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Aug 23, 2012

Jewish Hero Of The Month, Perhaps Year

My Jewish hero of the Month, or perhaps even the year, is this Rabbi Dovid Goldberg.

Rabbi Goldberg is a rav and mohel in Germany, and has recently been charged for the crime of performing Jewish circumcision on a baby despite the recent court decision outlawing it.

Despite the imbroglio he finds himself in, he is not being apologetic, nor is he giving up. Rabbi Goldberg has said he has no plans to stop, but will be performing the circumcisions with the same regularity he has until now.

I must say that not only is Rabbi Goldberg the Jewish hero of the story, but the m,embers of the Jewish community who continue to circumcise their children despite the legal uncertainty and the threat of jail or fines.

Judaism has outlasted many attempts in history to stop its religious practice, and specifically many attempts to stop circumcision. The heroes throughout history who have insisted on continuing the mitzva despite the threats they faced have been a major force of Judaism. The people of Germany with Rabbi Goldberg have now, like it or not, joined the long list of Jewish heroes who will preserve Jewish circumcision despite the threats against.

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  1. I admire him for sure, but is it true heroism? Who will perform the task if r'l he is taken into custody? Knowing that the law is not goign to be respected will they not harass Jewish parents of newborns to check they don't do anything illegal ?this might make this harder than just to drive half an hour to the next town where isn't outlawed.

  2. How is it not true heroism to do what is right despite the threat of imprisonment? Yes it would be more convenient to avoid this harm by driving a half hour elsewhere. But isn't it more heroic to stand up for what's right?

  3. How is gental mutilation based on ancient barbaric pagan rites considered heroic?

    1. Gental Mutilation would be a great name for a heavy metal/punk band. I'm thinking a mix of goth/speed metal.

  4. Moderate, that's not what Bris Milah is.

  5. Bob, which aspect? The mutilation or the fact that it is based on ancient barbaric pagan rites?
    If someone were to chop off the tip of a new-born baby's finger it would be considered mutilation. So how is chopping off the tip of a penis different?
    As far as the pagan source is concerned, learn a little ancient history.

  6. Without arguing for or against circumcision, why is it heroic to perform circumcision in a country where it is outlawed?

    Israel has many religious specific laws which require citizens to do or not do certain behaviors, is it heroic when those laws are broken?

    If a jew chooses to live in germany, shouldn't they follow german law? If they want to perform circumcision they can leave germany and go somewhere it is legal.

    or, breaking the law is heroic when you agree it should be broken.

  7. even if you believe that because of the recently passed law all 120,000 or so jews should get the hint and leave Germany, such an exodus takes time. things like that dont happen in one day. And if some dont want to go to Israel, they might have a difficult time finding a country willing to take them - countries dont want massive amounts of immigrants, as we know. So they can move to Israel, which still takes time.
    So they shouldnt circumcise in the meantime?
    And lets say they dont want to move? Right now there is unclarity about the law. One court ruled it illegal, but the government has not yet declared it law. The community, and the international jewish community, is trying to fight it, and to get the government to knock it down. So they shouldnt circumcise in the meantime?

  8. Rafi: Warning: The anti-milah fanatics must have some sort of system to seek out posts like this and begin bombarding them with their hate. You can see this beginning here already. Just a heads-up.

    1. its ok. I will ignore them

    2. I haven't seen any anti-milah fanatics comment yet.

  9. Rafi,

    A) I didn't say they had to move, they can easily travel to another country, even within europe, and return.
    B) Sure they can fight it... Didn't say they shouldn't, and until its outlawed or clearly illegal they don't need to stop the practice for legal reasons... but heroic? Its heroic to not break a law? or its heroic to break the law? or its heroic to continue the practice until a law passes?
    c) I bristle at your comparison of todays democracies passing laws, or beginning to pass laws, protecting rights of newborns, to ancient forms of conquer. I as a jew, am opposed to the ancient practice of circumcision and feel it can easily be replaced by a symbolic ritual, as so many other practices have, and as an adult, the individual can make a choice. Does that make me equivalent with those forces which destroyed Israel thousands of years ago? Do I feel this way simply because I hate jews?

    1. A) And then there will be German law prohibiting any citizen from having it done elsewhere – or an EU law...

  10. you as an individual can believe whatever you want, and it doesnt make you into any equivalent to anything. if you should open a country and prevent your Jewish citizens from performing our ritual circumcision, than you might be on that path...

  11. The fact is that there is NO WAY Germany will imprison any Jew solely for exercising their religious obligations. So it's pretty much all talk.

