She’elot U’teshuvot Notorious # 3 – Reversing Circumcision (Ouch!)

Now the third in a series of responsa that I have written to questions submitted. And once again, you’ll see why those who ask questions like this choose me to ask…

She’elah: Clint (not real name; how many Jews do YOU know named Clint?) is wondering whether circumcision is such a good thing. Specifically, he is exploring a procedure through which circumcision can be “reversed” and asked what the Jewish attitude would be. He suggests that this procedure might enhance feelings during sex.

Teshuva: This is not as far-fetched a question as one might think. Nor is it a new one. Back in the time of the Hellenists (think Maccabee revolt and the era just before as well as several centuries after), historical sources indicate that many Jews underwent a procedure through which they would appear uncircumcised. This was in response to the Greek abhorance of the having the tip of the penis exposed, as a circumcised penis would be when Jews participated in the gymnasium and athletic games with the local Greeks.

First, the basis of circumcision is quite ancient. In the Bible, Abraham is commanded by God to circumcise himself, his sons, and the males of his household. This commandment is one of the few given in the book of Bereshit / Genesis. It is not viewed as a secular medical procedure, but as berit mila, a covenant of circumcision. Interpretations of the mitzvah abound, but at the very least, it is a symbol of a covenant between God and the males of the people Israel.

There have been attempts to link the practice to health benefits. Indeed some research has noted that circumcised males are less susceptible to certain diseases (including AIDS). Still, there have been medical opinions lined up supporting routine circumcision and opposing it over the years. At the same time, while the vast majority of practicing Jews insist on circumcision (either as a ritual or as a medical operation done to align with tradition), there have been some voices of opposition to the practice.

From a traditional point of view, however, it is clear that the mitzvah of berit milah remains intact (even as the foreskin doesn’t… Sorry, couldn’t resist).

Now for the question of reversal. The Hellenistic Jews in ancient time appeared to have sometimes undergone a procedure called epispasm to “undo” the circumcision. Clint indicated that he was looking into a non-surgical procedure that, in my opinion, looks a little like something that might have been used to torture prisoners-of-war prior to the Geneva Convention.

In truth, there is a mitzvah to circumsize one’s son (or one’s self later in life, if parents have not had that done for him). Which may not mean that one has to have a circumcised penis throughout his life. Nonetheless, the rabbis of the midrash are outspoken in their criticism of those who underwent epispasm to hide or “reverse” their circumcision.

In conclusion then, my humble opinion is that, at the very least, one who chooses to undergo either a surgical procedure, or the tortorous one that Clint told me about, acts against the rabbinic disparagement towards those who did so from ancient times until today. And the method described by Clint appears to me to cause needless pain to the human body, with unproven medical (or sexual) benefits.

But I love Clint and my other peeps. Keep the questions coming!

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3 responses

  1. Being a female is so much easier in some ways. . .poor Clint. 😦 Sorry you couldn't give him a different answer. Looking forward to your next installment. Since you were talking about circumcision, now you can consider sperm. Looking forward to that discussion.Shabbat Shalom

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    1. What do you say in response to these madecil organizations statements against infant male circumcision? 2004 College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, Infant Male Circumcision: “Current understanding of the benefits, risks and potential harm of this procedure no longer supports this practice for prophylactic health benefit. Routine infant male circumcision performed on a healthy infant is now considered a non-therapeutic and madecilly unnecessary intervention.”2003 British Medical Association, The Law and Ethics of Male Circumcision: Guidance for Doctors: “The madecil benefits previously claimed have not been convincingly proven… The British Medical Association considers that the evidence concerning health benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it.”2002 Royal Australian College of Physicians, Policy Statement on Circumcision:“There is no madecil indication for routine male circumcision.”2002 American Academy of Family Physicians, Position Paper on Neonatal Circumcision: “Evidence from the literature is often conflicting or inconclusive… A physician performing a procedure for other than madecil reasons on a nonconsenting patient raises ethical concerns.”2000 American Medical Association (AMA), Report 10 of the Council on Scientific Affairs: “Virtually all current policy statements from specialty societies and madecil organizations do not recommend routine infant circumcision…The AMA supports the general principles of the 1999 Circumcision Policy Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics.” 1999 American Academy of Pediatrics, Circumcision Policy Statement: “Existing scientific evidence … [is] not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.”1996 Canadian Paediatric Society, Neonatal Circumcision Revisited: “Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”1996 Australian Medical Association, Circumcision Deterred: “The Australian College of Paediatrics should continue to discourage the practice of circumcision in newborns.”1996 British Medical Association, Circumcision of Male Infants: Guidance for Doctors: “To circumcise for therapeutic reasons where madecil research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate.”1996 Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons, Guidelines for Circumcision: “The Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons does not support the routine circumcision of male neonates, infants, or children in Australia. It is considered to be inappropriate and unnecessary as a routine to remove the prepuce [foreskin], based on the current evidence available… We do not support the removal of a normal part of the body, unless there are definite indications to justify the complications and risks which may arise. In particular, we are opposed to male children being subjected to a procedure, which had they been old enough to consider the advantages and disadvantages, may well have opted to reject the operation and retain their prepuce.”

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  2. Circumcisers and their victims who in this case are also the deeviced parents and people in general, even our judges and politicians, are obviously not aware that circumcision is OUTLAWED. Everybody needs to know that they are breaking the most basic laws of every Democracy, the US Constitution and the International Laws of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of the Child which clearly state that inflicting preventable injuries on others is a Human Rights violation and a severely punishable crime. THE GREATEST CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY IS THETORTURE & MUTILATION OF CHILDRENThe First International Symposium on Circumcision in Anaheim, CA on March 1-3, 1989 and again at the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations held at the University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland on August 9-11,1996, affirms that the genital mutilation of children is torture and is in violation of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Article 37 of the U.N. CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. U.S. Federal Law makes female genital mutilation a crime and baby boys/children are protected by the equal protection of the laws of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.Any intelligent and compassionate person will have to agree that freedom of religion does not mean that you can harm others. Circumcisers purposely misinterpret the First Amendment of the US Constitution as they want to force their religion onto others by deceiving and coercing religious people with lies about God and medicine so they can mark their child victims in the flesh. They torture and mutilate for profit and to make obedient and dumbfounded little slaves out of people and with it they also break the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the basic laws of every Democracy. They take away their victims’ right for intact genitals, their body integrity and the choice not to look like belonging to certain religions.Awakened people from all over the world are uniting to bring all perpetrators to justice if they don’t stop preaching and committing this crime immediately. All their further actions are being recorded and their data is being kept as evidence for the day when they are getting sued, arrested and trialed by the people. Nobody will be exempt from punishment if they further preach, promote, enable and commit this crime on defenseless and non-consenting children.We demand from our governments to obey and enforce our Superior Laws.

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