Torah For Today: Keeping your sons’ foreskins

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Torah For Today: Keeping your sons’ foreskins

Rabbi Zvi Solomons looks at a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for a response

Rabbi Zvi Solomons
Stacey Solomon at the Jewish News Night of Heroes Awards (Blake Ezra Photography)
Stacey Solomon at the Jewish News Night of Heroes Awards (Blake Ezra Photography)

Last week, presenter Stacey Solomon shocked fans by revealing she had kept her sons’ foreskins after their circumcison, although Jewish custom is to have them buried. So, what does the Torah say about burying the foreskin after a brit milah?

The burying of a foreskin is connected to halacha on burial more generally. Jews and Muslims have the custom of hurrying our dead to the grave; for us it is highly disrespectful to unnecessarily postpone burial. 

The origin of this may well have to do with the heat of our homeland, Israel. However, in Deuteronomy 21:23 we are told that a criminal must be taken down from a pole on which he was hung within a day of execution: “His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is a reproach unto God; that thou defile not thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

The rabbis argue that since this is deemed a basic sign of respect for a criminal, all the more should we show this respect to the innocent who die.

The body, being the clothing of the soul, is not to be destroyed or disfigured. This is why we try to avoid autopsies and why we bury limbs and other human remains after surgery or removal.

When Stacey Solomon (pictured) kept her sons’ foreskins after circumcision, one has to ask, why? She surely had no fear that if she buried them they would grow into a juniper tree, like the folk tale from Brothers Grimm. Most mohelim carry around a small phial containing earth to fulfil the burial requirement. Could the mohel have given her an inappropriate tip? I think not.

Fashionable fads such as eating placenta fricassée may have more to do with this, although I doubt Ms Solomon was motivated by any nutritional medical or taxidermal notions. 

All these would be unacceptable in halacha, save in the rare instance of their proving a cure to a life-threatening disease.

While the ‘Auto-Icon’ of Jeremy Bentham, whose dressed skeleton resides on the ground floor of UCL’s Student Centre, may be designed to stir thoughts and question religion, perhaps a better explanation of Stacey’s retention of her sons’ foreskins is she has done so for her own reasons.

  •  This paper requested Rabbi Zvi Solomons of the Jewish Community of Berkshire to write about halacha connected to Stacey Solomon’s revelation

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