Religion, Sex & Gender

Mohelet Mo' Problems

The JTA wonders why more women aren’t ritually slicing foreskins:

[Debra] Weiss-Ishai is one of just a few female mohels in the United States. There are about 35 Reform female mohels, and just four trained by the U.S. Conservative movement, as well as a handful who learned outside the United States.
It’s not surprising that throughout Jewish history, mohels have been men. Circumcision is, after all, a guy thing. Beyond the obvious anatomical requirements, it’s something the Torah commands a father, not a mother, to do for his son on the eighth day of life.
What is surprising, however, is that while half of all new non-Orthodox rabbis and cantors in this country are women, few women are choosing to become mohels.
Yet unlike rabbis and cantors, there is no halachic prohibition against female mohels. Every Orthodox authority consulted for this story agreed on that point, though most asked not to be quoted. Jewish law states only that if a Jewish male is present, it’s preferable that he do the brit milah.

Accompanying the piece, The JTA offers a look at a woman’s right to snip.
Of course, this raises all new implications for metzitzah b’peh.

34 thoughts on “Mohelet Mo' Problems

  1. “So surprising” indeed. I can’t believe that there would be resistence to female “inclusion” in this obviously egalitairan ritual. Particularly as circumcision is increasingly categorized as a form of “genital mutilation” by the West (and it will continue to be move into this classification), what better way to show that circumcision is fun for eveyone!
    It will also dispel that rediculous myth that a certain element of Jewish women are somehow invasive and castrating.
    Sound mysonginist? Then see Lilith Magazine’s comments! http://www.forward.com/issues/1999/99.03.19/featherman.html
    And hey, Jewish men aren’t the ones demanding their “rights” to cut the other gender’s genitilia.
    Jewish ritual mohelets: Ever-growing
    Muslim ritual mohelets (for men): non-existent.
    We win again!

  2. Akira, that’s funny, but what about OB/GYN, of which I believe there are more men then women? 🙂 Also, I’m not sure women would feel very comfortable with male bikini waxers, but most recipients (victims?!) of brit milah are blissfully clueless at eight days old.
    Kidding aside, three of my friends used the same female mohel here in NYC and she was fabulous, not just for the clean cutting either. She spoke to the family and guests as if each bris was unique and special. In between those, I went to another bris done by an Orthodox mohel who breezed through the “speech” so quickly and rehearsed that it was clear he says the exact same thing each time: it felt like we were at a frickin’ magic show. Obviously, this is not a representative sample, but I’d hire that woman mohel to snip my kid’s Johnson in a second. (Now to just impregnate my wife…)

  3. Proud Self-loather,
    You wrote,
    “…most recipients (victims?!) of brit milah are blissfully clueless at eight days old.”
    They don’t stay eight days old. And if some of us have issues with circumcision now, this will only increase as the general population is not only increasingly intact, but public opinion is increasingly anti-circ.
    In that case, having a woman do this ritual may provide for some additional negative feelings, including negative feelings towards Jewish women, and therefore Judaism. Inter-gender genital cutting could conceivably do that. There might be more “politics” than a regular mohel. Even if she gives a quick speech. And the wonderful pictures of the ceremony and the Mohelet might not instill in the no longer eight day old Jewish man the pride and a desire to marry-in as you might hope and think. But unfortunately, when it’s a “progressive” cause, Jewish media usually examines only the “halachic” possiblities, not the potential social negatives. This story was right in line.
    I know I find this new Mohelet phenomon quite distasteful. It makes me resentful of Jewish-feminism, and makes (for me) an already very difficult mitzvah even harder to accept.
    We will see if this non-egalitarian gender “progress” does not have some unfortunate repurcussions.
    I fear it may.

  4. DK
    -I understand you having issues with milah. But I don’t understand why having or not having mohelet’s (moheliot?) makes a difference.

