To the webmasters of TheRefinersFire.org,
Firstly, I cannot say what a relief it is to find your website!
It's a great joy to find a refuge such as your site, which provides simple, clear and truthful teaching to those weary from sailing the endless ocean of misinformation out there.
So, Baruch HaShem for that, and please do keep up the good work!
I'm writing to ask for your guidance. My question is this:
I am English born, and in my country it's rare to be circumcised (unless Jewish obviously).
I am now 18 years old, and I'm wondering if it is necessary to be circumsised now and if so, how? All the ways I've looked into are said to be risky (according to the National Health Service we have here) and look pretty scary. I'm not sure why Adoneinu would require someone to go through that?
What should do?
Thank you for writing. And thank you for your compliments about The Refiner's Fire. We do try hard to be clear and Biblical.
Other than knowing that you are English born we don't know much about you. Whether or not you were raised in a particular faith (religion) you seem to have found your way to the true God of Israel and His Torah. Good for you!
Circumcision is a particularly interesting and difficult subject. There are a TON of opinions out there, but we think Scripture, as a whole provides the answer. Many reading only the New Testament, conclude (in error) that circumcision is not necessary for gentiles; while others, referring to the Old Testament find (also in error) that Moshe did not observe circumcision when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt and conclude similarly that circumcision is not necessary.
Many in Judaism have turned circumcision into a ritual and conclude that the actual removal of the foreskin is not necessary; rather, that a hatafat dam brit [extracting a drop of blood] substitutes as a ritual "reenactment"; thus, sadly, they replace the covenant with YHWH with a ritual.
The problem is, one can't simply say one way or the other without first understanding circumcision and what it is for. You have asked both necessary questions: "Is it necessary to be circumcised now?", and "Why would Adonai require someone to go through that?" So, let's look at scripture.
The covenant was given in Genesis 17:9-14. These are very important verses which we will come back to in a moment.
Some 600 years elapsed from Abraham to the time of the Exodus and we find that the covenant of circumcision was still present in the story of Moshe. The Hebrews were captive in Egypt when Moshe was born (Exodus 1:8-14), but he was born of a Levite man and Levite woman (Exodus 2:1-2).
Moshe was "hidden" for his first 3 months of life from Pharaoh's order to kill all baby boys born to the Hebrew women, and since Moshe's parents were Levites it stands to reason that Moshe was circumcised on the 8th day after his birth. (This fact is not found in scripture, but it makes absolute sense. On the other hand, some teach that Moshe was "born circumcised" (also not found in scripture).
This is from interpreting Exodus 2:2 which reads "And the woman conceived, and bore a son; and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, ..." - the sages believe this meant he was born "perfect" (already circumcised) for his role as the leader of the Israelis. (We know that is not true because Moshe was not perfect, see Exodus 2:11-12; 3:11; 4:10, and so on; and he died in the desert, Numbers 20:12 due to his lack of perfection.) Nevertheless, the covenant of circumcision was reiterated by YHWH immediately upon the exodus, that very night (Exodus 12:44-48) - so even after centuries of captivity in Egypt, circumcision was still the sign of the covenant.
From the NT, suffice it to say, the writings of Paul, today, are horribly twisted into the belief that circumcision is no longer necessary. But if these writings of Paul are studied in detail, it is clear that the only reason circumcision was such a stumbling block in Paul's time was that the Pharisees claimed and argued that circumcision was required for salvation (Acts 15:1).
The apostles knew that not to be true, and argued instead that what was more important was that any gentile leaving paganism and coming to YHWH as their God, should instead begin their journey to Torah obedience by coming to know YHWH in their heart first, and to begin by obeying only the essential things (Acts 15:29) - those things that would render them "unfit" to be in the presence of YHWH.
Gentiles, after all, would likely not have been circumcised at birth, nor would they have lived by anything in Torah - for they did not know! Paul argued it was best to let them accept YHWH first, then learn what it means to "love YHWH with all your heart" (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Which brings me back to Abraham and Genesis 17:9-14, and the purpose of the covenant of circumcision.
Genesis 17:7 reads "I am establishing my covenant between me and you, along with your descendants after you, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant, to be God for you and for your descendants after you."
Here is the essence of the purpose of the covenant - it is for YHWH to be their God forever. He is their God, and they are His people and the sign of the people is the circumcision of the flesh as we find in verse 11: "You are to be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; this will be the sign of the covenant between me and you."
What we learn here is that God's people are to be "set-apart", that is, YHWH's people are circumcised for the express purpose of having a visible "sign" of the covenant that they are "set apart for Him" (Exodus 19:6, Deuteronomy 14:2). The indication that circumcision is the sign of "being set apart" is cemented in Genesis 17:13-14 and Exodus 12:43-49.
