Rabbinical Court Fines Mother $150 A Day Until She Agrees To Circumcise Son

250px-Covenant_of_AbrahamWe have often discussed the lack of separation of temple and state in Israel as well as the control of religious figures on aspects of public life. A story this week vividly illustrates the problem. A rabbinical court has fined a woman hundreds of dollars for refusing to circumcise her baby son and thereby endangering her child. Many doctors are questioning the necessity and value of circumcision, which is generally left up to the parents. However, this is an issue with both religious and medical importance in Israel. The mother was fine $150 dollars every day that the boy was left uncircumcised.

Shimon Yaakovi, legal adviser to the rabbinical court, insisted that “The decision is not based only on religious law. It is for the welfare of a Jewish child in Israel not to be different from his peers in this matter.” Note the shift in the medical argument. It is not that circumcision is necessary for good health but rather that the child would be “different” from other children. That is a bizarre basis to deny a parent the right to make this choice. What is equally bizarre is that there is no law requiring circumcision in Israel and the woman contested the jurisdiction of the rabbinical court over the matter. However the court ruled that it had jurisdiction over such a matter of family law.

It ruled earlier that the mother’s objections do not matter. The father’s wishes to have the boy circumcised were considered by the court to be determinative.

The opinion reflects the lack of legal analysis or professionalism. The court accused the woman of taking this stand to try to win her husband back through a type of forced reconciliation. It then added “The general public which does not observe Jewish law does not even think about fighting on this issue. The Jewish people have always and will always see in the brit mila [circumcision] the completion of the act of creation.” Really? I know plenty of secular Jews who vehemently object to the role of such courts and forced compliance on such issues. However, it is not likely that the “judges” on this religious court have much interaction with such groups.

The Court added a dire warning of where such parental choice would take the nation:

“Until now, the rabbinical courts have not experienced an objection in principle to the performance of circumcision as part of a divorce battle, and if an opening is made here and the mother is given the opportunity to prevent the circumcision or to use her objection as a way to obtain things in the divorce settlement, we will likely find ourselves facing an outbreak of such cases, and then another dimension will be added to the [already] frightening divorce process. This trend must be stopped immediately, since the common good outweighs that of the individual,”

Of course, it could also represent a “trend” toward greater religious freedom and the separation of temple and state.

32 thoughts on “Rabbinical Court Fines Mother $150 A Day Until She Agrees To Circumcise Son”

  1. Dredd,

    She’s a bear. I think that a legal opinion would be the least of Adam’s concerns. Getting eaten would probably trump any legal or theological considerations. And who wants that job? Who gets to do the bris on a bear? Madness, I tell you. Madness.

  2. Religion 101: BY men, FOR men and at the expense of women, no matter where, no matter when. Just say NO while you still can, sisters.

  3. it was my first discount. An ethnic German friend from St. Cloud MN had the procedure done in his thirties. His wife couldn’t visit because he would burst his stitches. Female nurses had a similar effect.

  4. I’m gonna play golf on this one….. Guess you don’t get a mulligan in this game….fore….

  5. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.560811

    No to forced circumcision

    Civil courts need to send an important message that individual rights take precedence over religious customs, however widespread they are.
    Haaretz Editorial | Nov. 29, 2013 | 1:21 AM | 1

    Elinor’s baby son was born with a medical problem, so he couldn’t be circumcised after eight days. During the time that elapsed, Elinor learned what the circumcision procedure actually entails, “and I realized that I couldn’t do that to my son. He’s perfect just as he is.” She claims the baby’s father was a party to this decision. But when the two began discussing their divorce in a rabbinical court, the father demanded that the mother be forced to have their son circumcised, as reported by Netta Ahituv on November 26.

    In an unprecedented decision, the rabbinical court ordered Elinor to circumcise her son against her will, and ruled that for every day for which she refuses to carry out the procedure, she will have to pay a fine of NIS 500. In response to the appeal she submitted to the Rabbinical Court of Appeals, the rabbinical judges wrote that “Removing the foreskin prepares the spiritual soul to receive the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and to learn God’s Torah and His commandments.”

    Another explanation they gave for rejecting the appeal related to the public battles against circumcision in Europe and the United States. “The Israeli public sees this as another expression of anti-Semitism, which must be fought,” they wrote.

    Alongside these embarrassing arguments, they claimed that “The commandment of circumcision is the covenant God made with His chosen people.” But circumcision is first and foremost a surgical operation performed on the body of a baby who is under his parents’ care. The fact that this operation is “performed on every Jewish boy,” to quote the rabbinical judges, doesn’t justify their conclusion that “When one parent demands this, the other parent cannot stay his hand.”

    The question of whether a baby should be circumcised should not be decided by a rabbinical court at all, but by his parents. If the parents cannot resolve their disagreement, reason actually mandates refraining from this irreversible operation, and letting the child decide for himself when he grows up. It is hoped that the High Court of Justice, which will soon be asked to decide this case, will overturn the rabbinical court’s decision. The justices will thereby send an important message that in Israel, individual rights take precedence over religious customs, however widespread they are.

