day".
* ^ "Saint Luke Orthodox Church - Prayer - Prayer Information -
Mother Alexandra". www.stlukeorthodox.com.
* ^ Colossians 2:11-12Acts 15
Talmud Avodah Zarah 26b; Menachot 42a; Maimonides' Mishneh
Torah, Milah, ii. 1;
Shulkhan Arukh , Yoreh De'ah, l.c.
* ^ Berit Mila Program of Reform
Judaism Retrieved 2 February 2015
* ^ "The
Circumcision Procedure and Blessings - Performing the Bris
Milah - The Handbook to Circumcision". Chabad.org. Retrieved
* ^ A B This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain : Singer, Isidore ; et al., eds. (1901–1906).
Jewish Encyclopedia . New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
* ^ Ilani, Ofri (2008-05-12). "Traditional circumcision raises risk
of infection, study shows". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
* ^ Kreimer, Susan (2004-10-22). "In New Trend, Adult Emigrés Seek
Ritual Circumcision". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 24 August
* ^ A B
Rabbi Yaakov Montrose. Halachic World - Volume 3:
Contemporary Halachic topics based on the
Parshah . "Lech Lecha - No
Pain, No Bris?" Feldham Publishers 2011, pp. 29-32
* ^ Rich, Tracey. "
Judaism 101 - Birth and the First month of
Life". jewfaq.org. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
* ^ Harris, Patricia (June 11, 1999). "Study confirms that wine
drops soothe boys during circumcision". jweekly.com. J. Retrieved 22
* ^ "Pain and Circumcision". The New York Times. Nytimes.com.
January 3, 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
* ^ Berger, Itai; Steinberg, Avraham (May 2002). "Neonatal
mydriasis: intravenous lidocaine adverse reaction". J Child Neurol. 17
(5): 400–1. doi :10.1177/088307380201700520 . PMID 12150593 .
* ^ Rezvani, Massoud; Finkelstein, Yaron (2007). "Generalized
seizures following topical lidocaine administration during
circumcision: establishing causation". Paediatr Drugs. 9 (2): 125–7.
doi :10.2165/00148581-200709020-00006 . PMID 17407368 .
* ^ Beider, Alexander (2015). Origins of
Yiddish Dialects. Oxford
University Press. p. 153.
* ^ Øster, Jakob (April 1968). "Further Fate of the Foreskin". 43.
ARCHIVES OF DISEASE IN CHILDHOOD: 200–202. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
Shabbat 19:6. circumcised but did not perform priah, it
is as if he did not circumcise. The
Talmud there adds: "and
is punished kareth !"
Circumcision Policy Statement of The American Academy of
Pediatrics notes that "there are three methods of circumcision that
are commonly used in the newborn male," and that all three include
"bluntly freeing the inner preputial epithelium from the epithelium of
the glans," to be later amputated with the foreskin.
* ^ Gracely-Kilgore, Katharine A. (May 1984). "Further Fate of the
Foreskin". 5 (2). NURSE PRACTITIONER: 4–22. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
* ^ Circlist Editor (2014-03-07). "Styles -
Judaism and Islam".
Circlist. Archived from the original on 2014-05-15. Retrieved
2014-06-11. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* ^ Glick, Leonard B (2005-06-30). "Marked in Your Flesh:
Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America". ISBN 9780195176742
Talmud Bavli Tractate Yebamoth 71b: Rabbah b.
Isaac stated in
the name of Rab: The commandment of uncovering the corona at
circumcision was not given to Abraham; for it is said, At that time
the Lord said unto Joshua: 'Make thee knives of flint etc.' But is it
not possible those who were not previously circumcised; for it is
written, For all the people that came out were circumcised, but all
the people that were born etc.? — If so, why the expression.
'Again!' Consequently it must apply to the uncovering of the corona.
* ^ Werblowsky, R.J. Zwi & Wigoder, Geoffrey (1997) The Oxford
Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press
* ^ Stuart, Robin (July 2007). "Male initiation and the phimosis
taboos". APPLIED RESEARCH on CIRCUMCISION (Arc). Archived from the
original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
* ^ Cohen, Shaye J. D (2005-09-06). "Why Aren\'t Jewish Women
Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism". ISBN 9780520212503 .
David Gollaher. Circumcision: A History of The World’s Most
Controversial Surgery. Basic Books 2000. p. 17.
* ^ Tractate Shabbos 133b
* ^ Rambam -
Maimonides in his "book of laws" Laws of Milah Chapter
2, paragraph 2: "...and afterwards he sucks the circumcision until
blood comes out from far places, in order not to come to danger, and
anyone who does not suck, we remove him from practice."
Rashi and others on Tractate Shabbos 173a and 173b
* ^ "Denouncing City\'s Move to Regulate Circumcision".
www.nytimes.com . September 12, 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
* ^ Nussbaum Cohen, Debra (October 14, 2005). "City Risking
Babies\' Lives With Brit Policy: Health Experts".