In the verses in Genesis, even a slave of the household - either born into the household, or purchased, MUST be circumcised; and it is repeated that "my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant." It is further clarified that any uncircumcised male who will not let himself be circumcised would not be permitted to live in the community of YHWH's people.
So if any uncircumcised male would not be circumcised, it meant he had NOT taken YHWH as his God, and was therefore not "set-apart" from his pagan origins. Thus, YHWH made His covenant with Abraham and his descendants so they would be "set-apart" from the world of those who are godless (both in recognition of Him and in their character.)
In the verses in Exodus, we see again that even the "foreigner", i.e., not a Hebrew, who would participate in the Pesach ceremony must be circumcised - that is, that he had taken YHWH as his God. This echoes again that YHWH's people are "set apart" from the world.
This answers your question about "Why would Adonai require someone to go through that?" Clearly, it is for the purpose of being committed to the covenant. And this is how the human household of the covenant would work:
YHWH would be the Head of the man. Man would be the head of his wife (and household), and the sign of this set apart household would be the circumcised male. In the hierarchy of the home that YHWH established, the household members "follow the lead" of the man - the man is the spiritual leader of the home. Thus, all the people in that household are "set-apart" by virtue of the leadership of the man. Circumcision is the physical sign that the man and his household are "set-apart" for YHWH and that they live a life pleasing to YHWH.So, what does this mean to you? You were not circumcised at birth. Should you be circumcised now?
Opinions will vary wildly, but as we have attempted to explain above, circumcision should, under no circumstances, be done on "compliance" alone. The man is expected to take YHWH as his God FIRST, give himself time to find, hone, and foster his love for YHWH (this is called "circumcision of the heart"), and grow in his understanding and knowledge of YHWH. Then, at a time unique and appropriate only to him, become circumcised when he is ready to make that full commitment - to be set apart for YHWH. This idea, of waiting until the man is fully ready to commit his heart to YHWH is exactly what the NT teaches, and it is also seen in the OT.
Take a look at Jeremiah 9:24-26: "...'instead, let the boaster boast about this: that he understands and knows me — that I am Adonai, practicing grace, justice and righteousness in the land; for in these things I take pleasure,' says Adonai. 'The days are coming,' says Adonai, 'when I will punish all those who have been circumcised in their uncircumcision — Egypt, Y'hudah, Edom, the people of `Amon and Mo'av, and all those living in the desert who cut the edges [of their beard]: 'For although all the Goyim are uncircumcised, all the house of Isra'el have uncircumcised hearts'."
Here YHWH says to FIRST to "understand and know" HIM! YHWH then says that He will "punish those who are 'circumcised in their uncircumcision' ". What does that mean? It means that they became physically circumcised only to "comply" with the covenant, yet they were NOT ready to "live the covenant" and their hearts were not "in it" (that is primary meaning of "uncircumcision" - their heart was not 'circumcised'.)
He concludes: "For although all the Goyim are uncircumcised, all the house of Isra'el have uncircumcised hearts." This means that the Gentiles have not yet taken Him as their God, but Israel is worse off because they ARE circumcised; yet running around failing to obey Torah since their hearts are uncircumcised. (Many, many people misunderstand these verses in Jeremiah to 'prove' that Gentiles don't need to be circumcised - which is NOT the message at all.)
The bottom line: We are NOT going to tell you to get circumcised or not. That is YOUR decision. But if you should decide to commit because you are ready, take your time to find the right doctor (if that is possible with your country's health service) and don't fear, for Doctors do know how to do this safely and with minimal discomfort.
And be cognizant of your future. If you have plans to marry, it would be best if you made this decision before dating since after marriage, this decision could be very traumatic to your relationship. Ideally, your bride-to-be would fully understand for your faith in YHWH since it would also be her faith. If she is not, then make sure your relationship is honest and forthcoming about your walk in faith and that you might one day decide you are ready for circumcision.
And one final thing: If you find that in your situation, you absolutely cannot find a doctor of your liking to perform the circumcision, then do not feel that you must be circumcised anyway. The purpose here is NOT to get circumcised just to be circumcised, and it is NOT a salvation issue.
If the health service in your country cannot provide this in complete confidence and safety, then don't do it. No one, considering any medical procedure (unless for life or death), should have the procedure done if they are not completely satisfied that it will be done competency and safely.
There is so much more we could say about this, but this reply is already quite long. Read scripture and study this issue, but remember "Where no wise direction is, a people falleth; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14, JPS).
So, seek the wisdom of many as you consider this. We are but two teachers and you would be wrong to make any decision only on what we say. Just be sure to compare their counsel (and ours) to scripture.