  5. I understand that male OB/GYNs are more gentle than women OB/GYNs.
    Anyway,
    JTA requires registration so I don’t know if it mentions that in yesterday’s parsha of shmot, Moshe’s wife Tzipora circumsizes Gershom when she realizes that Moshe hasn’t done the job himself.
    Reading up on brisses since I did one two weeks ago, I came across that women used to be ‘sandaks/godfathers’. Oh well. I suppose if women want to be up close when the foreskin is chopped off, let ’em.

  6. I find — with few exceptions — that female physicians tend to be more empathetic than males, which the reason that all of my friends have female gynecologists. I suspect the same would be true of moheleot.
    Freud’s castration anxiety was father to son, inflicted, or son perceived. That the imagery of castration generally includes a ‘bitch,’ I can only imagine that CB’s are born of Rosie the Riveters — of every generation — being dragged from the factory, made over into June Cleaver, and chained to the kitchen.
    This is unfortunate for everyone. The best relationships are not merely based on equality, but occur when each partner thinks the other is the better half.

  7. Rivka, you asked,
    “I understand you having issues with milah. But I don’t understand why having or not having mohelet’s (moheliot?) makes a difference.”
    That’s a good question, Rivka, if you also ask that question:
    To the rioters after Rodney King — Whgy did it matter that all the cops were white?
    To the split on racial lines in the aftermath of the innocent verdict of OJ: How is this a race based difference of perception?
    To the Jewish women who demand better representation at the tippy top of the Federation system: Why does it matter whcih gender is in charge?
    To the Conservative movement seeking gender parity for pulpit Rabbis: Why does it matter if a Rabbi is a man or woman? Whoc ares if it’s mostly men!
    To those people who prefer same sex bathrooms: WHo cares? We’re all taking a shit?
    To the groups who focus and walk to stop bresat cancer: SHouldn’t we include prostate cancer in this March?
    Otherwise, accept that these issues get heated up when they cross gender and class lines, and BACK OFF. This will not help anyone long term. It will create a lot of anger. Not for everyone, but for some. And this is not your thing. Put down the knife and the scissors, and move away from the baby ‘s penis.

  8. I meant race lines. Class lines is a whole other issue, and is more complex, but vital to understanding Jewish so-called Feminism. This will never be discussed in the JTA or any other newspaper relying on Federation dollars. And yes, most of the JTA’s clients are Federation controlled newspapers.
    The only obstacle to Jewish-Feminism allowed is halacha. There is never any allowance for the needs and issues of men.
    Not when it comes to Jewish-Feminism.

  9. David, take a deep breath; you’re ranting.
    ‘There is never any allowance for the needs and issues of men.’
    You’re kidding, right? The male/female pay rate discrepancy continues to rise. Check out any store you shop in: How many have female managers, despite having a much higher percentage of female employees?
    Though there were approximately 30 excellent female artists artists during the Renaissance/Baroque era, it is next to impossible to find a book on them. Wife battering is on the increase in the US, and in Israel. The surgeon’s scalpal moves quicker to remove the diseased breast, than the diseased prostate.
    The black community noted the white cops in the Rodney King beating because of rampant racism in too many police forces.
    The racial discrepancy in the OJ trial was racism related. Many white males couldn’t stand the idea of a black man married to a white woman. Many black women wanted him to fry as payback for him having married a white woman.
    Any woman who has the qualifications for any job, should have equal access to that job.
    You oppose circumcision, so why don’t you just stick with bashing the ritual, instead of bashing (the few) women who wish to perform it?

  10. Miriam,
    You wrote,
    “Any woman who has the qualifications for any job, should have equal access to that job.”
    You are confusing the American workplace with Jewish theology and ritual. Don’t — they are quite different.
    “You oppose circumcision, so why don’t you just stick with bashing the ritual, instead of bashing (the few) women who wish to perform it? ”
    I oppose routine circumcision and aspects of ritual circumcision. One day, not as far away as you and the Jewish community would like, I will look like quite a moderate on this issue, by American standards. Remember these words.
    These “few women” women who are mohelets got there because they have the backing of many, many, more women, at least in terms of “rights.”
    And so I feel it is more significant in what it says about Jewish Feminism than merely a “few women.”

