Photo: Gabi Menashe
Ariana Melamed
Photo: Gabi Menashe

Brit not just for haredim

Circumcision ritual symbolizes social covenant that underlies our ethnic identity and solidarity

This is an invitation to Tali Farkash to get out of the conceptual box in which she's locked up, and realize how wrong she is to claim that for seculars the brit milah is a purely social act, and since this is the case – it's just the same to her that they remain uncircumcised.


In order to substantiate this invitation, one must first understand that there is no such thing as a monolithic, Judaism-hating animal called "seculars." Instead there are human beings, with their own opinions, aspirations, doubts and beliefs. And when they have a baby they ask themselves a highly essential question: Should they or shouldn't they mutilate his body? And yes, it is legitimate for them to ask and think and contemplate – perhaps for the first time in their lives – what Judaism means for the future generations, who have just been born.


Parents, secular and religious alike, seek to prevent any unnecessary pain from their children. This is our basic obligation towards our children: To decide whether the blood test is really needed, whether having the tooth pulled out or going through with the surgical procedure is really the only option, and even if it's time to buy new shoes, because the old ones are too tight.


And circumcision is very painful. It's unpleasant. It's not medically essential. It's not the most hygienic procedure in the world. There are sometimes complications. It might also cause trauma to the infant. But nevertheless, the vast majority of the people whom Farkash despises for the "social covenant" they enter into through their sons, continue to do so.


A brit isn't a simple matter

Even God himself finds that this isn't a simple matter. When he sent Abraham to that high mountain, he ordered him laconically: 'Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest' etc. but before Abram became Abraham, God spoke to him in these words:


And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him: 'I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.' And Abram fell on his face; and God talked with him, saying: 'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.' (Genesis, 17).


If you look at this text and think outside the box and outside the closet, you will immediately see that the reward of the covenant is essentially a social pledge.


God doesn't say to Abraham: Don't use an umbrella on Shabbat, adhere to only a certain kosher permit, sacrifice yourself in the study of Torah, observe "negiah" and "niddah" and whatever, don't buy at this and that supermarket and protest outside Tiv Taam.


In exchange for maiming his body, Abraham is promised to be the founder of a chosen people that would live forever in a prosperous land. God gets a circumcised man willing to accept divinity. That's all.


Ethnic identity first

Brit milah isn't necessarily the first step for life in the ghetto in Brooklyn Heights or Bnei Brak. The ritual and the ceremony are not, mind you, an invitation to join Tali Farkash or any other haredi's unique cult. For this, with all due respect, I wouldn't have harmed my son's flesh.


This mitzvah – the only one except for the Passover sacrifice that is punishable by Karet (excision from the nation) - has never been taken for granted, and shouldn't be for thinking individuals. I don't know what Abraham thought (the bible doesn't say), and his hand must have been trembling when he circumcised himself (dear me!), but he probably knew what he was doing: A distinct ethnic identity, nation and land. This is how it starts.


And this is how it started for eight-day-olds whose concerned parents decided that despite everything they are part of this great thing, the Jewish people – and they want their sons to be too. This isn't done to allow aunts to air their evening dresses and parade at a fancy event hall, although there's nothing wrong with this either: When another Jew is brought into this world, this is worth celebrating.


Hatred of seculars, much like hatred of haredim, stems from exactly the same source: Walls of separatism and alienation. On the day of reckoning, both Tali Farkash's sons and mine would be Jewish, and in my opinion – which happens to correlate with that of God or the Book of Genesis – this is enough to establish distinguished identity and complicated and difficult ethnic solidarity surrounded by enemies.


None of these enemies will ask Tali Farkash's sons or mine whether they strictly observed mitzvoth before they look for that one and only mark.


Walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted, said God to Abraham. That's all he asks. And this is what I whispered in my son's ear the moment before. Nowhere in the scripture did I find that haredim can demand more than that.


פרסום ראשון: 12.20.08, 09:27
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