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I will survive circumcision: Did you have bris late in life?

from ken krimsteins book Kvetch as Kvetch CanI remember hearing these stories in yeshiva about kids who found out they weren’t really Jewish later on in life, the stories centered around whether or not the kid or young adult decided to stay the course and convert or leave the path and get laid – the stories never focused on the pain and anticipation of having your foreskin cut off while you knew exactly what was happening.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what a foreskin looked like until several years ago when someone pointed one out to me and I’m kind of happy mine is gone, the whole foreskin thing seem like such a pain. It seems like having a foreskin (I never had one so I’m not truly sure) requires a lot of rolling up and down, kind of like a penile umbrella of sorts and what about the extra skin getting caught in your fly, that’s gotta blow. I have heard that it’s more pleasuarble, but I’m happy with not having to unroll my penis in order to take a piss thank you very much.

If I found out I wasn’t Jewish and had my foreskin intact I would be in a pretty precarious situation, wouldn’t it feel like someone was stretching your ding dong? What if you were so used to rolling and unrolling your hood that you tore it off or something? What would your wife think? Either way, I have a couple of friends who went through the operation and we never really spoke of it and quite frankly I don’t want to know the exact details I’m just curious if having your foreskin taken away from you make you feel closer to God? Or was that God’s plan, like taking away Abrahams son, the foreskin may be so precious to some folks that giving it up is way better than anything else when it comes to declaring your faith in the Lord.

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  • Ripley

    My late father in law said that the foreskins are planted in to the ground and grow to be Irish cops.

    • A. Nuran

      My soul got a little tarnished laughing at that joke

  • Kristine

    Interesting post. I have been looking to convert to Judaism for a while now and this is honestly one of my biggest hang ups. I have a little son, he is 2 1/2 and when I was pregnant(and not interested in being a Jew) I did tons and tons of research on whether or not to have my son circumcised. I basically found out that it is not something I would ever do for any reason. Its medically unnecessary, possibly harmful, hygienically unnecessary and sexually? Its frankly just gross to think I should have my sexual preferences poised on my son.

    Now that I want to be Jewish though…. If I were a Jewish woman and having a boy….I think I would do it for no other reason than… its a mitzvah.

    Basically I don’t want to convert unless my son can as well and I’m quite sure he would be required to have a bris in order to do so and I simply feel that ship has sailed. Its one thing to do it for an 8 day old baby who has no idea what is going on but a 3-6 year old boy? I don’t know, I’m conflicted about doing it on the baby, I’m adamant that I couldn’t do it for my son now that he is older. I just cant imagine it could be anything but traumatic for him.

    As far as how much more work it is, I can tell you from caring for him that it is really none at all. You don’t have to roll it back to take a pee 🙂 just to clean it quickly in the shower. Its hard to describe but every time I operate an umbrella I get pinched and I curse. I’m quite certain that men with foreskins don’t have this happen when they need to um… operate their foreskin.

    There is a really interesting documentary made by a (former?) orthodox jew called Cut and you can watch the whole thing on you tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx89xECfHG4
    I really like in the end when his father talks about justifying brit milah with medical and hygiene reasons being apologetics. I really think that its something that cant be justified with anything other than… its a mitzvah.

  • Yankel

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find mocking one of our most precious mitzvos to be funny.

    When he has a boy BE”H, he’ll understand.

    • Mahla

      Yankel though, if you had to have the deed done as a grown man, wouldn’t you be a bit — um — nervous? ;^D

      I’m a girl, so I can’t really have an opinion, LOL. :^D

      • A. Nuran

        Well, you could. If you were Egyptian you would have by now – old custom going back to Pharaonic times. But the female equivalent is worse.

        • Mahla

          Very true, yikes. I don’t think FC / FGM can really be compared to male circumcision very closely though, especially Type II and Type III. As an aside, Nuran, one of my FB friends is an American woman whose family comes from Sierra Leone who ~chose~ to undergo full excision (but not infibulation) in her late 20s (!!!). Without anesthesia. To honor her cultural heritage. :^O

          • A. Nuran

            Ye flipping gawds.

            • Yankel

              As nutty as it sounds, you gotta respect her dedication.

