Mesisah part II

I was going to point out that even animals are in the habit of licking their wounds – and that circumcision was originally intended to be done by a parent, not by a specialist. This would explain the matter-of-fact way the mishnah tells us to suck the blood out. It was common practice for loving parents to do this with any wound that broke their children’s skin.
But SFG stole my thunder and wrote:

I suspect that in the time of the desert nomads, sucking the penis decreased the risk of infection–there are mild antiseptics in saliva, that’s why animals lick their wounds. In a modern era of sanitary technique, of course, it is the reverse.

Thanks a lot SFG! Of course by using a funnel, instead of directly applying his mouth, the mohel can maintain both tradition and safety.
I also wanted to respond to what Latte Island wrote:

There’s a lot of good in Judaism…it doesn’t depend on keeping the most embarrassing customs.

It could, and has, been argued that circumcision is evil because it harms a helpless infant. I might counter that it isn’t actually “harm” or that minimal risks are justified for the sake of ethnic solidarity. Either way, it can be a purely ethical argument. Mesisah, on the other hand, can be performed in ways that involve no “harm” and practically no risk. The objection to mesisah seems to be mainly based on the fact that it is “embarrassing” (as Latte Island puts it) to place one’s mouth on the genitals of an infant or child. It carries unsavory associations and modern Occidental people are far removed from the primal instinct to suck on their child’s wound. Instead, they use antiseptic and a bandage.
I don’t believe that Jewish traditions should be subject to the non-moral sensitivities of other ethnic groups. We’ve been around for thousands of years and, I hope, we’ll be around a while longer. Today, it’s considered “disgusting” to suck the wound the penis of one’s son. Maybe, in some future society, it will be considered “unacceptable” to drink four cups of wine during the Seder. Then it might become “immoral” to train 12 or 13 year-old children to fast on Yom Kippur. In the end, there would be a slow whittling away of traditions and rituals – and Jews would disappear altogether.
I don’t claim that all practices, that fall under the umbrella of “Judaism”, are good and should be continued. But, if we are to argue against them, let it be for solid moral reasons and not because others may find them “gross” or “distasteful”.

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5 Responses to Mesisah part II

  1. latteisland says:

    My first comment may have been a bit superficial, so I’ll retract it and write what I should have written. I agree that the ick factor shouldn’t keep people from keeping their traditions. However, my real issue is with circumcision itself.,
    In ancient times, children were the property of their parents. Nowadays, most modern people understand that children have rights, and elective body modification should be left up to the individual. There are a lot of adult men who are enraged that they were circumcised as babies. I instinctively understand this. It’s not as bad as Muslim FGM, but it’s somewhat related.
    Judaism has changed from ancient times. There used to be priests and animal sacrifice, but that changed. The Jews didn’t disappear. There isn’t any particular tradition that can’t be modified, in order to make it more ethical. To insist that babies be circumcised is to say that Judaism isn’t required to be as ethical as possible. It’s almost like saying, a certain restaurant doesn’t need to wash its dishes in hot water, because the restaurant was founded before scientists discovered the right temperature for sanitizing dishes.
    So if one holds Judaism to the standard of modern ethics, the blood-sucking thing would be irrelevant anyway. I really hate to make common cause with anti-semites, but resisting anti-semitism shouldn’t influence people to keep traditions that conflict with the right of individuals to make their own decisions about modifying their genitals.

  2. destructure says:

    JAY is arguing the decision shouldn’t be taken from parents while simultaneously arguing parents have a right to take that same decision from the person its actually being done to. If it were medically necessary then that would be one thing. But it’s not. So no one should have the right to force something like that on anyone else. Not even their own child.

    • jewamongyou says:

      It’s becoming more and more evident that the human mind is not as malleable as once thought. That we have less choice in what we are, mentally, than was once believed.
      While I admit that yours is a good argument against infant circumcision, I see it as part of the cultural package. When parents raise their kids within a certain culture or religion, they are leaving an indelible mark on the mind of that child – but few object to this. It could be argued that raising your child as a Catholic permanently harms him. He will have guilt for the rest of his life and struggle with issues until his death. But this can be true of any culture or religion. Being a “victim” of circumcision myself, I have come to view the harm as minimal, akin to piercing or any other cultural idiosyncrasy. Just as parents have the right to mold their childrens’ personalities (in ways that are almost impossible to reverse), so too, in my opinion, do they have the right to make minor modifications to their bodies.
      There are certain traditional diets that don’t allow children to grow quite as much as other diets. The result is shorter people and this is not reversible . Would you argue that parents who raise their kids with this diet are abusing them? Human stupidity argues that parents who raise their kids to be fat are abusing them. I think he’s got a point.

    • destructure says:

      You say the harm is minimal because its the choice you would have made. Those who would have chosen differently might not agree. There are several Jewish organizations created specifically to oppose the practice. So clearly not all Jews agree with you.
      Piercing and diet are red herrings. Most piercings are minimal and require parental consent. Requiring parental consent is not the same as performing a procedure on someone unable to give consent. If parents are deliberately withholding nutrition or trying to make their kids fat then, yes, I do think that’s abusive. But I doubt many parents are doing it intentionally.

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