The Celebration of Womanhood

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 Womanhood

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This chapter elaborates a non-Maimonidean perspective. The central author considered in it is R. Joseph Bekhor Shor, whose explanation for the non-circumcision of women is predicated on the fact that the blood of circumcision is covenantal. It is the blood of the covenant that gives circumcision its theological power and turns a surgical procedure into a religiously efficacious ritual. In this context, Bekhor Shor intuits a relationship between menstruation and circumcision. If circumcision is understood primarily as a means for releasing blood, the female experience certainly has an analogue—the blood of menstruation, like the blood of circumcision, is covenantal. Bekhor Shor argues that the purification regimen observed by married Jewish women gives their menstrual blood the same covenantal value as the blood of circumcision. The chapter argues that the circumcision and childbirth parallel each other. Circumcision is the instrument by which Abraham achieves potency, and childbirth is the manifestation of Sarah's newfound fertility. Sarah's childbirth is the consequence of, and analogue to, Abraham's circumcision.

Keywords: non-Maimonidean perspective; Bekhor Shor; menstruation; childbirth; fertility

Chapter.  6463 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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