              • She’s Mahla’s friend on FB. So if we know, she definitely does that it’s not a ‘Mitzva’, just an ignorant old-country custom. Yet she’s willing to abandon her reason for nostalgic sentimentality.
                I don’t see anything to admire in her being a slightly weaker, but essentially normal, human being.

        • Yeoman Roman

          Male genital cutting is probably equivalent neurologically to a type 2 female genital cutting. That is removing the clitoris and labia.

          But we are talking about a fundamental human rights violation. There is really no way to compare them. Fundamental human rights violations are not really quantifiable. Would you rather lose an eye, or a thumb? Hummm…

          Everybody has the right to a whole body. It is fundamental. Our bodies are not sacrificial objects, used to prove our parents fealty to their deity.

          • Tulisa Tinkle

            You are a true troll.

            • Yeoman Roman

              Tulisa, I am guessing that you have no counter to a logical argument, so ad hominem is all you are left with.

              Forced genital cutting is a human rights violation, regardless of gender.

              • Tulisa Tinkle

                I do have counter arguments. You comparing the two is ridiculous.

                This is how you sound, “forced vaccination is a human rights violation, regardless of gender”…don’t pick and choose.

      • Yankel

        I’ve spoken to grown men who had it done when they converted/became a BT. I even came across teenagers, (non-religious by the way) who went to it willingly when they found out they were Jewish.

        In our circles we call it the “pintala yid”.

        Hold on a sec, two questions.

        First of all, isn’t there some kind of women’s circumcision for Muslims, where they cut off the cl*t?

        Secondly, if Yishmael got his bris at 13, why do Muslims today do it right after birth?
        (and is it on the 8th day as well?)

        • A. Nuran

          Yankel, that’s a common misconception. FGM IS NOT a Muslim religious requirement. It was a custom in Egypt thousands of years before Judaism let alone Islam. It’s practiced in parts of Africa where there are Muslims, but it’s done by Christians and Pagans in those areas as well.

          A very learned Musleema friend gave me an earful when I asked her about this. There is no justification in Islam for the practice. In fact, strictly speaking it should be forbidden as a kefir religious practice. The only hadith on the subject is considered completely unreliable, i.e. the collector pulled it out of his butt.

          • A. Nuran

            By kefir I mean unbeliever like Jewish kufir.

            I don’t mean the fermented milk beverage. As far as I know Saccharomyces kefir, Torula kefir, Lactobacillus caucasicus and Leuconnostoc do not practice circumcision 🙂

        • A. Nuran

          The timing of male circ varies. Religious law doesn’t specify when it should be done, so local custom prevails. Some do it in a coming-of-age ceremony at thirteen. Some do it in infancy with the same cautions as Judaism. Babies who are weak or would be at risk can have the procedure done later.

        • Mahla

          Good questions, Yankel.

          First, I will address so-called female circumcision. Female circumcision is ~very~ ancient predating not only Islam but Judaism as well. There’s a reason the most extreme form, excision with infibulation (Type III), is called “Pharaonic” circumcision. It was being practiced in Africa and probably on the Arabian peninsula from the time of the Pharaohs. Quite a few Egyptian mummies have been found so mutilated.

          Although it has more recently been associated with Islam, primarily through its continued practice in Egypt and Sudan, it is not an Islamic practice, although some Sunni Muslims hold by a hadith that milder forms are indicated (recommended but not required) in Islam.

          Some other Sunni Muslims find this hadith to be suspicious, and as far as I know no Shia hold by this hadith. Complete excision is definitely specifically forbidden in this very same hadith.

          As it stands, in the places where FGM was practiced for thousands of years before Islam existed, it continues to be practiced by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Indeed, if you read my comments to Nuran, the woman I know from Sierra Leone who chose in adulthood to travel back to Africa and have her cl*t excised — she and her family were not Muslim.

          But, in places where Islam has spread and FGM was ~not~ practiced before its arrival, it is ~still~ not practiced. For example, it is simply unheard of in Persia (Iran) or Indonesia. And remember, Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country today.

          As for the timing of a boy’s circumcision in Islam, that is actually not something I know too much about. I would have to do some research on that, but it’s an interesting question. :^)

          There are sociopolitical-religious aspects to the practice continuing on in Egypt and Africa are too complex to address here, but let me just say that I do not think it will ever be completely eradicated there, considering it’s been happening since 3150 B.C. :^(

    • I agree it’s wrong, but it’s funny and very clever.

