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    Circumcision & the doctors – Lech L’cha

    After so many years in the rabbinate I cannot always avoid bringing in a personal note when I write a d’var Torah.

    In the case of this parashah I am reminded of representations to the Australian Medical Association to urge them not to oppose infant circumcision which is such a basic feature of Jewish tradition and practice.

    Their argument was that they saw no medical need for the procedure and they even felt that it left the baby with possible psychological problems.

    They listened when we said that medical opinion fluctuates on the circumcision question and the procedure tends to go out of and come back into medical favour.

    They talked about psychological problems but were unable to satisfy themselves, much less the Jewish representatives, that there was any evidence either way.

    In the end we had to insist that we would not be deterred from circumcising our baby boys and they had to insist that medical benefit refunds might not be paid for a b’rit milah.

    All this is a long time ago and I know that the issue continues to surface and Jewish parents continue to have their children circumcised.

    As far as we are concerned the psychological problem of not circumcising a Jewish boy weighs very heavily with parents, but not in the same way as the AMA defined it.

    I know that embarrassment weighs with the few Jewish males who never had a milah. Some reach old age still feeling incomplete as a Jew.

    They realise that this is an age-old mark of Jewish identity, symbolising that the elemental maleness of a boy and man ought to be dedicated to God, just as the mark of femaleness is dedicated by means of the mikvah.

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