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Is it possible for a man to convert to Judaism without circumcision?

I'm not talking about where medical reasons would prevent circumcision; I'm curious to know if an uncircumcised gentile can convert to Judaism without going through circumcision -- a man who doesn't want to get a circumcision, but is otherwise capable of doing so without medical risk.

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Do you mean to ask if a man can convert to Judaism even if he doesn't want to get a circumcision, but is otherwise capable of doing so without medical risk? Or are you asking about someone already circumcised? The question linked isn't clear either – Matt Jul 20 '14 at 22:41
Why doesn't he want to? – Double AA Jul 21 '14 at 1:09
Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Interesting question. – Shokhet Jul 21 '14 at 2:41
I think that there are (a very few but) some Reform rabbis who do not require circumcision. There may be Renewal rabbis in that category, and perhaps Reconstructionist, but I think the vast VAST majority are not. – Charles Koppelman Jul 21 '14 at 3:05
Kasper -- you're right, no one should take out relevant parts of a question for no reason. However, once people have answered the question, it's not fair to invalidate their answers by changing a question (see here for more info.) If you would like to ask a new question that's fine. [ cc @msh210 ] – Shokhet Jul 22 '14 at 13:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Circumcision is one of the Torah's 613 commandments (#86 of the רמב"ם's list; בראשית יז:י). A convert to Judaism has to accept all of them. If he does not accept even one of those commandments, he is not accepting Judaism, and has not converted.

If he accepts that is a valid commandment but doesn't wish to fulfill it, he might as well not convert, so that he won't get punished for that.

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In order to convert one has to accept all the commandments, which includes circumcision. If one would clearly not want to accept one of the commandments no Orthodox Rabbi would do such a conversion.

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but isn't circumcision part of the conversion process, not just one of the mitzvot that a convert must agree to accept? – Menachem Jul 21 '14 at 0:41
But suppose he accepts the command of b'ris but says either (a) I'll do it next week, I just don't wanna now, or (b) I accept the command but it's just too hard for me, I can't bring myself to. – msh210 Jul 21 '14 at 4:46
@msh210: Suppose a potential convert says I accept the command of Shabbos, however I want to (a) wait another week, I just don't wanna now, or (b) I accept the command but it is too hard for me, I can't bring myself to - would any Bais Din accept such a conversion? – Gershon Gold Jul 21 '14 at 14:32
@GershonGold, I dunno, could be. – msh210 Jul 21 '14 at 15:31
@msh210: I disagree obviously. I would be willing to delete my answer if you prove me wrong. – Gershon Gold Jul 21 '14 at 15:38

As Shalom alluded to there are two ways to evaluate circumcision vis-a-vis a Ger. One is that it is part of the process of becoming Jewish (for a man). In that case, there is really nothing to start with - if he isn't getting a circumcision it isn't doing the process, he doesn't become Jewish.

However, in the case where he can't have a circumcision, there are two possible cases. One is that he lacks the anatomy (there could have been a previous accident, etc.). In that case he is viewed as it is with a woman - it doesn't apply to him. However, if he has the technical capacity to have circumcision, but could not with permission of the Torah - i.e. the procedure would kill him, or there is a substantial concern of that outcome - then he simply cannot convert. It is not that he can become Jewish and skip the circumcision. He can't fulfill the circumcision according to the Torah, so he can't become Jewish according to the Torah. (Or perhaps he can choose to risk his life according to the Torah in this case).

The second way of evaluating it is that the requirement of circumcision is a technical point - he is becoming Jewish, so he is required to be circumcised. He takes care of that first so he doesn't spend any time as a Jew without fulfilling that obligation. In that case, if the procedure has a substantial concern of killing him, the Torah says that he is exempt from this commandment, at which point the conversion can proceed without it. (There is another way of looking at this - if the Torah says he is exempt he can convert, just like he can convert without bringing the sacrifice since we don't have the Temple today and he is thus exempt from the sacrifice but can still convert - but in that case conversion without actually being exempt from circumcision is a non-starter just like the first evaluation).

In the case of someone who simply doesn't want to have a circumcision, according to the first evaluation above - there is nothing to talk about. According to the second evaluation, it would get into a different discussion. One of the fundamental requirements of conversion is accepting the obligations of the Torah. If someone is rejecting any of it, the conversion is not valid. So if someone doesn't agree to be circumcised, he is rejecting a Mitzvah and would thus invalidate any conversion ceremonies. Note that it isn't enough to agree that in theory G-d commanded them. The convert actually has to intend to do them. Here the refusal is clearly showing that he has no such intention.

There is an edge case to discuss here - he converts not knowing that he has to be circumcised. Because while the convert has to accept upon himself to do all of the commandments, he doesn't have to actually know what they all are. According to the second evaluation, he might well end up being Jewish. That would be a shame, because while as a non-Jew he could have had a share in the world to come, as an uncircumcised Jew (at least as the Rambam defines Kares) he would not.

As for which commandment - there is a constant obligation for a Jewish male to be circumcised from 8 days on (Vayikra 12:3). See what I wrote about that here.

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Interesting ideas here....have any sources (soundsn like it would be sifrei acharonim) to back these up? – Shokhet Jul 22 '14 at 13:48
@Shokhet, I don't have time to look up and recall the various sources involved, but for example, the דבר אברהם is very clear that it is part of the process (the first side of the Chakira above). – Yishai Jul 22 '14 at 14:10
No rush; if/when you find the time....btw this is a pretty well-written answer; a yeshivish chakira written clearly, completely in English is pretty rare ;) – Shokhet Jul 22 '14 at 14:15

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