  11. “You are confusing the American workplace with Jewish theology and ritual.”
    Au contraire, cheverli. According to Hillel, Talmud is commentary. Torah, on the other hand, is quite clear on the role of female adam.
    Chava committed the promethian act of growing up and wanting to leave the playpen of Eden. This was to set the standard of mothers helping their children to mature, not to strangle them with decaying umbilical cords.
    The first conscientious objectors in written history are the Egyptian midwives, and the conspiracy to save Moses’ life extended to three other females.
    It was Miriam, not Aaron, who was turned into a leper for her xenophobia.
    Tzipporah circumcised her son, and God did not smite her.
    The standard for women is there. As Ben Bag Bag wrote: “Turn it, turn it for all is within it, and contemplate it, and grow gray and old over it, and stir not from it.”
    “One day, not as far away as you and the Jewish community would like, I will look like quite a moderate on this issue by american standards. Remember these words.”
    David, I hope you do not imagine an anger over circumcison will lead to an army of Jewish serial killers (of women, of course), or mass matricides committed by Jewish sons…

  12. I had no intention of getting in the middle of this discussion, but THIS really takes the cake:
    “Chava committed the promethian act of growing up and wanting to leave the playpen of Eden. This was to set the standard of mothers helping their children to mature, not to strangle them with decaying umbilical cords.”
    This kind of completely-unfounded-in-the -text apologetics makes the worst of the kiruv organizations look good.

  13. LOL! I’ve yet to find anyone, of any religion to agree with me on this (most everyone tends to think that climbing out of the playpen is humanity’s destruction). I’ve mentioned it at Torah studies, when the kvetching re: ‘reconciling’ love of Torah, with its ‘sexism,’ begins (there’s no sexism in Torah). The only response I’ve gotten are blanched faces…

  14. My comment has nothing to do with whether I agree with your idea. Rather, I objected to your saying “Torah, on the other hand, is quite clear on the role of female adam.” and then launching into a concept that a) is not at all found in the relevant text in Genesis, b) seems to contradict the actual text and c) very clearly fits your agenda.
    I have a tolerance for disagreement (which is why I debate various items on this site from time to time) but not for dishonesty. You blatantly presented your own version of a text as the actual text itself, most likely hoping no one would know any better. You tell me how this isn’t fraud.
    (BTW, there are those who say that being booted from Eden was a positive thing. But to say that such was Chava’s intention is contradictory to the text.)

  15. Miriam,
    Tziporah did not stand in front of the bima in front of a mixed crowd, showing everyone how she was expressing her Jewish-femism by slicing part of a boys penis off, which is exactly what many of the mohelets are saying is a big reason, and what the woman in the JTA story said was well. This Tziporrah story is not a liscence for Jewish-feminists to push their tits into this one in a big public way, with no concern for the feelings of men, which is exactly what they what these mohelels are doing, and exactly how it is promoted in Federation media where the same sort of writer is assigned to all gender-issue stories.
    You wrote,
    “David, I hope you do not imagine an anger over circumcison will lead to an army of Jewish serial killers (of women, of course), or mass matricides committed by Jewish sons… ”
    No, resentment will lead to a lot of anger from circumcised gentile men, once they are them minority, which they will soon be, if they (the new generation) aren’t already, against Jews who pretend that they are pro-circ for health reasons and push and push and push it as national health policy, when it is clear that wasn’t and never was their primary attachment to this ritual.
    But keep LOL’ing yourself, and laugh in their faces when they complain about it. That will help things so much, and that is what I expect the Jewish community to do.
    And their will be hell to pay.

