Monday, April 30, 2018

Bris Milah and Iceland

Iceland has had a bill to criminalize Bris Milah. I don't know how many Jews live in Iceland, but the thought that a basic Jewish practice might be criminalized, sending people into cellars and basements to do it, is frightening.

I know much lobbying has helped turn this decision, and that international pressure has brought about this interim conclusion. Enjoy? the link.

Here is the latest: https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/general/1512993/european-jewish-association-welcomes-iceland-bris-milah-bill-demise-but-urge-continued-vigilance.html

European Jewish Association Welcomes Demise Of Iceland Bris Milah Bill, But Urges Continued Vigilance

0

The Chairman of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin on Sunday welcomed the apparent demise of Iceland’s controversial circumcision bill, that sought to criminalize the act and threatened imprisonment to adherents, regardless of religious practice or obligation.
Rabbi Margolin however cautioned that continued vigilance of contagion was a necessity not only in Iceland but across Europe.
On March 1, the Icelandic parliament sent the bill to the committee on Judicial affairs for comment, where it has been stuck since. The committee has now decided not to let the bill go forward for a vote on the floor.
As the legislative session is drawing to a close it is all but guaranteed that the decision to refer the bill to the cabinet kills its chances of becoming law. Whether the bill will then be re-introduced is still an open question
In a statement from Brussels, Rabbi Margolin said, “I welcome the apparent demise of what was a discriminatory, unnecessary and fundamentally anti-Jewish bill. The European Jewish Association, along with many other groups, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, made repeated and vociferous representations to the Icelandic government, registering our strong opposition to legislation that sought to criminalize an entire faith.
“Whilst we welcome the news, we must remain vigilant. In our experience bills such as this do not come out in isolation but represent an idea that knows no borders. It is sadly often the case that there is contagion where one bill fails in one country, it gets picked up by another.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Vigilant Parent

Vigilant. Not vigilante.

Last week I received from a phone call from a somewhat reluctant father, who was calling more because his wife was concerned about how their son's circumcision looks.

The following is my recollection of what he said, though it is not an exact quote.

"We had a friend of mine fly in from New York to do the bris 5 months ago. It was a little weird because he did something afterwards, and he followed up with us a lot, but eventually - he lives in NY and we are in Florida - I can't bother him to come down to look at it. But I found what you wrote on your website and so I'm calling you."

Not having been at the bris, not having seen the baby before or afterwards, not having witnessed the actual circumcision, I told the father that I could not comment on the job without seeing it. And so we made arrangements for me to visit, and sure enough, the mommy's instinct was correct and there was a(n easily) correctable problem, which I have called the Fusion Challenge. Basically the remains of the Periah skin (membrane) had gotten stuck to the back of the glans.

I separated the skin with a little pressure, the baby did not bleed, and I showed the parents very simply how they could avoid this concern in the future.

And then I told them this story. Which, as usual, had its desired effect.

The point is, if you, the parents, are vigilant about how to care for your baby's circumcision after the bris, you'll never have these problems or concerns. So be sure to know what you need to do, and follow through with it for your baby's sake!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Periah

The second stage of Brit Milah, which is sometimes accomplished along with the first, is the one that is often used by anti-circumcision people as being "anti-traditional." 

They'll often claim that it wasn't originally instructed to Abraham, and therefore doing it is "not what God intended."

I love how they have a hold on "what God intended."

The truth is, they have no blessed idea of what they're talking about, and no business chiming in on Jewish practice, when they are anti-Jewish practice. 

The same Talmud that debates and discusses whether Abraham did Periah dictates that there are three stages to a bris procedure: Milah (excising the foreskin), Periah (revealing the glans - either through removal or folding back of the mucosal membrane), and Metzitzah (drawing out blood from the wound).

I bring this up here because in advance of a class I'm giving next week, I came across this comment from the Haktav V'hakabbalah (a commentary on the Torah) on the verse in Vayikra 12:3 which states that when a woman gives birth to a son, on the 8th day of his life he is to be circumcised. 

הכתב והקבלה ויקרא פרק יב
(ג) בשר ערלתו. יש לפרשו באחד משני פנים, הא' בשר הוא כנוי לאותו אבר, כמו זב בשרו, החתים בשרו, וערלה הוא שם לעור המכסה את העטרה, והיה ראוי להסמיך ערלה לבשר ולומר ערלת בשר, כמו ונמלתם ערלת לבבכם, והב' בשר הוא עור החופה את הגיד, כי העור נקרא בשר, כמו דבקה עצמי לבשרי שטעמו לרד"ק דבקה עצמי לעורי, ויהיה טעם בשר ערלתו, בשרו הערל. וההבדל שבין הפירושים האלה הוא, אם ניתנה פריעת מילה לא"א אם לא. והענין מבואר יותר ס"פ לך לך.

Rabbi Mecklenburg's comment here discusses how the reading of the verse in question would determine whether Periah was given as an instruction to Abraham.

However, as I've noted before, we don't circumcise because Abraham circumcised. He may have started a family tradition! But we circumcise because we were commanded to at Sinai, in a different covenant which has kept the Jewish people a distinct unit for thousands of years.

Therefore, while the historical debate of Abraham's periah makes for interesting dinner-talk it is completely irrelevant to our practice.

On top of that, I can certainly add that if asthetics are the least bit of a concern to anyone who is either circumcising a child or having oneself circumcised (as an adult, etc), the status of periah's having been done will actually have a significant impact in whether one "looks" circumcised. 

I'll leave the pro-con benefit vs no-benefit argument to others to tackle. We circumcise because of our mitzvah and our Covenant. But once we're doing it right (i.e. with periah) it should also look right.

AMEN.