Project Genesis



Is Circumcision Child Mutilation?

Question: Do you have any explanation as to why God required males to have their foreskins cut off at 8 days old (Gen 17:12) as a sign of the covenant? I have tried to rationalize this in my own mind but cannot get away from the fact that this is child mutilation which caused agony to the infant in an intimate area. Please help me to understand the reasoning behind this. Many Thanks in advance

Answer: Your question is very legitimate, and I would like to start by addressing the bottom line answer which is:

We are finite human beings and we can not understand G-d’s thoughts. With that said we are open to conjecture.

First off, I am a practicing Mohel (ritual circumcision practitioner) and can vouch that the circumcision performed by a “Mohel” doesn’t cause much more agony than vaccinations that the baby receives in the hospital. (While you might counter that vaccinations are vital for the physical health of the child, so too a circumcision is vital for the spiritual health of a Jewish child).

If you haven’t you should make a point of witnessing a Jewish circumcision ceremony and you will see a happy occasion. It is celebrated. The procedure takes less than 30 seconds by an experienced “Mohel”. The baby quiets down shortly afterwards. In my personal experience as a parent of 4 children, I’ve seen nurses trying to draw blood from the heel of the baby pricking them repeatedly for 20+ min all the while holding down the baby screaming bloody murder.

Regarding your claim to “CHILD MUTILATION” this is far from the truth, unless you consider piercing ears “CHILD MUTILATION”.

There are no shortage of medical research studies that show that circumcised males have less risk of contracting HIV, infections due to poor hygiene (unclean foreskin), etc.

Complications as a result of a circumcision are rare. And extremely rare when performed by a “Mohel.” 

For religious believers in the Old Testament (Jews and Christians), we believe in one G-d that created the world. This G-d is omnipotent and all-knowing. Judaism not only encourages questioning “why?” it thrives on it. YET, we ultimately believe that we are engaging in a spiritual academic debate since ultimately if G-d commanded it, then it by definition is ultimate goodness whether we understand it or not. This goes for death, tragedy and utter devastation. We mourn, we cry, we agonize, but one who has faith in G-d knows that we don’t know why, but G-d does and even though it is beyond our comprehension it must be for the good.

Trying to be definitive about G-d’s thoughts is like trying to see the moon with a microscope. It is so magnificent and our scope is so minuscule. I hope this will help you start on your trek to appreciating that G-d’s ultimate will is beyond our grasp.

All the Best, Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

1 Follow-up »

  1. The commandment for circumcision predates Slavery in Egypt by a few hundred years. It was first commanded to Abraham and that he should circumcise all future male offspring on the 8th day after they are born. It is the first commandment for future generations and was completely outside any national/social/economical experience.

    Comment by ATR — May 16, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

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