Torah For Today! This week: DIY circumcision
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Torah For Today! This week: DIY circumcision

 Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for an Orthodox response

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Brit milch
Brit milch

Eden Fogel was born in New Zealand two days before the country closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

His father, Noam, unable to fly in a mohel from Australia, circumcised Eden himself. What does the Torah say about this?

The obligation to circumcise a boy rests first upon the parent. To mark that, the blessing recited is LaMol et HaBen, to circumcise one’s son.

In case the father cannot, a mohel does so on the parent’s behalf. It is a pleasant irony that inability to fly in a mohel created an opportunity for
a religiously preferred option. 

Undoubtedly, a circumcision is a serious and delicate operation. Therefore, as in this case, a circumcision must be legally carried out under sufficient medical and also religious supervision. 

To achieve the mitzvah of circumcising one’s son, the foreskin would need to be prepared using a guard, requiring no more skill than to bring a surgical blade down the front of the guard. 

I was not privy to how the procedure was carried out, but it is what I had the merit to carry out in Jerusalem, when my second child, Yonatan was born. 

Regarding the difficulty in obtaining a mohel from abroad, the Torah approves of carrying out circumcision on time wherever possible, so much so that Zipporah, wife of Moses, circumcised their son when he was absent. 

Although most fathers, mohelim included, might waiver nervously over operating on their own child, it is especially admirable when a parent steps into the breach and has the guts to act when indeed there is no choice.

Incidentally, the ability to carry out one’s own obligatory mitzvot is accentuated by the benefit to the environment in not requiring the carbon footprint of special air travel over hundreds of miles to do so. 

In the 21st century, it is high time that each country with any significant population should have its full complement of Jewish community religious staff. 

For New Zealand, it would be even more significant to achieve this as a project of cooperation for and between Commonwealth countries. 

  •  Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force

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