The Covenant of Circumcision
New Perspectives on an Ancient Jewish Rite
Editor: Elizabeth Wyner Mark
Series: HBI Series on Jewish Women
According to Jewish law, the ritual practice of circumcising male infants signals the male child’s entry into the covenant his forefather Abraham made with God. Circumcision, now a common medical procedure for male infants in the United States, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Some medical professionals have challenged its purported health benefits, ethicists have raised concerns about the degree of pain involved and Jewish feminists have questioned the implications of a covenantal rite centered on the male genitals. The 16 essays in this volume, by exploring the history, cultural interpretations and contemporary significance of circumcision from a Jewish perspective, make a major contribution to the informed discussion of current issues and controversies. Framed by Elizabeth Wyner Mark’s introduction and section prologues, the volume is divided into three distinct sections. “Reading the Texts,” a series of richly conceptualized essays, places circumcision in contexts ranging from patriarchal narrative to psychoanalysis and kabbalistic esotericism. “Cultural Markings” offers a chronological look at attitudes toward circumcision in Europe during the Roman Empire through the early 20th century. “Contemporary Voices,” the most intimate section, delves into recent debates about circumcision in the United States, Hungary and Israel and provides three different rabbinic perspectives. An imaginative epilogue bringing together the voices of rabbis and scholars with opposing views concludes this remarkable volume.
Subject: Jewish Studies