Chapter

A Canonical History of Jewish Circumcision

Shaye J. D. Cohen

in Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780520212503
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520920491 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520212503.003.0001
A Canonical History of Jewish Circumcision

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This chapter provides a history of Jewish male circumcision, from the Bible to the Talmud, to the high Middle Ages, analyzing changes in meaning, ritual, and surgical practice relying on different sources of account. Circumcision is done in private houses, in the most convenient and lightest room in the infant's house. A detailed account provided by the famous essayist Michel de Montaigne says that the ceremony takes place before a congregation of men; a female intermediary (the godmother) takes the baby from the mother and brings him to the man (the godfather) upon whose lap the circumcision takes place. The ritual is accompanied by prayers, wine, and fragrance. Furthermore, the chapter surveys the meanings that are attributed to circumcision in the sources which the rabbinic Jews regarded as canonical; that is, the Bible, the Mishnah and Talmud, and later rabbinic works—the texts that medieval Jews knew and revered, and the texts whose teachings about circumcision are of concern to the scholars.

Keywords: circumcision; Jews; Bible; Jewish circumcision ceremony; Michel de Montaigne

Chapter.  21732 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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