Circumcisions are performed nowadays on adults more than ever before. The reasons can vary from either religious, cultural, family or for medical reasons. As well, adolescents and adults decide to have this procedure done because of experiencing pain during erections or even infections of the foreskin and urinary tract infections. The surgical procedure is nearly painless and the healing process typically takes a few weeks.
Circumcision has many health benefits including:
- It can reduce the risk of infection in the urinary tract.
- Risk of sexually communicated diseases is highly reduced.
- Penile cancer in men and cervical cancer in female sex partners can by avoided by circumcision.
- Risk of balanitis (tenderness of glands) and balanoposthitis (irritation of glands and foreskin) is reduced by circumcision.
- Circumcision prevents phimosis (the incapability to pull back the foreskin) and paraphimosis (being unable to return the foreskin to its regular position).
- Circumcision also makes it easier to keep the penile area clean.
Over the year’s circumcisions have been found to be medically beneficial. For years, medical researchers claimed that it reduced penile cancers, urinary tract infections and added to easier hygiene. As such, pediatrics academies routinely recommend circumcision for male infants. According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), the preventative health benefits of infant circumcision clearly outweigh the risks.
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The word Brit has a double meaning in the Hebrew language: it means circumcision as well as a covenant. This demonstrates that circumcision itself is a covenant – a covenant between us and God. A covenant is far more than a simple contract. It is a binding and irrevocable pledge between two parties. Through the original mitzvah of Brit Milah, God sealed an eternal covenant between Abraham and his descendants. To this day, the blessing recited on performing the mitzvah of Milah is “Blessed are You … Who sanctified us with His mitzvot, and instructed us to enter him (the newborn child) into the covenant of Abraham our Father.” By performing the mitzvah of Milah, we perpetuate the covenant by passing it on to the next generation.
The mitzvah of Brit Milah is unique in that it is the only mitzvah given to the Patriarchs. The fulfillment of Brit Milah by Abraham and his descendants, even before the Torah was given to the nation at Sinai, is an indication of its centrality to the Jewish faith. Certainly, the mitzvah of Milah has captured “public opinion” concerning the Jewish religion. It would hardly be an exaggeration to state that the concept of circumcision, in the eyes of both Jews and non-Jews, is seen as a defining element of Judaism.
The circumcision is done specifically on the reproductive organ. God chose the male place of gender as the part of the body to impart His Covenant because from there begins the process of bringing down a soul from Heaven and creating a new generation. The most obvious connotation of the mitzvah of Milah is of removing something unwanted. It seems as if the human male was created incomplete, and the job of completing him, by removal of the foreskin, was left to us to carry out through the mitzvah of Milah. This raises a difficulty: why did God create us incomplete? The answer, however, is that God wished to give us the opportunity of completing ourselves. Milah is the first expression, and the only physical manifestation, of this self-completion. The foreskin, which represents a blockage or impediment, is cut away, thereby enabling a revelation of purity and holiness.
It is hardly surprising that the vast majority of even the most secular Jews, perhaps up to 98% of Jews in Israel, continue to circumcise their children. It is the first mitzvah given to the first Jew, Abraham, and to this day it continues to be the symbol of our faith and our covenant – indeed, the symbol of our Jewish identity.
Medically, the eighth day of an infant’s life is most ideal because of safety factors and the elevated levels of vitamin K and prothrombin necessary to prevent hemorrhaging. However, this is not the primary explanation. There is deep significance to a Brit Milah, specifically on the eighth day, as the number eight represents the supernatural. Hence the Torah commands a male child to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life (Genesis17:12).