The Jewish Week .
Archived from the original on 2007-05-22.
* ^ Nussbaum Cohen, Debra; Larry Cohler-Esses (December 23, 2005).
"City Challenged On Ritual Practice".
The Jewish Week . Archived from
the original on 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2007-04-19.
* ^ "N.Y. newborn contracts herpes from controversial circumcision
rite". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 2, 2014.
* ^ A B Eliyahu Fink and Eliyahu Federman (Sep 29, 2013).
"Controversial circumcisions". Haaretz.
* ^ "Metzitza Be\'Peh - Halachic Clarification". Rabbinical Council
of America . June 7, 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-06. The poskim consulted
by the RCA agree that the normative halacha permits using a glass
tube, and that it is proper for mohalim to do so given the health
* ^ A B Hartog, Kelly (February 18, 2005). "Death Spotlights Old
The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles .
Retrieved 2006-11-22. Metzizah b’peh — loosely translated as oral
suction — is the part of the circumcision ceremony where the mohel
removes the blood from the baby’s member; these days the removal of
the blood is usually done using a sterilized glass tube, instead of
with the mouth, as the
* ^ A B C D Gesundheit, B.; et al. (August 2004). "Neonatal Genital
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infection After Jewish Ritual
Circumcision: Modern Medicine and Religious Tradition" (PDF).
Pediatrics. 114 (2): e259–e263. doi :10.1542/peds.114.2.e259 . ISSN
1098-4275 . PMID 15286266 . Retrieved 2006-06-28.
* ^ "Another Jewish baby has contracted herpes through bris".
* ^ Staff (8 June 2012) Should extreme Orthodox Jewish circumcision
be illegal? The Week, Retrieved 30 June 2012
* ^ "NYC, Orthodox
Jews in talks over ritual after herpes cases".
* ^ http://www.matziv.com/pictures/drbermanarticlemetzitzah
* ^ "Lawsuit Unites Jewish Groups". collive.com. Oct 24, 2012.
* ^ "City Urges Requiring Consent for Jewish Rite". nytimes.com .
June 12, 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
* ^ "Assault on Bris Milah Unites Jewish Communities".
CrownHeights.info. October 25, 2012.
* ^ "Editorial & Opinion". The Jewish Week. Archived from the
original on November 20, 2006. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
* ^ Divine Law in Human Hands.
* ^ "The Chasam Sofer\'s ruling on Metzitzah Be-peh".
onthemainline.blogspot.com. April 16, 2012.
* ^ Sdei Chemed vol.8 page 238
* ^ "Kuntres Hamiliuim". Dhengah.org. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
* ^ "The Making of Metzitzah". Tradition. Retrieved 2014-05-02.
* ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22.
* ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22.
* ^ "Rare
Circumcision Ritual Carries
Herpes Risk". My.webmd.com.
Archived from the original on September 20, 2005. Retrieved
* ^ A B Newman, Andy (August 26, 2005). "City Questions
Circumcision Ritual After Baby Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved
* ^ Clarke, Suzan (June 21, 2006). "State offers new guidelines on
The Journal News . Archived from the
original on 2006-07-06. Retrieved 2006-06-28.
* ^ Nussbaum Cohen, Debra (September 23, 2005). "City: Brit Case To
The Jewish Week . Archived from the original on 2006-11-20.
* ^ Nussbaum Cohen, Debra (February 23, 2006). "Controversy rages
in New York over circumcision practice". The Jewish Ledger. Retrieved
* ^ "
Circumcision Protocol Regarding the Prevention of Neonatal
Herpes Transmission". Department of Health, New York State. November
2006. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved
2006-11-23. The person performing metzizah b'peh must do the
following: Wipe around the outside of the mouth thoroughly, including
the labial folds at the corners, with a sterile alcohol wipe, and then
discard in a safe place. Wash hands with soap and hot water for 2-6
minutes. Within 5 minutes before metzizah b'peh, rinse mouth
thoroughly with a mouthwash containing greater than 25% alcohol (for
example, Listerine) and hold the rinse in mouth for 30 seconds or more
before discarding it.
* ^ Novello, Antonia C. (May 8, 2006). "Dear
Department of Health, New York State. Archived from the original on
February 18, 2007. Retrieved 2006-11-23. The meetings have been
extremely helpful to me in understanding the importance of metzizah
b'peh to the continuity of Jewish ritual practice, how the procedure
is performed, and how we might allow the practice of metzizah b'peh to
continue while still meeting the Department of Health's responsibility
to protect the public health. I want to reiterate that the welfare of
the children of your community is our common goal and that it is not
our intent to prohibit metzizah b'peh after circumcision, rather our
intent is to suggest measures that would reduce the risk of harm, if
there is any, for future circumcisions where metzizah b'peh is the
customary procedure and the possibility of an infected mohel may not
be ruled out. I know that successful solutions can and will be based
on our mutual trust and cooperation.
