The Celebration of Manhood

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:
The Celebration of Manhood

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This chapter presents an explanation for the non-circumcision of women in Judaism: the absence of circumcision from Jewish women bespeaks their secondary, anomalous, problematic place in the rabbinic hierarchy. Circumcision celebrates the birth of a male, marking the newborn as a member of the covenant, as a member of the people, as the father's son, and as a future citizen. Circumcision excludes women; by investing circumcision with covenantal value, both the Bible and the Talmudic sages declare that Judaism, or at least Jewishness, is in the first instance synonymous with maleness. The Jewishness of women is different from the Jewishness of men, or is of a lesser kind. The absence of circumcision bespeaks women's second-tier status. Two texts form the centerpiece of the discussion in this chapter: those by Jacob ben Abba Mari Anatoli, one of several scholars, who is best known as the translator of philosophical works from Arabic into Hebrew; and those of Menahem, a polemicist.

Keywords: Menahem; Judaism; Jewishness of women; covenantal value

Chapter.  13468 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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