THERE’S A PLACE — CHELM IS its name — where all the inhabitants are so open-minded that they tolerate any behavior whatsoever from anyone they deem open-minded as themselves. It’s a nice place to visit, but I hope never to have to live there.
From the post title, you can guess where I stand on San Francisco’s proposed anti-circumcision measure, which would criminalize the act if performed on anyone under 18 and disallow religious exemptions. But considering that Matthew Hess, the fellow behind it, is the same fellow behind the eye-washingly anti-Semitic “Monster Mohel” comic book, I feel I know as much about his motivations — and defenders — as I need to.
Here’s how I see it: I am a Jew. If I had a son, he would be circumcised as I was, as was my father, as was his father dating ‘way back to (an historical or at least notional) Abraham. That’s my choice. It’s a cultural marker, one of many aspects to Jewish identity and practice for more than 3,000 years. If the effects were as deleterious as its opponents claim (and who wrongly mistake it for/equate it with clitoridectomy and “ritualized child abuse”), why are we Jews still here? and so successfully in the forefront of science, literature, medicine and many other high-intensity fields?
Another argument, that one misstep condemns the whole — either in moheling (ritual circumcisiing) or in religious observance — strikes me as just silly. (As do such over-the-top hypotheticals as, “What if the tradition were to break the child’s legs?”) It’s long been an anti-Jewish conceit that inability to observe the entire Torah makes it invalid. But should I start murdering people just because I occasionally drive over the speed limit? No less an authority than Rabbi Nachman of Breslov allows that no one can observe Torah to the letter — and no one can possibly do everything it requires. But it’s important that we try. (At least, to those of us for whom trying in this way is important.)
Circumcision is safe, painful, traditional, irrational, occasionally beneficial, occasionally botched, and many other things. If a Jewish or Muslim family chooses not to have their child circumcised, that’s their choice and none of my business — just as it was their choice to have a child in the first place, or raise it in one or another tradition (or none at all).
Legislation removes my family’s choice. Please — leave my family alone.