  • Kristine

    Interesting post. I have been looking to convert to Judaism for a while now and this is honestly one of my biggest hang ups. I have a little son, he is 2 1/2 and when I was pregnant(and not interested in being a Jew) I did tons and tons of research on whether or not to have my son circumcised. I basically found out that it is not something I would ever do for any reason. Its medically unnecessary, possibly harmful, hygienically unnecessary and aesthitcally or sexually? Its frankly just gross to think I should have my sexual preferences forced on my son.
    Now that I want to be Jewish though…. If I were a Jewish woman and having a boy….I think I would do it for no other reason than… its a mitzvah. If I did it would be only for lishem shamayim.
    Basically I don’t want to convert unless my son can as well and I’m quite sure he would be required to have a bris in order to do so and I simply feel that ship has sailed. Its one thing to do it for an 8 day old baby who has no idea what is going on but a 3-6 year old boy? I don’t know, I’m conflicted about doing it on the baby, I’m adamant that I couldn’t do it for my son now that he is older. I just cant imagine it could be anything but traumatic for him.
    As far as how much more work it is, I can tell you from caring for him that it is really none at all. You don’t have to roll it back to take a pee 🙂 just to clean it quickly in the shower. Its hard to describe but every time I operate an umbrella I get pinched and I curse. I’m quite certain that men with foreskins don’t have this happen when they need to um… operate their foreskin.
    There is a really interesting documentary made by a (former?) orthodox jew called Cut and you can watch the whole thing on you tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx89xECfHG4
    I really like in the end when his father talks about justifying brit milah with medical and hygiene reasons being apologetics. I really think that its something that cant be justified with anything other than… its a mitzvah.

    • anonymous

      i really like your post. i am a religious, orthodox jew, have been my whole life, and my biggest pet peeve is when people try to explain how all the mitzvos really make sense, and living other ways than the torah is harmful, unclean, etc. the reasons for following the torah is because its what G-d commanded, not to improve your life. i find it interesting that looking at judaism from the outside, you feel the same way.

  • A. Nuran

    My Dad performed hundreds of adult circs over the years, so I asked him about it.

    Most guys who come in for the procedure are very nervous. They have a deep fear of having someone taking cold steel to the twigs and berries. It’s understandable. The ones who didn’t guard them didn’t have descendants. Even our word “testify” comes from the old custom of swearing an oath with your hand on los huevos as if to say “If I’m lying, may they fall off.”

    Once you get past that the procedure is quick and straightforward. I’ll spare you the medical details. There’s some oozing for a little while, but not much. There’s soreness for a couple days. You don’t want the area to get rubbed or chafed. Fortunately it’s well vascularized, so infection isn’t much of a problem if you keep it clean.

    If you on’t have a medical problem like phimosis or a religious requirement I can’t imagine why you’d have it done. There are risks to any surgical procedure. There’s no non-cosmetic benefit. Some say there is a reduction in pleasure. Others say not.

    Non-Muslim Gentiles are circumsized in North America because of anti-wanking hysteria in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was supposed to lead to madness, epilepsy, diabetes, anemia, imbecility, crime and death. Little girls had their happy place burned off with carbolic acid. Little boys were circed and had silver wire strung through so that a certain physiological state which is pretty common in adolescent boys would lead to agonizing tearing. The practice continues today out of inertia.

    Even Corn Flakes and Graham Crackers owe their existence to this national insanity. John Kellogg and Sylvester Graham developed their eponymous foods to give people the strength and regular bowel movements to resist the temptation to touch themselves. I swear by the Unholy Tentacles of Great Cthulhu I’m not making this up.

    There’s a good chance you’ll get a raft of rabidly anti-circ activists jumping in. Be prepared for loud denunciations about mutilation, yichud dysfunction, child abuse and comparisons to the horrible tribal FGM practices of Egypt and certain parts of Africa. You’ve got a very slight chance of avoiding it here where most readers reject the turtleneck, but be warned.

    • Mahla

      Dear, dear Nuran! We share so many of the same interests, we really must get together soon, LOL. Ryan and I have many running jokes about corn flakes and graham crackers. Speaking of 19th century anti-wanking hysteria, one of us should have mentioned the good Dr. Brown in our responses to Yankel re: FGM, LOL. You were typing yours as I was typing mine. :^D

      • A. Nuran

        Next time you’re up in our area or we’re down in yours let’s get together.

