To chop or not to chop?
A Jewish mom gives her perspective on circumcision.
Did you hear the one about the short-sighted circumcisor? (He got the sack).

Ritual circumcision has, over the millennia, become the butt of many a bawdy joke, and the genesis of some stern criticism. It has been arraigned by some as ‘barbaric’, ‘cruel’ and ‘primitive’. But I believe there’s more to it than meets the eye.

As a Jewish woman blessed with two beautiful boys, I have now twice had a front row seat to the ancient rite. A Jewish circumcision is not simply a physical act. In Hebrew it is called brit milah – the covenant of the circumcision. We don’t overlook the spiritual side of this covenant with God, binding us to our creator and our heritage.

But it’s not only Jews who choose to perform this act. According to the World Health Organisation, around 20% of men globally are circumcised for religious, cultural, medical and other reasons. The rate in South Africa has been calculated at around 35%, except in the Xhosa-dominated Eastern Cape where 80-90% of young men undergo tribal circumcision.

There are many possible reasons one could give for deciding to circumcise one’s child:

Chip off the old block

Like father like son – some circumcise simply so the child will bear an aesthetic resemblance to his dad, creating a physical link and possibly preventing awkward questions later on.

A clean-cut issue

Some evidence suggests that a lack of foreskin to trap germs lessens susceptibility to a variety of conditions and diseases.

Cultural foresight

Circumcision can be seen as a way of preserving the history – and therefore the future – of a people. Jews traditionally perform brit milah at 8 days old; Muslims usually carry out khitan (circumcision) around the same time; Xhosa boys experience abakwetha (initiation circumcision) around puberty. In these cases, each boy joins a chain of genealogical and spiritual continuity.

Choosing to chop

Given, circumcision’s not for everyone. For some, it may be a difficult decision to make. For me, it’s really not. It’s a matter of faith. In addition to the range of reasons listed above, circumcising my sons meant choosing what I feel is spiritually best for my children. It means giving them the best Jewish start in life.

This act of choice brings all Jews closer to God and, ultimately, our sons, and all our Jewish brothers. I’m proud to be a part of this beautiful covenant, linking generation unto Jewish generation.

Would you circumcise your child?

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