  16. J —
    Fraud? What fraud?
    Genesis is the first story of the cosmos which begins in peace, not bloodshed, hatred, and vicious power plays. Doesn’t this make it clear that its intention is something quite unique and special?
    After each of his creations, God stands back, and sees that it ‘is good.’ Adam is the creation for which this comment is not made. But then, adam is not fixed; adam is supposed to be the creation of cognition. Adam is the being of the earth which gets touched by the divine spark, to become God-like “ish,” and “ishah.” 1:26 “…Let us make adam in our image, after our likeness…” 1:27 “And God creeated adam in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
    Are we literalists in reading Torah? Does anyone really believe that a serpent told Chava what to do? Or, is it more reasonable that this metaphor was used to describe her intenal dialgue, her quest to move from dependent toddler into mature adulthood? Is it impossible for you to think that she realized that she had the responsibility to grow up, being a physical creature touched by divine inspiration? 3:4-6 “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You are not going to die, but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad. When the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, and he ate.”
    Ok. So, it was Chava’s idea, and the promethean act of growing up and getting out of the playpen of Eden, was her idea (yea, I know there are others who who think that this was a good idea. They give credit to Adam, and miss the importance of the act being Chava’s). If God were truly angry at this leap, do you think he would have sent them off with clothing? As a good and loving parent, he was actually quite proud, and knowing they had a lot more growing to do, he couldn’t let them back in.
    If you consider, for the most part, women — through our biology — have primary responsibility in child-rearing, don’t you think Torah sets the standard of the female adam by making sure it was a future mother who took that leap? To make sure that she helps her kids develop wings, instead of being tethered to a rotting umbilical cord?
    David, of course Tzipporah did not stand in front of a large, social gathering; though the covenant existed, the party did not.
    I have not been to a brit performed by a mohelet, but I imagine that she would be as discreet as the mohels I’ve seen. What, are you expecting these women to hold up the foreskin like a matador who has just removed the bull’s cojones, to the cheering of some crowd?
    Have you been subject to too many paintings by Reubens, who only ever sees woman as female sadist?

  17. Miriam-
    You don’t seem to get it. The fraud is in your presenting your own (self-serving) ideas as those of a classic text. Reread my comment 16 above.
    “Are we literalists in reading Torah? Does anyone really believe that a serpent told Chava what to do? ”
    How is this relevant? Even a non-literal story has to make sense. A story being non-literal (but intended to carry truth) doesn’t give anyone the license to just make up any interpretation they want, let alone present it as the primary (or only) interpretation.
    “Or, is it more reasonable that this metaphor was used to describe her intenal dialgue, her quest to move from dependent toddler into mature adulthood? Is it impossible for you to think that she realized that she had the responsibility to grow up, being a physical creature touched by divine inspiration?”
    Well, let’s see. G-d directly commanded that the tree not be eaten from, but Chava does it anyway. Are you aware that the Torah is very consistent in disapproving of violating G-d’s commands? (Note that the two famous cases of arguing with G-d – Abraham re Sodom and Moshe re the golden calf sin – did not involve the violation of an order of G-d). And how did Chava know that she’d get the result you claim she desired? From the words of the snake? And further, doesn’t the “you’ll be like a divine being” part smack of self-interest? And what about the lame excuse (“the snake fooled me”)offered by Chava when confronted by G-d? Why not just say, “Hey, I did the right thing!” And doesn’t G-d seem pretty angry about the whole thing? And doesn’t having Adam rule over her seem an odd ‘reward’ for doing the right thing?
    “If God were truly angry at this leap, do you think he would have sent them off with clothing? ”
    Considering the severity and duration of the punishments He’d just handed out, the clothing seems puny.
    “If you consider, for the most part, women — through our biology — have primary responsibility in child-rearing, don’t you think Torah sets the standard of the female adam by making sure it was a future mother who took that leap?”
    Actually, in Judaism, the father has the primary responsibility in moral instruction. And since adults are affected by the “decision” more than children (who, even today, are innocent of good and evil), I don’t see your connection.
    For the above reasons, I don’t think even you really think that your idea fits the text. It’s just that you’re desperate to spin out of existence a text that makes Chava seem like the weak link of the human race. And it’s this kind of agenda-driven mendacity that makes you a fraud.

