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The Covenant of Circumcision
New Perspectives on an Ancient Jewish Rite
Elizabeth Wyner Mark, ed.

HBI Series on Jewish Women

2003 • 288 pp. 13 illus. 6 x 9"
Jewish Studies / Cultural Studies

$29.95 Paperback, 978-1-58465-307-3

Scholars and rabbis examine the complicated history and contemporary challenges of the Jewish rite of circumcision.

According to Jewish law, the ritual practice of circumcising male infants signals the male child’s entry into the covenant his forefather Abraham made with God. Circumcision, now a common medical procedure for male infants in the United States, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Some medical professionals have challenged its purported health benefits, ethicists have raised concerns about the degree of pain involved, and Jewish feminists have questioned the implications of a covenantal rite centered on the male genitals. The sixteen essays in this volume, by exploring the history, cultural interpretations, and contemporary significance of circumcision from a Jewish perspective, make a major contribution to the informed discussion of current issues and controversies.

Framed by Elizabeth Wyner Mark’s introduction and section prologues, the volume is divided into three distinct sections. “Reading the Texts,” a series of richly conceptualized essays, places circumcision in contexts ranging from patriarchal narrative to psychoanalysis and kabbalistic esotericism. “Cultural Markings” offers a chronological look at attitudes toward circumcision in Europe during the Roman Empire through the early twentieth century. “Contemporary Voices,” the most intimate section, delves into recent debates about circumcision in the United States, Hungary, and Israel and provides three different rabbinic perspectives. An imaginative epilogue bringing together the voices of rabbis and scholars with opposing views concludes this remarkable volume.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

"... Mark's excellent introduction is followed by a superb collection of essays by some of the most distinguished scholars in the field of Jewish studies. There is no volume that covers the topic of circumcision so thoroughly, and it will serve an academic audience thirsty for substantial and provocative interpretations of this hotly contested Jewish ritual." —Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

ELIZABETH WYNER MARK (d. 2006) was a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. A clinical psychologist, she was formerly a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School and a Clinical Supervisor at McLean Hospital. In recent years she had been exploring the application of psychotherapeutic modes of understanding to the study of biblical texts.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:09 -0500