  6. here is one link that connects to others that informs you of whats really whats going on when it comes to our kids

  7. To become comfortable and satisfied with ones knowledge, is to become comfortable and satisfied with ones ignorance.

    Or Brain Constipation. … Curiosity and self determination need not apply.

  8. East of Corfu the Ten Commandments Do Not Apply. This is what one calls a Weenie Law.

  9. March 7, 2012

    Baby’s Death Renews Debate Over a Circumcision Ritual


    Prosecutors are investigating the death of a newborn boy who died in September after contracting herpes through a controversial practice of ritual circumcision, reviving a debate in New York over safety and religious freedom.

    The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, confirmed on Wednesday that the investigation was continuing, but declined to comment further.

    The cause of death of the 2-week-old boy, who died at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn on Sept. 28, was Type 1 herpes, caused by “ritual circumcision with oral suction,” according to the medical examiner’s office.

    The ritual of oral suction — or in Hebrew, metzitzah b’peh — is practiced almost exclusively in ultra-Orthodox communities and, to a lesser degree, in Orthodox Jewish communities, despite efforts by the city to curtail it and educate communities about its health risks. The procedure occurs during the circumcision ritual of the bris, as the practitioner, or mohel, removes the foreskin of the penis and then sucks the blood from the wound to clean it.

    In 2003 and 2004, the city reported three cases of Type 1 herpes that were linked to circumcision, involving a boy on Staten Island and twin boys in Brooklyn, one of whom died. The procedures were done by one mohel, Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, who was later prohibited from performing the ritual in New York City.

    The authorities have not determined the identity of the mohel in the most recent case, but since the death they have been trying to work with the Hasidic community. In 2004, after the death of the twin, the Brooklyn district attorney tried to investigate but received little cooperation within the community, according to a person with knowledge of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was not brought to trial.

    It was not believed that Rabbi Fischer was under investigation for the latest case, and he did not return a phone call seeking comment. His lawyer from the 2004 investigation, Mark J. Kurzmann, said he would not comment.

    Roughly two-thirds of newborn boys in the city’s Orthodox communities are circumcised with metzitzah b’peh, said Rabbi David Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, who said he was using a calculation based on religious school enrollment figures.

    He said that the mohels in the Hasidic community were cognizant of hygiene and that there were things they could do to reduce the risk of herpes without ending the practice. “We’re not oblivious to what’s going on,” Rabbi Zwiebel said.

    “The worst thing that could happen is if the authorities regulate this practice, then it could go underground,” he said. “I think the practice would continue, but there could be significant difficulty in gathering evidence. I would hope that our government officials take steps in conjunction with the community.”

    In 2005, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg assembled rabbis throughout the city to try to persuade them to move away from metzitzah b’peh. But they said that the practice was safe and that there was no definitive evidence that it caused herpes. “The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years,” Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said at the time. “‘We do not change. And we will not change.”

    But in the Bronx on Tuesday, the mayor talked about the medical examiner’s findings in the most recent death, which was also investigated by the health department.

    “There is probably nobody in public life who fights harder for the separation of church and state than I do, but I just wanted to remind everybody: religious liberty does not simply extend to injuring others or putting children at risk,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “And we will continue working with the community and others to prevent more baby boys from suffering these tragic fates.”


    Though the usual assumptions are that Yahwehism, or archaic Judaism, was free of human sacrifice the evidence in the Bible refutes that belief. A careful reading of the text – despite all of the editing by the priestly caste which was done before the text became “Holy” and fixed – shows a lot of nasty material which the devout manage to read without seeing. Those who have eyes let them read!

    A frequent complaint of the “prophets” is the falling of the Israelites into the ways of their neighbors, including child sacrifice. [For example Jeremiah 19:4-5] Ignoring the claimed extreme impressionability of Yahweh’s people, it is not clear that this was merely the influence of their neighbors. The texts strongly suggest that this was a survival from archaic Yahwehism which had by then become an embarrassment [to some, but by no means all]. In Ezekiel 20:25-26, the prophet gives an ingenious explanation for religious rules and practices which were becoming an embarrassment. Yes, they were indeed given by the God of Israel, but God gave the bad laws as a form of punishment. The bad laws seem to include child sacrifice.

    [Since God admits that parts of the Bible are bad laws, where does this leave the fundamentalist?]

    But there is more.

    A regular theme is the warnings that Yahweh’s chosen are not to come too close to the divine presence to protect the people from his tendency to kill without warning, for example Exodus 19:21.

