Every so often, it rears its ugly head. It seems that there those of us (Jews) whose lives are incomplete unless they take up the cudgel against circumcision (which is really a misnomer, in that Judaism mandates a Brit Milah or Bris; Judaism has nothing to say about circumcision, as circumcision is solely a medical procedure.)
Far be it from me to try to look into their souls and try to figure what possesses them, much less attempt to discern the thought process or lack thereof, of “concerned” parents wishing to spare their eight day old son from “unnecessary pain.” One thing I am fairly certain of is, that G-d believes in payback and that G-d has a sense of humor – at times a wicked sense of humor. Take it from a rabbi whose mother bestowed the name “Shawn” on him, lest he go through life with a name that might be misconstrued as being too Jewish. That said, I have a most troubling dream…
I have a most wonderful dream. In the troubling dream, I dream that in eighteen, twenty, twenty-two years from now, all Jewish male children who were “spared” a bris – circumcision and all – by their parents, become drawn to halachic Judaism. As a result, they are going to be confronted by quite a task, which is also quite a mitzvah. In my most wonderful dream, I dream that the parents who “spared” their son a bris, become drawn to halachic Judaism and realize the terrible sin they have committed.
I consider myself neither a historian nor a sociologist, but during so called normal times in Jewish history, (short of the Holocaust, when there was no hiding from one’s Judaism anatomically speaking and the Greco-Roman period, when there was infatuation with the au natural body with its original factory equipment) the foreskin has caused more problems for Jewish males than the lack of foreskin. Having officiated at the funeral of a hemophiliac who died of AIDS, I held back the tears as I heard his bereaved father tell me how his son was denied a Hebrew school education, along with a Bar Mitzvah ceremony, because no uncircumcised Jew could participate in any Jewish ritual according to their rabbi at the time (G-d save us from such rabbis.) Under normal circumstances, foreskin on a Jew has always been considered to be a mark of shame.
A Soviet official who managed to keep his Judaism secret, risked his entire career as he burst into the apartment of the clandestine Mohel of the community, pulled out his revolver, and ordered the Mohel to take his equipment, don a blindfold, and come with him as he drove him to an undisclosed apartment. Where the blindfold was finally removed, the Soviet Official turned to the Mohel and said, “Enter my son into the Covenant of Abraham!”
I can’t recall the last time I was together with (Jewish male) friends, where we shared our own bris experiences and how much pain we were in and how long it lasted. I could tell you (but I won’t) about any number of men sitting in my office, telling me about the scars they will take with them to their graves because of parents who were emotionally abusive, overly and unrealistically demanding, yet so very stingy when it came to praise and encouragement. Not that I have any say in either matter, but given the choice of the pain caused by a bris or the pain inflicted by (I’ll be overly kind) well-meaning parents, I’ll take the former, thank you.
The newspaper article that engendered the above remarks, posed the following question as part of its title: “If Parents Skip the Bris, Can a Son Still be Jewish?” As far as I’m concerned, the wrong question was asked. The article should have been titled: “If Parents Skip the Bris, Can The Parents Still be Jewish?”