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  NOW SNIP IT! INTO SHAPE! SHAPE IT UP! GET STRAIGHT!  
   
   
 

Several weeks ago my brother's family had a boy, giving me my first nephew. He was born a week before Rosh Hashanah and to celebrate the Jewish new year, in keeping with traditions dating back thousands of years, my family hired a man with minimal medical credentials to snip off the tip of their baby boy's wee-wee with a

 
 

scalpel.

Circumcision, the ritual removal of the foreskin of the male penis, has been practiced since long before recorded history. It is believed to have originated in eastern Africa since before the time of Abraham when it is believed to have been done for the suppression of the male sex drive. It has long since been a tradition for the Jewish people to circumcise each male child within eight days of birth in a ceremony known as a Brit milah or Bris Milah (Hebrew for "Covenant of circumcision" or "Covenant of the word").

According to WebMD, it may also

     
  be done to treat some medical conditions that affect the penis of older boys and men, such as balanitis (inflammation of the tip of the penis), phimosis, and paraphimosis and other terrible sounding afflictions.

There is also one popular myth developed in 1985 by Dr. Thomas Wiswell is that it helps prevent urinary tract infection. It was determined that his methods were skewed and his conclusions were unreliable. However, even if it were true then such an infection would likely have a small statistical probability of occurrence, similar to getting an infection in your tonsils, which are only removed if necessary. The same theory should apply to the foreskin; it should

 
     

only be cut off if it is causing a problem. To remove it beforehand is akin to removing your legs at birth because they might get crushed in an auto accident someday.

But my family is predominantly Jewish, which means they're doing it for ritualistic reasons. My question is this: How can any group of people belonging to an advanced Western culture, having achieved the levels of sophistication that we have both technologically and socially, condone this barbaric practice or

 
 

at the very least turn a blind eye to its rampant propagation? More bluntly -- what the fuck are we thinking?

Let's not forget the dangers of the process itself. Recently, a rabbi from an extreme orthodox sect gave some male infants herpes because tradition dictated that he should suck out the blood from the operation with his mouth. One of the babies died as a result. If I wanted to give a child such an infection, I would let him sleep with a prostitute.

These were my thoughts as a blade was waved in front of my nephew's ding-a-ling. The ceremony itself was pleasant and intimate. Close friends and family were gathered at my brother's house. I was named the child's godfather and therefore, along with the godmother (my sister-in-law's sister), had to read aloud some beautiful prose before my new godson's penis was savagely mutilated. I could tell that he was uncomfortable with the concept of having his manhood reduced because my grandfather had to hold down his legs during the ritual.. (If someone is going to undergo a torturous removal of a body part, at least when family holds you down, it is done with love.) Despite the drop of wine that is given to the infant by the mohel (the Rabbi who performs the circumcision) before the actual slicing of the organ, I don't think the pain was quite dulled enough. He needed the whole bottle. I know I did.

As with every Jewish ceremony, after the entire spectacle had finished -- and I was grateful that there was a crowd blocking my view during the actual cutting of the cock -- everybody partook of a huge feast, which was only interrupted by the cries and screams of the infant that had just become a little less of a man.

To add insult to injury, afterwards the mohel asked the parents if they wanted to keep the foreskin. They refused, but the concept was appalling. Somewhere out there is a set of parents who would say "yes, we would love to keep the foreskin." I then imagine this poor child opening the refrigerator and seeing a piece of his penis floating in formaldehyde.

In the end, the choices for a Jewish family with regards to male children are either to change religions or to surrender to the mohel. It is not the best of choices. My only hope with regards to the future is that someday someone invents a pill that would prevent urinary tract infection and all the other aforementioned diseases without the need for amputation. Then, all the excuses supporting circumcision would vanish, requiring all practitioners to take a long, hard look at it. Pun intended.

 

Brad Trechak sleeps in New Jersey but lives in New York City. He was
circumcized a long time ago and still regrets the experience. He can
be reached at brad@trechak.com.