  18. How is it relevant to say that Chava’s decision to eat from the forbidden tree came from internal dialogue? How is it not, if we consider that we are made b’tselem Elohim, and thereby engage in creative thought processes?
    What exactly was God’s commandment? “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.”
    Actually, this sounds more like an advisory warning, than an order. They ate; did they die? Or, did their toddle-like ego-centrism of all their needs being met by an external source, die? But, as the maturation process is a process, not an immediate result, their responses to God’s questioning what they had eaten, is irresponsibly infantile. Chava blames the snake, and Adam blames both Chava, and God. Nonetheless, they do mature enough to not beg to not be evicted from the playpen of Eden.
    (The two famous cases of God-wrestling came much later, so do they actually have an impact on what the first human beings were attempting to wrestle with? Isn’t that an anachronism?)
    “Let us make adam in our image, after our likeness.”
    Should this invoke a physical image, a Zeus-like man — for when God is angry — and a semitic-looking Santa Claus — for when he’s in a good mood? Or, is the image a spiritual one, of divine being? Yes, there is a certain amount of ‘self-interest’ in assuming at least some of the responsibility that God offers by making us in his image; isn’t tikkun olam in our self-interest? If we make the world a better place, it’s better for both others, and for ourselves, right? Of course, the really impressive measure of righteousness is what we leave for the posterity we will never physically know (eg., the old man that Honi the Traveler came upon, struggling to plant a sapling, even though he would not be alive to enjoy its fruit).
    Is working for a living, putting food on the table for ourselves, and our children, such a terrible ‘punishment’? Isn’t it called ‘growing up,’ which does have its pains, but also its many joys?
    As for Adam ‘ruling over Chava’ as a result of her food choice — permit me my own anachronism: I hear Sarah laughing!
    If, in Judaism, ‘the father has the primary responsibility in moral instruction,’ why are children only Jewish (halachically speaking) if their mother is?
    Of course my idea fits the text! Open your eyes, J, and you’ll see it, too. Or, if I may borrow in order to be poetic: “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be not stiff-necked” over this issue. Chava is no weak link. She’s a great antidote for fear and paranoia of things ‘unknown.’

