Perhaps one of the most common surgical procedures done in the world today is circumcision. Circumcision is when the foreskin of the penis is removed using a scalpel. Any blood is then removed from the area and a protective layer of gel or gauze is applied to the wound. The wound heals in about a week. Many wonder how the practice began and if there is any medical reason to do it. Let's examine the practice.
Why Do Jews Circumcise?
Genesis 17, 10-14: "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised."
Jews circumcise due to some Biblical principles stating that it is the covenant to be kept between the Jews and God. It is the very essence of Judaism. It is symbolic of their tie with God and with Abraham. It is a command that is compulsory for them to follow and is practiced as a tradition by Jews. Circumcision is considered one of the foremost commandments for the Jews, surpassing even the feast day commandments of Shabbat and Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Only on those two feast days should it not be carried out. In the Nazi era, it was a sign to the Nazis that a male child was Jewish and could lead to execution; in spite of this, they still carried it out, even if they were in a Nazi labor camp. It isn't conceivable to a Jew to not carry out this commandment.
When, Where and How Is a Baby Circumcised?
Although there are no hard and fast rules of where to have the ceremony, it is typically held at the family home or in a synagogue. The procedure is done by a person called a "mohel" which loosely translated means "circumciser". This person is a Jew that is practicing and in good standing. It's done on the 8th day after the child's birth as long as there is no medical reason to postpone the procedure. The mohel must have studied the laws of the religion and he must also have the required surgical skills to perform the procedure on the child. There are specific departments that oversee this study and training and ensure that the person is qualified on all platforms to perform the procedure.
The father as well as the mohel must both be present at the circumcision. Other family members may also be present as desired. A chair that sits empty will be placed in the room for Elijah, the prophet, who is in charge of overseeing such procedures and will ensure that the ritual continues as written. The mother and other female members of the family will bring the child into the room. A sandek, the person specifically designated to hold the child (often the grandfather) will lay the child on his lap during the procedure. Sometimes it is a Rabbi and it's considered a great honor to be a part of this procedure.
Blessings will be recited during the ceremony and a drop or so of wine will be placed into the child's mouth. The child will also be given an official Hebrew name with the ceremony. The family will then celebrate with a festive meal.
Will It Cause Any Health Problems?
With the question, "Why do Jews circumcise?" answered, you may also wonder if the procedure would leave any side effects. It's very painful and overwhelming. According to a Canadian report, in boys who had been circumcised there was more pain reported during their vaccinations. They also showed pain for a longer amount of time than those who were not circumcised. It led the researchers to believe that it could be a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Other lingering health concerns include bleeding, surgical injuries, and infection of the site during the first year after the procedure. Rarely, death has been a complication. It is important to note that this is exceedingly rare and it doesn't just happen to those who are Jewish, but it can happen to any child of any race who is circumcised.
Many men, especially those who were circumcised after becoming an adult, complain of a weakened sensation during sex.
Do All Jews Favor the Practice of Circumcision?
Just as all Americans do not practice their beliefs, not all Jewish people practice circumcision. However, most of them do practice the belief and commandment and they believe that if they don't conform they are going against what God has commanded. By doing this, they are putting themselves under a great deal of pressure to conform.
Most Jewish parents don't ask "why do Jews circumcise" and don't know that, in fact, they can have a choice concerning whether to have their child circumcised or not. Because circumcision is not publicly talked about and if a Jewish parent doesn't comply, the rest of the Jewish population won't know about it. But the thing is that most parents, after submitting to the pressure and watching the procedure done, discover only too late that they can actually choose differently.