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    Circumcision: unfair to the child? – Tazria

    8th-day circumcision figures in this week’s sidra (Lev. 12:3), though the mitzvah begins in B’reshit (17:11-12). Throughout the centuries Jews maintained the practice.

    History does not seem to record objections to circumcision until our own day, when parents occasionally say, “Why impose this on a child when he can’t consent to it?” If such parents knew the Bible, they might quote what Reuben said to his brothers when they were working out what to do with Joseph, “Do not sin against the child” (Gen. 42:22).

    It seems a fair argument until we realise that we also don’t ask our children if they want to be born, if they want us as their parents, if they want the heredity or the environment with which we saddle them, if they want to be male or female, or so much else. The way life works is that many great decisions are made for us.

    As far as Jews are concerned, though we do not ask to be born Jewish we discover that it is a blessing; Albert Einstein said, “I am sorry I was born Jewish… because it deprived me of the opportunity to choose to be a Jew!” Nor do we ask to be born into a world where the Lord is God, but we discover that it gives our life meaning and challenge.

    When we decide to circumcise our child, we not only hearken to the word of God and endow the child with a mark of Jewish identity; we also symbolise our hope that his manhood will be disciplined and bring him dignity.

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