  19. “Of course my idea fits the text! Open your eyes, J, and you’ll see it, too. ”
    I’m seeing it, alright. I’m seeing what happens when people with an agenda and little knowledge turn the Torah into their plaything.
    “How is it relevant to say that Chava’s decision to eat from the forbidden tree came from internal dialogue? How is it not, if we consider that we are made b’tselem Elohim, and thereby engage in creative thought processes?”
    Nowhere did I argue against the notion of “internal dialogue” (known to the non-pretentious as “thoughts”). I argued re the content of the thoughts. Obviously.
    “Actually, this sounds more like an advisory warning, than an order.”
    So one of the Ten Commandments, about honoring parents, would also become an advisory warning (“…so that your days will be lengthened…”). Not likely.
    “But, as the maturation process is a process, not an immediate result, their responses to God’s questioning what they had eaten, is irresponsibly infantile.”
    That doesn’t answer my question. If Chava truly thought she was doing the right thing, why not say so? Regardless of maturity level, that would have been the best answer.
    “(The two famous cases of God-wrestling came much later, so do they actually have an impact on what the first human beings were attempting to wrestle with? Isn’t that an anachronism?)”
    You miss the point. I mentioned the later arguments to distinguish arguing with G-d in advance of an event (sometimes OK) from violating G-d’s orders (not OK).
    “Yes, there is a certain amount of ’self-interest’ in assuming at least some of the responsibility that God offers by making us in his image; isn’t tikkun olam in our self-interest? If we make the world a better place, it’s better for both others, and for ourselves, right? ”
    Again, doesn’t answer my argument. Remember, Chava was getting her information from a snake (or whatever the snake is supposed to represent). Come to think of it, if the snake was offering good advice, what does it represent for you?
    “Is working for a living, putting food on the table for ourselves, and our children, such a terrible ‘punishment’? Isn’t it called ‘growing up,’ which does have its pains, but also its many joys?”
    Depends on if you shoulder primary responsibility for supporting your family, or if you rely on someone else for the primary income.
    And what about the other punishments? Any reason you ignored them? Do you favor childbirth pains (and deaths)? And why was the snake punished?
    “As for Adam ‘ruling over Chava’ as a result of her food choice — permit me my own anachronism: I hear Sarah laughing!”
    Fine. But then let us never hear again about the “historic oppression of women”.
    And BTW, if in one instance Avraham listens to Sarah because of the explicit command of G-d, what does that tell you about when there is no such explicit command?
    “If, in Judaism, ‘the father has the primary responsibility in moral instruction,’ why are children only Jewish (halachically speaking) if their mother is?”
    A strange argument. Why assume moral instruction works on the same basis as birth in the first place? Second, what about Kohen/Non-Kohen or Ashkenazy custom/ Sephardy custom, which goes by the father? And above all, the Talmud is very clear about the father’s primacy in moral instruction. So the burden would be on you to reconcile this with Halachic birth. (If you’re interested, Azure ran an article on this topic about six months ago – it may be online.)
    “Open your eyes, J, and you’ll see it, too. Or, if I may borrow in order to be poetic: “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be not stiff-necked” over this issue. ”
    How about less poetry and more thinking?
    There’s

  20. J:
    I quote Ben Bag Bag (again), on Torah: “Turn it, turn it, for all is within it, and contemplate it, and grow gray and old over it, and stir not from it.”
    Where’s the ‘agenda’ in my studies?
    “If Chava truly thought she was doing the right thing, why not say so?” C’mon. She wasn’t Athene, sprung fully matured, from Zeus’ head! How long was she running around naked, before she suddenly got modest? Ever know kids to be able to fully articulate why they did something?
    To me, the conversation with the snake represents Chava’s ‘internal dialogue’ (I doubt that anyone needed a dictionary to understand this idea, so, where’s the ‘pretension’ unless you desire everything to be as literal as possible).
    I think God was showing his enormous sense of humor when he metted the ‘punishment’ to the snake. I’ve never heard a better explanation of snakehood.
    As a matter of fact, I do think childbirth pains are important, because –under the best of circumstances — raising a child is never all beauty and fun.
    And, yeah, I was being glib with the ‘Sarah laughing’ remark, so, a bit more rigor is required here: “…In pain shall you bear children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
    Might this mean, that despite the pain of birthing, a woman who loves her husband will also long for him, and her longing can be construed as being ‘ruled over?’ Or is this something else you choose to view literally, as in the husband being the emperor (benign or malevolent, depending on the circumstances), and the wife being subservient handmaiden?
    J, no one has ever heard about the ‘historic oppression of women,’ from me. Torah does not ‘historically oppress’ women.

  21. PS “What does that tell you about when there is no succh explicit command?” Uh, to remember that I’m btselem elohim and I should stop making God into my mother, and learn to figure some things out for myself?
    What is strange about me remarking on halacha and Jewish children only being Jewish if their mothers are? I will look and see if I can find this Azure article.
    What is your issue with poetry? Literalism is a dark place to be. Poetry shows the divine spark.
    Oh, and the ‘poetic quote’ that you chastised me about is Deuteronomy 10:16.

