The Circumcision Controversy

In recent times, circumcision has become controversial. Some have hypothesized that infant circumcision has harmful psychological effects and may cause sexual dysfunction. Many websites have sprung up promoting this point of view, and even in Israel there are those who want to outlaw circumcision as child abuse.

However, there is no concrete, scientific evidence that circumcision has any harmful effect. The rate of complications from circumcision is one of the lowest of all surgical procedures, and the most common complication is simply excessive bleeding. At most, the latest scientific evidence indicates that the health benefits of circumcision are not as great as previously assumed, thus there is no reason to perform routine circumcisions for the purposes of hygiene. However, as stated above, Jewish circumcision is not performed for the purpose of hygiene.

In March 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and New York City recommended circumcision to reduce the spread of AIDS after a large-scale study found that circumcision reduced the rate of HIV infection of men through heterosexual sex by almost 60%. This finding isn't actually anything new; there have been many studies for many years coming to the same conclusion.

From the traditional Jewish point of view, there is no controversy. The ritual of circumcision was commanded by our Creator, and He certainly knows what is and is not good for us. The G-d who commanded us not to harm ourselves certainly would not command us to do something harmful to ourselves, and even if He did, the observant Jew would nonetheless heed His wishes.

For more information on the traditional Jewish response to the circumcision controversy, see Bris Milah: Beautiful or Barbaric? at Aish ha-Torah's website.

Last updated on: 10/20/2019
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