  12. Rafi,

    the question is why.

    Is germany, and other places, discussing this issue, and beginning to put restrictions on circumcision on newborns and infants, because they hate Jews and Muslims and want to destroy their religion and cause them harm?

    Or are they looking at circumcision as a practice which violates the rights of the defenseless?

    And why is it bad for germany and other non-jewish countries to restrict the the behavior of jews but its perfectly ok for Israel to have restrictive and coercive religious laws?

  13. I dont know how to compare it. In general Israel does give religious freedom to minority groups. Religious freedom to Jews is another matter, as the government is more restrictive on Jews for some reason - I would point to how they deal with Har HaBayit access to Jews, another example is the Women of the Wall, and you would point to reform synagogues. but I think to minorities, Israel gives mostly freedom of worship. and I am in favor of religious freedom for all, though I guess the government might at times need to step in and define what can be included under the umbrella of religion and what cannot be. I am not sure how much they should or should not be allowed to, but I can imagine circumstances where it would be necessary. I am not aware of restrictions, probably out of ignorance.

    I did not say from the perspective of the Germans this was done as a form of anti-semitism similar to the romans or others. I said the jews have rejected it in favor of Jewish tradition, as they did in other historical situations like the romans, etc. It is a different perspective.

    i have no idea if the Germans are doing this due to anti-semitism (and anti-Muslim, though they are semites as well) or if they are suddenly more enlightened than just about every other western country, though I must say I do have my suspicions...

  14. Most if not all of the German court cases against parents circumcising their sons have been brought against Muslims, and given the differences in population size, this will be affect more Muslims than Jews. This appears to be the first time they've gone after Jews. Just being even handed, maybe?

    As a side note, in the context of anti-semitism, please don't say "Muslims are semites as well." The Jew-haters who coined the term knew that, and but were specifically targeting Jews in a pseudoscientific way. The term was meant to serve an evil agenda. The agenda is served by spreading confusion, especially given the particular animus borne against Jews by expansionist Islam. Their relationship to us under Sharia is not as fellow Semites but as would-be first class citizens permitting the existence of People of the Book in exchange for Jews' accepting their place.
    Halacha gives us the intellectual and social tools for living in such a status, but let's hope we don't need them again.
    Meanwhile, the Germans are facing a group of people whom they have failed to successfully assimilate and who reject the idea of assimilation, who understand their religion as giving its adherents not only the right but the duty to be the ruling force throughout the world, who proselytize aggressively and who regard the use of force to gain dominance as a religious duty when non-violent means fail.
    Among the tools they use are the multicultural and anti-racist laws in Western countries; the fact that this is now happening in Germany and that Germans are worried about their own future may be ironic but shouldn't give Jews any satisfaction..

  15. To "Moderate": Whether or not cirucmcision is based on "ancient barbaric pagan rites," brit mila (which is what we are talking about, not just the physical circumcision) is a COMMANDMENT given to us from G-d in the Torah. If you are a Jew and take the Torah as Divine, then whether or not you personally oppose circumcision, you really have no choice. Brit mila is NOT OPTIONAL.

    Unfortunately, many anti-brit mila (which is what they really are; to call them "anti-circumcision" is to restrict the discussion to the physical act itself) activists make the same "genital mutilation" argument to try to make a parallel to female genital mutilation (which is more like the "ancient barbaric pagan rite" than brit mila), or somehow use the term "mutilation" in order to make the argument that cicrumcision interferes with the "perfection" of the body. I'll leave the argument about circumcision's benefits to others.

    Unfortunately, when an anti-brit mila activist claims that brit mila is "barbaric" or "a vestige of a pagan ritual" or a "mutilation," he/she sounds like the Greeks of the Hasmonean period. They, too, thought that brit mila was "barbaric" and a "mutilation." Too many Jews sided with the Greeks. Of course, those Greeks and the Jews who thought like them are long gone.

    As to whether it is "barbaric" for an eight-day-old boy to be subjected to a surgery, does any man here even REMEMBER (unless, G-d forbid, there really was an accident) the "pain" of someone cutting away at the foreskin?! I doubt many can, so this argument is only a side issue to deflect from the anti-brit mila activist's real purpose.

    I do not know whether "Moderate" is uninformed about brit mila or thinks that "bodily perfection" should override anything else, but the fact remains is that brit mila is a Divinely mandated commandment, whose practitioners (mohelim) know what they are doing. (Metzitzah b'peh is a separate issue.) Unfortunately, this court's ruling (in Germany, of all places) seems to have nothing to do with the act of circumcision and everything to do with brit mila. Namely, it IS directed at Jews (and Muslims) who are religiously bound to perform circumcision from mainly secular judges and people who may also know what they are doing, unfortunately.