  22. Miriam,
    I realize you are not a mean spirited person, and I am willing to concede that you may not be attempting to push this issue of Mohelets as your own form of gender equity or showing all men (attending or even hearing about the bris) who’s boss, though some are doing just that.
    But I really don’t think you are allowing for the fact that there are gender politics in genital cutting, and that the “gender-sensitive” segment of Jewish community, (like many other segments of communities that see a group as the general “underdog”) is consistently loathe to allow for their (men’s) perceptions, even though it is an issue that affects them, (and not women), directly, through cutting a part of their anatomy off,. Rather, debate is usually presently limited to allowing only for theoretical halachic parameters, even as those pushing the issue are not interested in normative Jewish custom generally, but rather, changing it.
    Additionally, while I am one of the few who will speak about my own anger over this issue, and there are certainly women who feel Mohelets and other “parallel ceremonies” seeking “parity” with circumcision are rediculous and even obnoxious, there is simply more anger and a feeling of intrusion among men than is voiced publicly, because it is much more acceptable for a man to say “I have no problem with it” than it is to say “I feel that this is an invasive, castrating, and utterly insensitive move on the part of Jewish-Feminists even as they consistently demand ever-more gender-sensitivity.”
    I can’t force you or anyone to understand what I (and others! I know from my private converstaions that there are most definitely others) perceive and feel from this push, and I can’t stop you and others (including Jewish men, some of whom frequently react defensively to any question on circumcision that implicityly acknowledges a cost to their sexuality) from mocking these feelings or at least ignoring them. But I will still raise my resentments, and as the circumcision debate grows ever more heated and it’s cost more accepted, resentment over those Jewish women (and the organizations bowing to their pressure) pushing for “inclusion” in this ritual will continue to grow as well.
    Women should remain in the back of the room at a public bris as they have wisely done (or failing that, have been explicitly invited to do — I saw that once!) throughout the ages, in every culture, in every generation. Anything more prominent is tasteless, and should be treated with reprimand and protest.

  23. David, I think that anyone who is competent in any profession or job, should be allowed to utilize that competency.
    That said, I am applying your thoughts to the medical specialty of urology, and wondering if the psychodynamics of this area of anatomy are why I’ve never met a female urologist (except the rare one forced to do a intern rotation).
    Somewhat inversely, though, I have always wondered if female urologists would better serve these exclusively male patients, since I’ve seen many of them treated in a very macho fashion by male docs, most of whom are a lot younger than the patients, and have little or no empathy toward their futures of impotence and incontinence.
    Perhaps the issue that you see with the moheliot is the issue of female machismo/payback time nastiness, that may be a problem in some of them. Barring the argument on circumcision, wouldn’t it be enough that word of mouth would put a mohelet out of business?

  24. Mriram,
    People don’t always show their true feelings in a public setting. Mohelets are used more by inter-married families not connected to the Jewish community, not in the loop anyway. A strong part of their limited customer base (I have never heard of a full-time Mohelet, which is why they can’t go “out of business”) are women married to gentile men, and the men don’t know or don’t feel comfortable protesting.
    You keep moving from religion to the medical filed. I can’t tell you enough times that they don’t follow the same rules, nor should they.

  25. Actually, David, I am trying to understand your argument, which is why I’m attempting a comparison of it with the fact that there are very few female urologists around. From the same psychodynamic standpoint, I can understand you.
    From the standpoint of Jewish law, though, I cannot, because of Tzipporah’s one-time act of mohelet.

  26. That wasn’t in a public setting; it was never interpreted to be. If it was like you were saying, then the Jewish norm would have been to allow Mohelets in a public setting. This has never been the case. Historically, it wasn’t ever like that. This is what you are refusing to acknowledge. Do you even acknowledge that the type of public “mohelet” thing is a very new (and still quite limited) phenomeon? Because tt was never normative, never in a big public way, where a woman has the title of mohelet, and performs the cutting in front of a mixed crowd in an apartment or synagogue. That’s why the Tzipporah story is not an acceptable proof. There is a difference between what is acceptable in private under duress and what is permitted in public when you have choices throughout Judaism.
    For instance, married couples are permitted to have sex, but they are not permitted to have sex in the town square. What s permitted in one place may not be recommended or even allowed in another setting. The issue of modesty, a much stronger priority throughout Judasim for women than it is for men, is being categorically denied in its entirety to the point of revisionism.