        Dr. Brown? Yeah. I really don’t have the right words to express my feelings about him. Some of the more painful and esoteric techniques from obscure Southeast Asian martial arts come close.

    • Q

      “Even our word ‘testify’ comes from the old custom of swearing an oath with your hand on los huevos as if to say ‘If Im lying, may they fall off.’ ”

      That’s a popular etymology, but a false one.

      http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20010214

      • A. Nuran

        I stand corrected

    • Aaron

      Interesting. Just one point about testifying. Is it because you’re saying, If Im lying, may they fall off. Or is it Biblical? Where Abraham our forefather sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac, he makes him swear that he won’t take a foreigner, rather someone from Abraham’s extended family.
      The swearing process involves Abraham telling Eliezer, “Please put your hand on my thigh” (Please refrain from homosexual jokes). Rashi explains the reason for this, because the only holy object in existence at that time was Abraham’s member, because he circumcised it as per G-d command. Whereas these days, one might hold a Torah scroll or other sacred object while taking an oath.

      Just a thought……

  • yitz

    dude- i had mine when i was 8 days old and IT STILL HURTS….. Hypotheticle question- would my d**k be longer, if not for my bris??!

    • Yankel

      No.

      But it would be the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen in your life.

    • A. Nuran

      If you have persistent genital pain you really should see a doctor.

      • yitz

        only after jacking off………..

        • Mahla

          Perhaps cornflakes and graham crackers are the solution, then, Yitz.

  • Kristine

    This is exactly where I come to pause in regards to my own conversion to Judaism. I’m a woman, so it would seem this wouldn’t be an issue for me. But as it turns out… I have an almost three year old who I would want to have converted as well. But I just…. cannot do that to him now. If I had been Jewish when I had him its pretty likely that I would have had a bris. But I wasn’t Jewish and at the time I didn’t even know that I might like to be someday. My ex(his dad) is circumcised so we had originally planned to go for it but we asked our doctor about it and he said we should do some more research because our gov’t provided health insurance wasn’t going to cover it and it would cost us $200+. I was shocked that the insurance wouldn’t pay for it, wasn’t it an absolute must do?! That was when I started doing tons and tons of research and found out there is really no reason to do it at all if you are not religious. Medically and hygienically its completely unnecessary and even potentially harmful. As for aesthetics and sexual reasons…. well I just don’t feel it is up to me what my sons penis looks like. His body, his choice as long as there is not some compelling reason for it to be become my choice like oh say… that it is a mitzvah. If I was Jewish I would do it for no other reason but leshem shamayim.
    But now my son will probably be 5 by the time I actually convert and there is just no way I could put him through such a dangerous (General Anesthesia would be required at this point) and painful and potentially traumatic experience. It is so different for a newborn baby. I really don’t want to convert without my son but at this point I think it needs to be his choice…. maybe at 13 but probably not until 18.
    As far as the difficulty of having a foreskin, I can tell you from caring for my son there really is none. You do not have to “unroll” it to take a pee, lol. And while I always get hurt and wind up cursing when I attempt to operate an umbrella, I am positive that men with foreskins don’t find that much difficulty in operating their penis.
    I would guess that grown male converts would accept the pain and loss of sensitivity as just part of the plan. It’s in exchange with a covenant with G-d and hopefully worth it to them.
    There is a really great documentary called Cut that was done by a young Othodox Jew. He interviews rabbis, mohels, his father and Jewish families about brit milah as well as anthropologists and urologists. You can watch it on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx89xECfHG4
    In the film his father talks about justifying brit milah with medical reasons and hygienic reasons being apologetics and I totally agree. I think it taints the sacrifice and makes it seem like the covenant alone does not make brit milah worth having done.
    I wish that routine infant circumcision did not exist. I think it is all motivated by political agenda and money. It is a billion dollar a year industry. I feel completely different about brit milah. The only reason I would ever consider having a bris done is because G-d asked me to.

    • Mahla

      Kristine, that video you linked to was really interesting, thank you! :^)

    • A. Nuran

      As I said above, non-religious, non-medical circ in the US and Canada owes its existence to a long bout of national psychosis. The only bad thing about it falling out of fashion is the effect it would have on Jews and Muslims. It wouldn’t be long before the brit milah was banned.

