Circumcision: The history and the False Beliefs

Rabbi Nathan’s scholastic report, the story behind the tradition.


August, 2009

The earliest oral history of genital cutting comes from the Dogon tribe in Africa almost 5 thousand years ago. They believed that people were born dual-gendered and in order for the baby to grow up into an adult with capacity to procreate, they have to be made into one-gendered person. So, the male part, the clitoris, had to be excised from the female baby and the female part, the foreskin, had to be removed from the male child. So that people would be able to have children.

In ancient Egypt circumcision was used as a sort of branding for slaves. It was a tool of breaking the spirit at a young age to make a slave or a soldier. Mainly through breaking the primal bond between the boy and his mother.

During the mid-1800s in the English-speaking countries circumcision was believed to be the cure from masturbation, which was believed to cause a myriad of ills, including scoliosis, hernia, gout, kidney disorders, blindness, epilepsy, and insanity.

By the turn of the century, the microscope was developed, and a fear of germ became the next excuse. Penile cancer was the fear of the '40s. Cervical cancer was the excuse of the '50s. Sexually transmitted diseases were the fear of the '60s... Urinary tract infection was the excuse in the '80s. Now circumcision is believed to prevent AIDS. However, the USA has one of the highest HIV rates, as well as one of the highest circumcision rates in the world.

There was a study done in Africa in 2006 that proved, in no uncertain terms, that after a mass circumcision of male adults, the new AIDS victims rates went significantly down. Indeed, that was true. But the report failed to mention that a short time frame was monitored in that study, during which those circumcised men were not engaged in sexual activity at all because of the massive pain they were in! Now, with this report, which is just a new excuse, the AIDS rates will sky-rocket, because those men believe that they don't need to use any other protection, because they are circumcised!

In American hospitals, until recently, circumcision was routinely performed on a great majority of infants, up to 95%, whose parents were not given a proper explanation. In the last few years, however, there have been a significant decline in statistics: now in California it's around 20%, on the West Coast in general - around 35%, in Central and Eastern states - still 70-80%.

Currently, on average, 3 million girls a year are still being circumcised in the Middle East and Africa. They lose their clitoris' in excruciating pain, without anesthesia, without sterilization, with dull blades or a piece of broken glass...

It just does not make any sense to me! Our creator (fill in the blank, - whatever word suits your description of the Intelligence of that Creative Energy) - provided us with our genitalia in the first place. Why would we demand to fix it and cut off something from a brand new baby right after it was made? Especially, an exquisitely sophisticated piece of 'something'? That piece of skin has 20,000 very specific erogenous nerve endings that are responsible for knowing pleasure.

I talked with an Israei rabbi Nathan, asking to tell me the exact words from the templates, - what does the actual ancient text say about it. He searched high and low for it in the originals and said it's not even in there. There is no direct sentence in Torah saying it should be done. It's pretty vague and can be interpreted every which way. The closest translation he came up with was: 'remove the foreskins from your heart'. From the HEART!!!

Here is Rabbi Nathan:

"The early Egyptians gifted us with circumcision. The patriarch Abraham was 99 years old when he made the covenant (hebrew: Brit') with Yahweh. He circumcised himself. And we know that it was a small symbolic cut..the removal of the tip of the foreskin that hung over the glans.

In the second century , the Jews at this time were wanting to participate in the Greek and Roman olympics..they competed in the nude. The Greeks and Romans only allowed 'intact' they celebrated the human form in its wholeness and completeness.

So, if a Jewish man wanted to compete..he would hang some weights from his existing foreskin and 'restore' himself. The Rabbis of this era did not take kindly to this practice of physical assimilation so they instituted two new rituals into the circumcision procedure.

1. Periah..the complete removal of the foreskin, exposing the glans, and in some cases, the removal of the frenulum (the extra-sensitive band of tissue on the underside of the penis.)
2.Metzitzah..the sucking of the blood from the cut penis.
These two procedures are still performed among Orthodox Jews world wide.

So, from a simple snip at the time of Abraham, we now have a major blood-letting ceremony, complete with blood sucking.

This has got to is endangering the sexual integrity and health of our men and women and it has major potential for dividing the Jewish people.

Here is what the Deuteronomy 10:16 says: "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart,"


In Hebrew, the word foreskin is 'orlah'.. there is an 'orlah' covering the ear..and the heart..

What is preventing us from 'hearing the word of God and opening our hearts in love and compassion.. This is the real circumcision that needs to occur. and it is a life-time learning ceremony.

According to most Jewish teachings there are 613 commandments in the Torah (Bible-Old Testament). 248 positive commandments (Mitzvot Aseh), and 365 negative commandments (Mitzvot Taaseh). Although not all rabbis are in agreement about this..actually, not all rabbis are in agreement about anything...there is no 'Jewish universal field theory.' (Humanistic Judaism does not even believe in God.) And the same is true for all the religions..not all Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, believe the same way. (more often than not they will fight and war with each other re: belief..sad but true)...