  16. To The Way: If there is something the government does that directly impacts upon your religious or other rights, wouldn't you want to protest that? Then why should Jews sit quietly and let history repeat itself (don't kid yourself) by acceding to what can be interpreted as an anti-Semitic decision by a court? Judaism does have a principle called "dina d'malchuta dina," which is translated as "the law of the land is [binding] law." That is, Jews are to be loyal citizens of their countries, but when the country passes a law that is contrary to our religious principles, Jews are obligated to protest (and even defy) that law.

    As to your comment that you are "opposed to the ancient practice of circumcision [my comment: again, not the same as brit mila!] and feel it can easily be replaced by a symbolic ritual, as so many other practices have, and as an adult, the individual can make a choice": I respect the fact that you may not like something that is commanded in the Torah. As a fellow Jew, I don't always like everything that restricts what I do. But I fear that by saying this you are putting yourself in the place of G-d. There are many mitzvot that may not have a rational (to us) basis, but nevertheless we must observe them, whether we agree with them or not. As for the "symbolic ritual," what the heck does that mean?! You either perform brit mila according to Jewish law (including the Oral Law) or you don't. Juse because you are offended by brit mila does not mean that you are not obligated to observe it, since G-d commanded it.

    That may be the bottom line of this discussion: We observe it because G-d commanded it and it is understood that the mitzvot are to our benefit. We can interpret the Torah, but we have no right to abrogate anything.

  17. Mark: I wish I could share your optimism, but unfortunately I remember history and in this particular country we shouldn't assume anything.

  18. Rafi: With respect to your reply to The Way in response to the question why Israel has "restrictive and coercive religious laws," maybe many of us forget that Israel is not and cannot be "just another country."

    The reason we are in Israel in the first place rests on our biblical history. Many of the laws of the land, therefore, are based on Jewish (including religious) law. Of course, that is not the sole source of law in this modern country, but it is there nonetheless.

    When someone calls Jewish law "restrictive and coercive," they seem to imply that, being a modern country, Israel should be in the image of the moderns and not be bound by religious law. Of course, religious law can be abused and religious coercion does exist (e.g., the more extreme elements trying to force their own observances on everyone). But on the other hand, the secularists may have to accept the fact that Israel's nature cannot allow it to be "just another country." They may have to accept the fact that Israel is going to have Jewish law be a factor in their lives, even though they oppose this.

    Maybe the bottom line for all of us is that whether or not we think the mitzvot are "restrictive and coercive" sometimes, nevertheless we have to observe them. And though we have ways to interpret Jewish law in the light of modern circumstances, we may not find that the law is always in accordance with what we want.

    If we are sometimes restricted by Jewish law, so be it. I think we have a lot of benefits from being Jewish regardless.

  19. Sheldan,
    while not every circumcision is a brit milah, every brit milah is a circumcision. So one can be against circumcision which includes the act within the brit milah event. I think it is possible to have a brit milah without a circumcision. We substitue prayer and other rituals for animal sacrifice, so one can have a brit milah and also have a symbolic circumcision. When the newborn grows up he can choose to be circumcised or not, which still fulfills the torah obligation and does not break the law of democratic countries. Many laws within the torah are not done precisely as they were thousands of years ago, circumcision can change too.

    But there are many laws and events which you claim come from god which offend me and I feel no obligation to uphold. That you feel such an obligation should not obligate me, nor should it force other countries to accommodate your self imposed obligations.

    Your argument that Jewish law, by which you mean torah law, must be a factor in Israel's laws, is nonsense to people who do not accept the torah as divine. One can have a Jewish state without forcing people to abide by a religious set of rules. Your argument that Israel is special is balderdash. Saudi Arabia makes that same argument as do the Taliban and so many others who wish to impose their view of the world on others. It is possible to have a jewish state and not have laws regarding whom one may marry based on their blood purity and other such ancient beliefs.

  20. Sheldan - thanks for commenting. I think what you wrote was generally well said.

    as to what you wrote Rafi: With respect to your reply to The Way in response to the question why Israel has "restrictive and coercive religious laws," maybe many of us forget that Israel is not and cannot be "just another country."

    I would say I agree but I still do not think that that means we should not give minorities living among us basic human rights include those of worship. As long as we have minorities among us, we should allow them to worship as they see fit.


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