Aired April 2, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. youtube: Circumcision
Shalom Dammit, this is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of April 3, 2011.
Japan, Libya, Syria, Gaza – all this going on, so what makes headlines? A guy in San Francisco who wants to ban circumcisions. Lloyd Schofield is trying to collect seven thousand signatures to put the issue up for a vote in November. If it passes, people will have to drive all the way to Orange County to get their bananas peeled.
Mr. Schofield claims he opposes circumcision on human-rights grounds, and that cutting off the foreskin is a cruel and pointless mutilation – especially when you’re doing it to babies who have no say in the matter.
I do not disagree with any of this. If I woke up one day to find a Rabbi hoisting me in his arms and giving me two drops of wine while his pen-knife does a rotato on my shmeckel, I’d be screaming, too.
Both sides of the issue claim health benefits. The anti-bris contingent says it’s traumatizing and causes nerve damage, and that at best, it’s cosmetic, elective surgery. And let’s face it – Jewish men are not black men; we need all the inches we can get. If I were a talking baby, I’d say, “Leave the penis, take the nose!”
The pro-circumcision group say that doing a cockwork orange is more sanitary, more aesthetically appealing, and has a lower risk of HIV, Chlamydia and penile cancer. Those findings are in dispute, but I have to say the idea of standing in the shower doing a smegma check every week is not my idea of a good time. Of course, if it’s a 22-year-old blonde doing the checking, I could be persuaded.
But if we take health off the table, we’re left with a brief but painful process that is done in the name of tradition. Like having relatives over on the holidays.
Can we replace the circumcision, a covenant stretching back millennia, with a new, harmless ceremony? After all, so much of what we do in Judaism is metaphorical. When we spill wine on Passover, this represents the ten plagues and the blood that was spilled when we vamoosed from Egypt. It’s not like we have to go out every Pesach and kill an Arab. Although with the missiles coming from Gaza right now, sometimes I’m tempted…
On Chanukah we light the menorah to symbolize the drop of oil that burned for eight days in the great temple. So why can’t we take a baby, have him wear a little condom, and then the mohel yanks off the Trojan and says, “Ut! This is to commemorate what we used to do to baloney ponies for 5,000 years.”
As you can see, I sympathize with Lloyd Schofield’s argument. When we hear about African tribes slicing their women’s privates like mango chunks, we react with horror. And I’ll be honest, if a grown man came to me and said, “Rabbi, I wanna convert. I’ll do the Bar Mitzvah, and I’m willing to skin the flute,” my first response would be, “Are you suuuuuure? I mean really sure? `Cause if you think peeling an onion makes you cry…”
And yet, for all the reasonable challenges to circumcision, I can’t throw the baby out with the pee-water. Maybe there was something our forefathers knew that we don’t; maybe there is a real covenant between us and God that has to be symbolized by a painful whack to the wang; maybe we have no business messing with a tradition that someone found valuable because hospitals do it automatically no matter what religion you are?
I say, until you can categorically prove that circumcisions are unhealthy, leave `em alone. Give parents the right to choose as they wish for their children, and for their children’s yogurt hoses. Or, as Dooley Wilson would sing:
You must remember this:
A bris is still a bris
A baby’s gonna cry
So what if there’s some blood upon his thigh?
We don’t ask why.
And though some skin he’ll miss
He still can take a piss
And let the semen fly
So take a tip…from this Rabbi
And just comply.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches, in Great Neck, NY.
So if you have a boy
And if he’s not a goy
Then kiss his flap goodbye
At least he keeps his pink whale eye
And stays a guy.
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