Male Genital Alteration in Judaism

While circumcision is the sign of belonging to the covenant, it does not confer Jewishness. Uncircumcised males can still be considered Jewish; Judaism does not practice female circumcision, but females are not thereby excluded from the covenant. In order for the religious obligation of circumcision to be fulfilled, the surgery must be set in the proper context, which includes the blessings, the correct procedure, the appropriate mindset, and the religiously mandated day of performance.

The Jewish ritual of male circumcision is called a berit milah, or a bris. It has two components: the cutting and the naming of the baby. The cutting is performed by a mohel, who may also be a physician. On the eighth day of the baby's life, the mohel comes to the home. The berit milah is a social occasion; friends and family are invited. Although there are many variations in how the ceremony is performed, the core ritual commonly begins with the lighting of a candle. One or two people have the honor of bringing the baby to the throne of Elijah, a special chair set aside for the male (often the baby's grandfather) who will hold the baby during the cutting. Traditionally, the mother remains in another room. After the ritual cutting, the baby is rediapered and allowed to nurse. The baby is given his Jewish name, and the mohel or rabbi, if one is present, recites blessings for the rapid healing of the baby and the continued recovery from childbirth of the mother. This is followed by a festive meal. The foreskin may be buried in the earth. In one custom, it is buried beneath a tree whose branches are later harvested to make the boy's wedding canopy.

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