Brit Milah: Ceremonies for Boys

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All Jewish parents who live according to halakhah (Jewish law) circumcise their new­born son joyfully because this is a mitzvah, a divine commandment. This operation may stimulate complex emotions in a secular Jew, however. These emotions may include spiritual feelings and pride in Jewish continuity, but they may also include fear over a primitive sacrifice, confusion, distress, and even crisis over Jewish identity. Performance of this rite can make parents aware of the importance of continuing Jewish tradition, or it can become the focus of a conscious rejection of Jewish life. In addition, circumcision can be an occasion that cements family ties or an issue for fam­ily crisis. Thus, today, more than ever before, circumcision can have spiritual, religious, social, educational, and psychological significance.

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Michele Klein has a PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of London. She is the author of New Life: A Diary For Jewish Parents and A Time To Be Born.