At the end of the day, every couple has to make its own decision, said Rabbi Donni Aaron, head of program designed to train Reform mohels. But, she added, most of the parents she has encountered eventually choose to circumcise their sons, and that trend is unlikely to change any time soon. “If for thousands of years it was clear that the practice was harmful,” she said, “it would have gone away a while ago.”
Without arguing for or against circumcision, and without bringing in the many diseases contracted over the centuries from metzitza b'peh, the oral-to-genital-suction traditionally preformed by the mohel on the bleeding infant immediately after the circumcision cut has been made, or the many children who died or were maimed from infections or loss of blood, I believe the history presented by Rabbi Aaron is incorrect. Here's why:
- Jews at various times in history voluntarily ceased circumcising their sons. One example that comes readily to mind is during the Hellenistic Age, but there were others, as well.
- The ritual itself has dramatically changed. Originally, only a small piece of the foreskin was removed. Later, after Jews tried to reverse their circumcisions through various stretching procedures, the rabbis increased the amount of foreskin taken and also ordered the total removal of the underlying membrane. In other words, today's circumcision is a much more radical procedure than the circumcision of the Torah. (I don't have the source for this readily available so reader beware until I can come up with it.)
The Forward notes the growing number of Jewish ant-circumcision activists and the growing number of Jews who voluntarily do not circumcise their sons. Perhaps, in light of #2 above, it would be wise for some to consider returning to Jewish ritual circumcision as it was practiced before the rabbinically mandated change.
That would still fulfill the biblical commandment and it would eliminate many, but not all, of the complaints of the anti-circumcision activists, especially the fear that circumcision reduces sexual feeling and pleasure for both partners.
UPDATE: 3 metzitza b'peh sources after the jump …