* ^ Susan Donaldson James (March 12, 2012). "Baby Dies of
Circumcision By Orthodox Jews". abcnews.go.com.
* ^ Rubin LG, Lanzkowsky P. Cutaneous neonatal herpes simplex
infection associated with ritual circumcision. Pediatric Infectious
Diseases Journal. 2000. 19(3) 266-267.
* ^ Distel R, Hofer V, Bogger-Goren S, Shalit I, Garty BZ. Primary
genital herpes simplex infection associated with Jewish ritual
Israel Medical Association Journal. 2003 Dec;5(12):893-4
Archived October 21, 2012, at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Halperin, Mordechai (Winter 2006). Translated by Lavon,
Yocheved. "Metzitzah B\'peh Controversy: The View from Israel". Jewish
Orthodox Union . 67 (2): 25, 33–39. Archived from the
original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2007. The mohel
brings the baby’s organ into his mouth immediately after the
excision of the foreskin and sucks blood from it vigorously. This
action lowers the internal pressure in the tissues of the organ, in
the blood vessels of the head of the organ and in the exposed ends of
the arterioles that have just been cut. Thus, the difference between
the pressure in the blood vessels in the base of the organ and the
pressure in the blood vessels at its tip is increased. This
requirement has deep religious significance as well as medical
benefits....Immediately after incising or injuring an artery, the
arterial walls contract and obstruct, or at least reduce, the flow of
blood. Since the arterioles of the orlah, or the foreskin, branch off
from the dorsal arteries (the arteries of the upper side of the
organ), cutting away the foreskin can result in a temporary
obstruction in these dorsal arteries. This temporary obstruction,
caused by arterial muscle contraction, continues to develop into a
more enduring blockage as the stationary blood begins to clot. The
tragic result can be severe hypoxia (deprivation of the supply of
blood and oxygen) of the glans penis.28 If the arterial obstruction
becomes more permanent, gangrene follows; the baby may lose his glans,
and it may even become a life-threatening situation. Such cases have
been known to occur. Only by immediately clearing the blockage can one
prevent such clotting from happening. Performing metzitzah immediately
after circumcision lowers the internal pressure within the tissues and
blood vessels of the glans, thus raising the pressure gradient between
the blood vessels at the base of the organ and the blood vessels at
its distal end—the glans as well as the excised arterioles of the
foreskin, which branch off of the dorsal arteries. This increase in
pressure gradient (by a factor of four to six!) can resolve an acute
temporary blockage and restore blood flow to the glans, thus
significantly reducing both the danger of immediate, acute hypoxia and
the danger of developing a permanent obstruction by means of
coagulation. How do we know when a temporary blockage has successfully
been averted? When the “blood in the further reaches is
extracted,” as Rambam has stated.
* ^ "Metzitza Be\'Peh - Halachic Clarification Regarding Metzitza
Be\'Peh, RCA Clarifies Halachic Background to Statement of March 1,
2005". Rabbis.org. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
* ^ The book was originally published in German, Die Ausübung der
Mezizo, Frankfurt a.M. 1906; It was subsequently translated into
Hebrew, reprinted in
Jerusalem in 1966 under the title "Mitzvas
Hametzitzah" and appended to the back of Dvar Sinai, a book written by
the author's grandson, Sinai Adler.
* ^ New York, NY - City Approves Metzitzah B’Peh Consent Form
(full video NYC DOH debate), Vosizneias.com, Published September 13,
* ^ New York - Rabbis Say They’ll Defy Law On Metzitzah B’peh,
Vosizneias.com, Published September 2, 2012
* ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (9 September 2015). "New York City Health
Board Repeals Rule on Consent Forms for
Circumcision Ritual" – via
Shulchan Aruch , Yoreh De\'ah , 263:4
Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, Bris Milah Mesorah Publications Ltd ,
Israel Reisner, On the conversion of adoptive and
patrilineal children Archived 2010-11-27 at the
Wayback Machine .,
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards , 1988
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chapter 10". the Book of Beliefs and Opinions . Yale Judaica. ISBN
* ^ Maimonides, Moses; Pines, Schlomo (trans.) (1963). "Guide to
the Perplexed. Part III. Chapter XLIX". The University of Chicago
* ^ 2nd commandment
* ^ Boyarin, Daniel. "'This We Know to Be the Carnal Israel':
Circumcision and the Erotic Life of God and Israel", Critical Inquiry.
(Spring, 1992), 474-506.
* ^ A B Judith Bleich, "The
Circumcision Controversy in Classical
Reform in Historical Context", KTAV Publishing House, 2007. p. 1-28.
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Circumcision of Infants". Central Conference of American
Rabbis. 1982. Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved
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American Mohalim. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
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U.S. stop circumcising". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-11-03.
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Jacob (1998) Divine Law in Human Hands: Case Studies in
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* Chabad.org\'s Brit Milah: The Covenant of Circumcision
* Jewish Encyclopedia\'s entry for Circumcision