So, i find it fascinating (and disturbing) that young bright couples, who practice very little of the 613 commandments..will have SUCH major surgery performed on their baby boys in the name of a tradition that they know little about and are not even practicing...

Well, how Orthodox do you want to it the more foreskin that is removed...the more Jewish your child will be?
Will you include the blood sucking ceremony?
Circumcision is not a guarantee of Jewishness. The Jewish mother is.
It was introduced into the American culture by Dr. John Kellogg (yes, the Kellog cereal man) ..(he also favored female circumcision very much)
He said that it was a cure for masturbation!..(it's not)..and likewise it is not a procedure that guarantees health, holiness, compassion, connection with the Spirit world or wisdom in our sex.

Infancy is a most sacred and special time. At no time in life is physical tissue more sensitive and responsive to touch, taste, sound, temperature etc.

I have witnessed hundreds of circumcisions, the baby boy usually lies in bliss and blessing and as soon as his penis is touched it gets erect...and then he is held down... either with a restraining unit or by an elder, and then he is cut... and he screams bloody murder, and cries... and cries...
How is this event stored in memory? What are we doing to our children? ...and why?

I don't know..You don't know..We don't know..and that's the truth of it. Forgive us dear Lord ..for we know not what we do...

We have so much pathology (sickness/disease) around our sexuality that it makes no sense to cut off parts of our anatomy because some second century rabbis thought it was a good idea.

Boys are born with foreskins and girls with hymens. They both have a reason and purpose. It is their own surprise package..for them to open..a special present from their Creator. We have no right to open their private packages. It is their body. If they want a circumcision at the age of thirteen or 99 that is their choice.

As parents and caretakers of children it is not our task to make them into copies of ourselves but to allow them to be the unique and beautiful spirits that they are.

Sex in Hebrew is called 'beah' or 'knowing" (...and Adam 'knew' Eve and she conceived). One must first learn to 'know' order to be able to 'know' another.

Most people in western cultures view female genital mutilation as primitive and barbaric; but hold male circumcision in a totally different light. Our cultural bias obviously creates blinders from which we cannot see clearly.

The code of the Jewish law is called "halacha" (the way). Within the Code, there is a provision that if a mother looses a son because of circumcision, she is NOT obligated to circumcise her next son. I extrapolate from this, the inter-connection of my human family , that enough deaths, handicap and maiming have occurred because of circumcision. Therefore - circumcision is no longer a requisite.

Brit Milah' is the Hebrew for the covenant of 'circumcision'. 'Mila' also means 'word'.. We can welcome the child with songs and praises and holy words..gentle tones, and soft touches and smiles, without hurting them.
Infants are great teachers of gentleness,tenderness, softness, quietness, forgiveness, and peace. We can use a drop of wine instead of blood, and give Praise to our Creator for the gift of life..and celebrate together in joy holiness and thanksgiving.

If you feel that you absolutely must do some ritual 'blood-letting'..less is better..return to the original concept, a small snip off the tip ..or a drop of blood from a needle prick.

Just as we no longer practice the animal sacrifices in the traditional temple, so let us not sacrifice an important piece of our nature in the temple of tradition. Let us be holy beings in our sex and spirit - they are connected beyond our imaginings, and let us start with bright beginnings, wonder, prayer, gratitude, and grace. Spare the pain, nature will provide plenty of 'owie' opportunities. Let us comfort, console, love, and caress, and yes - Bless each other in holy love. Listen, Yah is One. Let's protect our babies from our dead belief! Our creator did not want us to hurt them and created this organ for our pleasure.

What really matters? Love - water - food - shelter! I choose life that I might live, to love Yah with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might. And, I will love my neighbor as myself.

As a Rabbi and a naturopathic physician, I am continually looking at the natural world and beholding in wonder and awe the glory of all creation.

All is with a purpose, all spaces have their time.. life is meditation..the all is one... Divine...


Elena continues:

I also believe that no one had a direct experience of God demanding it from them. Somebody told them that somebody told somebody that God told somebody...
And all of those somebodies were mere humans, which means they could have been mistaken... They were men who wanted to mess with other men's heads, to control them, their very lives! - that's who wanted the foreskins. As a sign of submission.
Somehow they understood that as the baby boy is taken from his mother's arms and subjected to this torture, the only way the baby can interpret it - as a betrayal by her. He will have to work hard on trusting her again. He can be trained to show her some respect and behave appropriately, but that deepest wound in his heart will take forever to heal... Most of the men simply don't know that they carry that deep pain within them, where it came from and why, - they just act it out unconsciously...

