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Hyperbolic Nonsense

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Here we go again. Looking for Jewish connections in the wider culture in order to prove that we are just like everyone else. Or even better, causing others to emulate us.

A house is not a home. Remember that great Burt Bacarach song? A house is not the same thing as a home. It requires the intent.

Just as a circumcision not necessarily a bris. It too requires intent.

A circumcision is a medical procedure used to remove the foreskin of the penis. Any penis. Jewish penis. Christian penis. Muslim penis. Agnostic penis. Atheist penis. Polytheist penis. There is no religious implication in this medical procedure. A bris (or brit or brit milah), on the other hand, is a Jewish ritual that elevates the medical procedure by answering the call of commandedness. Genesis 17:7-14. God commands Abraham to circumcise his son on the eighth day of life as an eternal sign of the covenant – the בְּרִית brit – between God and Abraham. Furthermore, it is a commandment that is a chukat olam – a law for all time. In every generation, every Jewish male child must be circumcised in accordance with our Tradition.

The Jewish professional responsible for the procedure is called a mohel (or mohelet, female). From the Hebrew root meaning “to cut foreskin (to circumcise,” the mohel is trained in the medical AND ritual aspects of the ceremony. Regardless of who is being cut, the cutter is always a mohel.

However, when a mohel performs a circumcision on a non-Jewish baby, which is in no way a violation of Jewish law, no bris has taken place. A circumcision has taken place. Since the days of Queen Victoria through HRH The Prince of Wales, royal male babies were circumcised by a mohel. A good decision given that mohels have a great deal of practical experience with circumcisions. No one has ever suggested that these Royal babies have been entered into the Covenant.

So while it made for splashy, attention-grabbing headlines today, Sandra Bullock’s baby did not have a bris. He was circumcised by a specialist.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, 29 April 2010 7:58 pm

    A very odd choice. But maybe if enough celebs adopt babies and give them brisses, people will stop freaking out about intermarriage numbers. Nah, probably not. 🙂

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Thursday, 29 April 2010 9:55 pm

      Nope. Because a circ is not a bris 😉

  2. Thursday, 29 April 2010 8:20 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I read a small blurb about Bullock’s child and his “bris,” and I thought, “I didn’t realize Bullock was Jewish!” Then I found out – she’s NOT!! I agree 100% – her child was circumcised. That’s it. My second thought was Madonna’s “practice” of pretend Kabbalah. Don’t get me started on that!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Thursday, 29 April 2010 9:56 pm

      I’m with you. On both issues.

  3. Rebgiraffe permalink
    Thursday, 29 April 2010 9:48 pm

    Perhaps someone should suggest an Introduction to Judaism course to Ms. Bullock.
    Co-Chair, URJ-CCAR Commission on Outreach and Membership

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Thursday, 29 April 2010 9:56 pm

      What a terrific idea 🙂

  4. Thursday, 29 April 2010 11:19 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I agree with you. Though the Hebrew word mohel מוהל means to circumcise or to dilute

  5. Moishe Rubenstein permalink
    Saturday, 1 May 2010 12:05 pm

    Good point. I agree. Tacky picture given the race of the adopted child.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 3 May 2010 5:53 pm

      It is a common misconception that this phrase is a racial slur. It predates the use of the term “spade” as an ethnic slur for African-Americans by at least three hundred years.

      (See here for some interesting background on this phrase:

      Thanks for reading AND for taking the time to leave a comment.


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