  27. David, I’m going to be busy for the next couple of days, and will post by Tuesday if I finish quickly AND have time to research another idea you’ve put into my head.

  28. David, I’m not going to touch the ‘modesty’ issue, which I think is a moot one, here. But, I’m cross-eyed with questions that might have some wanting to stone me for blasphemy, but which — ironically? — you may appreciate. Oh, yeah, and none of them touch on the mohelet/no mohelet theme.
    Please don’t fret that I’m starting with medicine.
    ‘Circumcision’ literally means ‘a cutting around.’ Taber’s Medical dictionary definition: “Surgical removal of the end of the prepuce of the penis.” It doesn’t say exactly how much. Maybe only a little is needed to help prevent STDs, HIV, and penile cancer (ok, I’m also looking into which area of the foreskin has the blood most rich in those infection-fighting white cells. So far, though, I’m empty-handed).
    Similarly, I can find nothing in Torah which says how much. Or how, except with a sharpened flint. Maybe also just a little bit? Something akin to causing a circumcised convert to lose a couple of drops of blood? Considering the very long, and seemingly tediousness in describing how to diagnose and quarantine leprosy in Leviticus, there must be some significance here.
    And though God stresses to Abraham the importance of the brit milah, there are too many instances where it is ignored.
    Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I can’t find anything saying that Moses was circumcised. Exodus 4.20 talks about Moses’ and Tzipporah’s sons. Ex 4.25, she circumcises just one? Which one? What about the other? Why? Why not? No mention of the 8th day, either.
    Why did no circumcisions take place for 40 years? Surely there were sharpened flints around.
    Why did Dinah’s brothers convince her rapist and his relatives to circumcise themselves before they killed them?
    Was it Rambam who made the decision on just how much removal is necessary for the brit to be met? If so, well, considering his stated sexual weirdness, maybe the millimeters should be redefined. [An aside: I hold Maimonides in esteem for his writings on t’shuvah, and forgiveness, and righteousness, but his comments on women are hateful, and his writings on sex are quite creepy.]
    So no one thinks I’m making this up, here are the quotes, from ‘The Guide for the Perplexed,’ Chapter XLIX:
    “The law about forbidden sexual intercourse seeks in all its parts to inculcate the lesson that we ought to limit sexual intercourse altogether, hold it in contempt, and only desire it very rarely.” [Why bother to desire it at all?]
    “As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate…Circumcision simply counteracts excessive lust; for there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natural enjoyment; the organ necessarily becomes weak when it loses blood and is deprived of its covering from the beginning. [He must have barely passed anatomy and physiology; the erection deflates when blood flow decreases. Inversely, blood engorgement for too long will lead to necrosis] Our Sages (Beresh.Rabba, c.80) say distinctly: It is hard for a woman, with whom an uncircumcised had sexual intercourse, to separate from him. [!!] This is, as I believe, the best reason for the commandment concerning circumcision. And who was the first to perform this Commandment? Abraham, our father! of whom it is well known how he feared sin…” (And how many concubines did Abraham have? And how many children did he father?)
    Like I said, I’m full of questions, right now, so I give them to you.

  29. http://mylifeasalush.blogspot.com/2007/06/penis-free-columbia.html is a blog by a female MD who probably isn’t Jewish, and she compares circumcision to castration. As is well known, female circumcision is appropriately illegal here while Congress rightly refuses to ban male circumcision. Mylifeasalush is what I read to relax from a stressful day. I see nothing objectionable to women circumcising baby boys and causing as she admitted, “screaming and bleeding.” I was circ’d at birth and have no recall of it.

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