    Also Yahweh has a history of attempting to kill his own Prophets and other chosen. There is the cruel command god gave to Abram (Honored Father) to sacrifice his favored child Isaac (Laughter). (Genesis 22:1 to 13) Though god eventually changes his mind, the text treats this as a reasonable divine request. Honored-Father did not respond by saying,
    “Kill my son given to me by my god? No! You must be an evil spirit!”.

    Though Honored-Father did have a record of protesting the divine murders of all those strangers in Sodom, he said nothing here. His own son was fair game.

    Or later (Genesis 32:24 to 32) when god attacks Jacob (Heel) while Heel is asleep. Though this looks to be an attempt to kill, Yahweh only succeeds in breaking his hip. So Heel-Clutcher becomes Israel, Fought-God. Fought-God then names the place of the fight, Face-of-God. Of course, the divine figure Fought-God defeats might not have been Yahweh. But then the text becomes openly polytheistic. A personal battle with Yahweh is consistent, however, with the divine character.

    More strangely, in some respects, is what happens when Moses (To-Draw-Out-a-Son), is sent back to Egypt from Arabia to deliver the Israelites (i.e. the people who fight god) from their slavery. On the way, while stopped for the night, Yahweh comes by and attempts to kill him. This is only prevented by Zipporah (Bird), his wife, doing an emergency circumcision of their son and then touching the bloody foreskin to mose’s own genitals. Then Yahweh goes away.

    And in Numbers, chapter 22, there is the story of Baalam being saved from a divine murder only because the donkey he is riding refuses to walk anywhere near the divine presence. An ironic story indeed.

    The Levites, the Priest caste, gets its’ initial holiness by the mass murder of selected Israelites (Exodus 32:26 to 29), but never gets a long term reprieve from divine capriciousness. Their ceremonial robes have bells attached to remind Yahweh not to kill his own priests! (Exodus 28:31 to 35 and then 36 to 43)

    One could hope that not being a prophet or chosen; or being a criminal might bring safety. Oh, not at all. In the story of the conquest of Jericho, Joshua 6:17 makes the explicit point that the entire population is to be killed as a sacrifice to Yahweh. In Isaiah 34:5 to 7 a similar notion comes up with Yahweh promising the genocide of the people of Edom as a personal sacrifice to himself.

    In Deuteronomy 13:12 to 16 we learn what is to be done about heretics and those who live in the same town with them. All the people and livestock of the town – even people and livestock who were not heretics – were to be killed by the sword. The dead and all the property were to be piled in the town square and burned as a whole burnt offering to Yahweh. Oh, and do not rebuild the town – ever. Somehow the myth started that gods only wanted the best, but in a pinch heretics, criminals and prisoners of war will do.
    There are after all more of latter than the former.

    [Note: The Roman coliseums were consecrated areas having alters to the main gods and goddesses; so the human and animal deaths there were offerings to the gods. Since so few people today are Jupiter worshipers I do not need to deal with that religion.]

    Jepthah, in his prayer to Yahweh for a military victory in the bloody wars of the Israelites, promises a human sacrifice to Yahweh. He gets his victory and sacrifices his only daughter. Oddly enough, his daughter is upset not over being killed, but over dying a virgin. (Judges 11:30 to 40)

    The command in Leviticus 18:21 against sacrificing children to Moloch comes out as not a ban on child sacrifice, but a ban on the worship of foreign deities. This suspicion is confirmed by Exodus 13:11 to 16, where Yahweh asserts his ownership of all first born males, both human and animal. What saves the humans from sacrifice is the substitution of additional animal sacrifices.
    Actually, human sacrifice was seen as something so Holy and powerful, that even the sacrifices to other gods was recognized as legitimate when practiced by gentiles. In 2 Kings chapter 3 is a description of a war against Moab. When the Isrealites surrounded the capitol of Moab, the Moab king fearing defeat sacrificed his son to his god on the city walls [2 Kings 3:26-27]. On seeing this the Isrealites fled in terror because the Moabite god Chemosh having received a sacrifice would surely defeat them.

    God sometimes ordered and other times accepted human sacrifice. Many people, especially first born sons, were only saved by the substitution sacrifices of additional livestock.

    [Note: Wives, children and livestock had the same legal status.]

    There is also the hint that the purpose of circumcision was either as a substitution for the sacrifice of the entire baby boy, or a marker that substitution sacrifices had been made.

    [See 1 Samuel 18:24-27 on the use of foreskins as a way to track the numbers of kills.]

    The circumcision would let god, or the priests rather, know not to take that particular child.

    This human sacrificial tradition may have had a long life in Judaism. The Jewish heresy of Christianity only makes sense if these sacrifices were still going on at the times of Christianity’s origins. Whether Jesus was a man before he was a god; or was killed on a tree or was crucified does not matter. This all makes no sense as an act of redemption unless there was a human sacrificial rite!

    All this goes a long way toward explaining the violence which has been created by the Followers of the Book, Jews, Christians and Moslems. What was born from and nurtured by centuries of ritual murder would be expected to create more violence.

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