New Evidence For the Medical Benefits of Circumcision

We don’t practice milah any more than we avoid a BLT because of a fear of contracting trichinosis. (This despite what the Rambam writes in the third chelek of the Moreh. See R Samson Raphael Hirsch’s critique in The Nineteen Letters.) Yet we are all part of the battle to ensure that circumcision will not be banned anywhere. We should equip ourselves with the weapons effective in countering those intent on doing just that. This includes a study published in The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, and summarized in an article in today’s USA Today.

Europeans continue to convince themselves that circumcision confers no benefits – neither medical nor social/cultural/psychosocial – and therefore should be banned as a form of parental abuse of children. Self-termed “intactivists” in the US rail at the horror of it all.

Meanwhile, as the rate of circumcision of newborns declines, there is now data measuring the medical costs to society as the benefits of circumcision are denied to more and more children.

It is not clear whether the blindness of those who insist that it has been proven that there are no medical benefits in circumcision (one of the pillars of the Cologne Germany decision) is related to the syphilis they’ve contracted, as a result of not having the protective benefit of circumcision in curtailing STD’s

[Hat tip to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Los Angeles]

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7 comments to New Evidence For the Medical Benefits of Circumcision

  • Shimshon

    Why are you doing this?

    You will never win this argument when phrased in terms of health benefits. Hint: they don’t care.

    Personally, I see many parallels between Egypt during Yosef’s reign, who (basically) forcibly circumcised the Egyptians so that the nascent Jewish nation wouldn’t be ostracized (too much, presumably) for the practice and the very unusual (among Christendom) mass-adoption of the procedure by the US, that happened to conveniently coincide with the massive migration of Jews to America. If anything, Jews feel too welcome there now (I was born and raised in LA myself). The decline of mass circumcision there seems to me very timely. Are you trying to prolong the golus by fighting the goyim on something they clearly feel very strongly about? Rav Adlerstein, come home. And encourage your talmidim to do so as well.

    [YA -
    NO, NO, a thousand times no!

    This is not about winning arguments, but safeguarding Jewish interests - and lives. Wherever we live, we dare not ever forget that Jewish lives are all intertwined, and we must assume responsibility for all Jews. (A position, BTW, that has been assumed by the State of Israel since its inception, and to its credit.)

    When non-Jews find ways to attack milah or shechitah, a good number of them are in it for one ride alone: to discredit and disparage Judaism, and to try to make life miserable for Jews.

    One of the chief principles of Jewish advocacy - learned the hard way - is that any outrage against Jews, any subtle attempt at limiting Jewish freedoms, must be vigorously resisted. The reason is simple. If we don't yell and scream, each outrage will be followed by another. If we don't use our influence to ask our friends in government and community to be there for us regarding smaller issues, they will not be there for the ever larger ones. That is just the way it works.

    There may be no "cure" for antisemitism. That doesn't mean that we capitulate to it, and offer no resistance. Mounting the battle against the disease of antisemitism is as much part of our hishtadlus as taking an antibiotic is in order when we suffer from a different kind of infection.

    While you and I would agree that there is little, if any, future for Jews in golus (I have been preaching that to students for years; another one of my married children made aliyah last week), we will never be allowed to abandon them till the last one is brought back to Israel. We must encourage aliyah through education, not by turning the other way as antisemites try to poison the well - even the well of galus.]

  • Raymond

    I am no more surprised that Europe, led by Germany, is banning circumcision, any more than I would be surprised that they economically boycott Israel. The Holocaust may have made outright murdering of Jews unfashionable (at least in non-Middle Eastern circles), but antisemitism has not died. It has just taken a somewhat more subtle form. Those people who seek to ban things like circumcisions, or the displaying of the Ten Commandments in public, really do need to get a life.

  • Mr. Cohen

    “…the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, was indeed circumcised by a mohel,
    the late Dr. Snowman, who was a medical man as well.

    It is an old royal family tradition that they be circumcised…
    probably from a tradition that dates at least from the time of Queen Victoria…
    the new generation of royalty is uncircumcised.”

    SOURCE: Jewish Answers To Medical Ethics Questions (page 102)
    by Nison E. Shulman, 1998, Jason Aronson Publishers ISBN 0-7657-6016-9.

  • E. Fink

    The medical benefits mentioned are extremely minimal, especially in modern countries.

    Further, the resistance to circumcision is not universal. It is against circumcising a baby without consent. The (minor) medical benefits are all sexual. One can reap those benefits as long as they circumcise before adulthood.

    [YA - Not true. The benefits include lessened incidence of urinary tract infection, lesser risk of penile cancer - and cervical cancer in future partners. All this compliments of the just-released report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which concluded that the benefits outweigh the risks.

    As far as deferring the procedure past infancy: in the immortal words of Bill Cosby, "Right!!!!!!!" Opponents want milah banned until a candidate can make his own choice, which means the age of legal majority. How many 18 year olds do you think are going to opt for going under the knife?]

  • Charles Hall

    An additional benefit to universal circumcision of baby boys, which was the custom in the US for most of the 20th century: It makes it easier to convert to Judaism!

  • Pinchas Giller

    1. Tsk tsk, no syphilis jokes in Ellul.

    2.I think the removal of circumcision from European standard practice was a cost-cutting measure for their socialized medical systems. Multiply the cost of the procedure by all the male births in a country and the cost is considerable.

    3. Any mohel will tell you that the foreskin adheres to the atara at about five months and milah becomes a surgical procedure; not impossible, of course, but much messier. If you’re going to circumcise, time is of the essence. Routine infant circumcision for the baby boomers probably prevented many more STD’s than would have been warranted due to the change in sexual mores at the time.

    4. The spontaneous recurrence of anti-semitism in every social and political venue is almost mystical to me and a reminder of the certitude of Jewish theology. Amalek is a morphing shape shifter, always recrudescent.

  • Daniel

    Personally, I am glad when goyim stop doing circumcision, since it is supposed to be our bris with Hashem. In fact, Yishmael had a zchus in Eretz Yisroel because of the Bris. Zohar.

    G-d can make it easy or hard for us to do mitzvos regardless of what the goyim think about themselves doing bris milah.