Besides, as far as hospital circumcision goes DOCTOR'S OBLIGATION IS, FIRST OF ALL, TO THE PATIENT, not to the patient's parents or their religeous beliefs. I'm talking about hundreds of millions of circumcised infants that did not have their say in it, whose parents didn't even believe in the Old Testament and are not Jewish or Muslim. These babies were tortured for absolutely nothing! There are no medical reasons for it! Cleanliness? What about the nations that don't practice circumcision? They don't have higher rates in any of the diseases. They just wash up! - Should we remove their teeth, too? It would prevent tooth decay! What if their hands get dirty? Cut them off, too?!Here are quotes from New Testament - Jesus's words, i.e. in John 8:32, are good advice to His believers regarding circumcision, that it's NOT nesessary. He said, " shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free".
Deuteronomy 30:6
Luke 2:15-21
Acts 15:1-12
Acts 21:21
Romans 2:29, 4:11-14, 13:10
I Corinthians 7:18-20
Galatians 5:1-6, 6:12-15
Ephesians 2:11, 15
Philippians 3:1-3
Colossians 2:11, 3:11
Titus 1:10-11

It takes a lot of courage for an Israeli Rabbi to go against circumcision, yet Rabbi Natan is doing it so lightheartedly, joyfully, matter-of-factly speaking up his mind... I admire his ability to see the truth and talk about it.
Also, I wanted to share that there is a rapidly growing movement in Israel— "Jewish Women against Circumcision." NOCIRC.ORG has more information (Marilyn Milos, the founder of that organization was the one who gifted me with the footage of circumcision in my film, Birth As We Know It)



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  • Ricardo
    followed this page 2016-09-07 09:13:28 -0700
  • Lily Rothrock
    commented 2014-06-22 22:31:38 -0700
    Hello, Shelley! Thank you for your taking the time to express your feelings about this article! I’ll be brief in my attempt to explain why circumcision might be an experience that a baby boy would object if he could.
    Imagine if someone, without asking you, ties you on your back, spreads your legs and slowly cuts off your clitoris without any anesthetics. Now triple the sensation, as clitoris has, on average, about 8 000 of very specific erogenous nerve endings and the foreskin has over 20 000. Now multiply it about 100 times, because a newborn is generally about a 100 times more sensitive than an average adult, who had plenty of time to dull the sensory antennae. How does that feel by now?

    There are thousands of men out there right now, as we speak, objecting their circumcision and suing the doctors who performed this most unnecessary by all medical standards surgery, which is not recommended by any medical academy in the world.

    I also never said that a man is going to lose his capacity for wanting sex. I only said that the quality of it is greatly compromised, as the foreskin is the organ specifically governing the ability to know pleasure and give a man an adequate reading of where his sexual partner is on the pleasure scale. So he is not just being horny, but is able to learn the art of Love-making. This is what the 20 000 erogenous nerve endings are for.

    — Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova
  • Shelly Lopez
    commented 2014-06-11 02:11:05 -0700
    If it’s so bad why is my husband so horny? Be skeptical of anyone who sways too strongly in one direction. I’m not trying to convince anyone to perform a bris on their newborn. I just want to point out how twisted and slanted in one direction this article is. Be a free thinker and don’t let anyone tell you how to think! This article is twisted. How can you relate the rise of HIV to the number of circumcisions performed in US? This is not a logical arguement. This is an emotional article and not an informative, well rounded article. It manipulates the mind of the reader rather than acting as a conduit for the reader to think for herself and come to her own conclusion. Even if you think circumcision IS wrong why brainwash someone else with YOUR beliefs? Why not provide an at least somewhat less biased environment for reader to think for herself? This is what you call brainwash. In my opinion a more holistic and mind-expansive approach (because enlightenment is what we are promoting, right?) would be through opening up an area for discussion and not just feeding people a personal, biased opinion. The latter is what can be refered to as creating a portal for stupid people to buy into, telling readers what and how to think, which is one of the biggest problems in the world today. We are breeding a nation and world of followers, people who can’t think for themselves and just believe everything they read. So once again, even if you think circumcision IS wrong create an space and a place for someone to come to their own conclusion, maybe just make it a little biased if you must. What about all the good things that the medical industry has said about it…that was not even addressed and disputed in this article, just completely ignored. or why not give the perspective of the reform rabbi who bashes it and then also give another perspective by the orthodox rabbi. This is an obvious ploy by a reform rabbi who by definition is trying to destroy the ancient traditions that are still preserved by orthodox rabbi’s. Anyone can bash circumcision, it’s the popular thing to do these days. Tell us something that most people don’t already know. And, by the way, who in tarnations would be man enough to get a circumcision at age 30? This argument can go either way because maybe your kid at age 30 wished he did have a circumcision but because his parent’s were so whatever he doesn’t have one now and now he has to go through the agony of it!!! What is worse? How many men do you know out there who are circumcized who are like, “Man, I really wish my parent’s wouldn’t have circumcized me when I was 8 day’s old. How dare them not ask me first.” I mean, really, where are these men and why aren’t they speaking out about this great injustice? Circumcision has been around for 4000 years and I haven’t heard about any men complaining that their d*** hurts or about sex due to it. But it’s a mitzvah for the Jews, not for anyone else, so if you don’t wanna do it that’s more power to you. I have to tell you that I am a long-time hippie who has more recently come to notice the hipocrocies of certain political and moral beliefs of the modern day organic “free-thinker” and it’s just interesting to say the least.