    • Catholic Mom

      Umm…doesn’t your ex[husband have a say in elective surgery being done on his son??

      • kristine

        Absolutely. Another reason why it wouldn’t happen until he was an adult. I’ve never even mentioned it to him because its so not an option for me. But he would probably laugh at the irony considering he was so much harder to convince when it came to leaving the baby intact in the first place.

        • Mahla

          I’ve told Ryan if we have kids he can ultimately be in charge of deciding because as far as I’m concerned he’s the official p*nis expert in our household.

  • Synapse

    Probably in most of these stories, the kid wouldn’t have had a real foreskin anyway and just gotten a hatafat dam brit like most of my BT friends (a prick and a drop of blood and done). Most seculars in America have it done cause everyone does it, and even non-religious Jewish families do it out of cultural dedication (sometimes via mohel even).

  • I went to elementary school with a guy who was raised Conservative, and when his family became Orthodox, he and his younger brother (aged 8 and 5, respectively) had to get recircumcised. He said his mom just told him that everything would be fine and he should be okay with it, and then there was enormous pain.

  • Frumsatire Fan

    Whhhhhat? I think the mother lied, those people weren’t rabbis, they were an S&M ring!
    I can’t imagine why on earth the children needed to be re-circumcised, rather than hatafat-dam-brit’ed – if anything!

  • Devora

    A Nuran-So it seems you’re saying Rashi and the Ibn Ezra are right about “sim na yad’kha tahat yerekhi.” It was a custom since it involved a very impo’tant (I hope not) heftza shel mitavah. Yankel-It’s not ugly with a foreskin. That’s why the great works of art look as they do and may be why circumcision was opposed as multilation. FrumSatire Fan-Most just do hatafas dam if there’s no foreskin. I suspect this doesn’t come up(!) too often now.

    • A. Nuran

      Devora, to which comment were you referring?

  • About twenty years ago, during the big aliyah from the USSR, we had a few dozen young Russian Jews here in Shiloh, tough but sweet army vets. Quite a number agreed to be circumcized. Not all were sans complications.

  • ghottistyx

    One time I was flipping channels late night, and on public access there was some comedian talking about his conversion to Judaism. Currently, the man is as frum looking as they come, beard and all, but his story is about his long journey from being Goyyish to Reform to Conservative to Orthodox. So of course, when he converted to Reform, he had to get clipped. He goes on this rant about how painful that was. Later on, when he gets to the part about becoming Conservative, he talks about how they made him get reclipped. Oh the pain, but he went through with it.

    The punchline is when he finally decided to turn to Orthodox Judaism. One of the first things they did was make him get reclipped again! At this point, he decides “Okay, it’s official. This is no longer a mitzva. THIS IS A FETISH!”

  • yitz

    btw the best moment is when the mohel gets a squirt in the face….!

  • Nate

    You all think about things too much. Just do the damn bris and shut up about it. The kid won’t remember it anymore than he remembers having his umbilical cord cut.

    And since when is CLIT a bad word that requires a * ?

    • Mahla

      Nate, often the automatic spam filtration on the blog will delay someone’s comment for hours if it has a certain word in it. So if people use a word they think might be a “trigger word” they type something like cl*t or s*x instead — not because they think it’s a bad word, but because they want to be assured their comment will appear immediately.

  • Kristine

    oy sheesh… so sorry about my triple posts. i thought my computer was just acting wonky i should have figured that there was some sort of comment moderation at work.

  • L.Shoshi

    Kristine–if I’m not mistaken, your son will have to go through conversion himself when he’s of bar mitzvah age, since you had him while still a gentile. perhaps you could check with your Local Orthodox Rabbi to find out if there’s a rush to get your son snipped asap, or if it can wait till he’s older and has the benefit of understanding what’s happening.

  • Mahla

    Oh my gosh, this is a funny one too:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqgPdY9wyZE&feature=related

    “Cause when you’re Jewish and you’re born a man / That’s how you join the covenant of Aaaaaabraham!”

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  • ari

    i had a friend who got one at 13

  • Yoreh K’chetz (aka Phil)

    I knew a guy whose family came out of Russia when he was in his late teens, he got his at 19. He said it was painful, but waking up with morning wood was even worse for about 1 month after it was done.

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