I am an atheist (not Jewish) and my soon-to-be wife is Jewish (Ashkenazi of Polish ascent). She doesn't practice, and she says she is not a believer. We are French and live in Paris. This may or may not be useful information, but at least, it will explain why my English might not be very colloquial.

We plan to have a single baby (for several reasons). If we have a boy, she wants for him to be circumcised when he is 8 days old. As a humanist, I strongly believe that any irreversible body alteration done without medical necessity and without consent is just wrong. I oppose the circumcision at this age and asks that he is allowed to decide for himself when he can consent.

I might give in, and let it happen, but only if not doing it would cause very serious bad consequences for my son. I have researched the Internet (both English- and French-language), and my understanding so far is that postponing the circumcision, while understandably shocking to my wife, would not have dire consequences for my son. That he would still be Jewish. That he would still be welcome in the community, at least later in his life, when he decides to get circumcised by himself. So my question is: is my understanding correct?

  • 8
    To "allow him to decide" is to postpone a fairly straight forward procedure until it becomes a much more complicated and painful procedure. Infant circumcision may not be something to be taken lightly but it is a far far cry from adult circumcision.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 16:34
  • 5
    You don't really sound like your asking anything. I cannot convince you that circumcision is important if you don't believe it is but I'm speaking from personal experience AS A CONVERT and I'm letting you understand that while theoretically an adult can go through this procedure it is much more difficult for them to choose to. You are making the decision that your son will remain uncircumcised, not merely giving him the choice.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 16:53
  • 5
    If you truly do not believe, then there is no consequence that will matter to you, as the consequence of Kareis is part and parcel of believing in God and that God will punish him with such. That having been said, it would not be your child's fault as he would be considered a Tinok Shenishba - a child that is raised amongst gentiles. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 17:11
  • 2
    frenchatheist, welcome to Mi Yodeya - Stack Exchange, and thanks for bringing your question here. Note that I've pared it down to something answerable; please see an overview of the site and then more on how to ask a good question on Stack Exchange. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site, including perhaps our 340 questions about gentiles.
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 22:20
  • 1
    Being a patent means making some decisions for your child that he is too young to make. If you refuse to ever make choices for your child, what kind of parent does that make you?
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 14:20

3 Answers 3


On a very practical level:

Infant circumcision by a competent mohel is minimally painful and soon forgotten. The medical clamp procedure is more painful, but equally forgotten. No lasting effects on the literally millions that have had it. It is not a zero risk procedure, but having the baby driven around in a car is going to represent greater risk in life.

Adult circumcision is fraught with many more complications, anesthetic which complicates things, much more pain that is long remembered, possibly including full anesthetic which is downright dangerous - much more so than the side effects of infant circumcision.

On a Jewish religious level, Judaism believes in repentance. As such, it can be "made up" later. However, that assumes he gets there and decides that then. It is a big impediment later, especially for someone who has a more casual relationship with his Judaism.

Your wife isn't particularly religious (obviously) but has a basic Jewish identity which is important to her, and she is very concerned that this will be a hurdle to establishing that later.

There is one other point: If he is circumcised as an infant, he will grow up and ask why. When he gets an answer, he will see that a Jewish identity was important to his mother. If he isn't, and learns about his mother's Jewish identity, he will get the message that it really wasn't that important. That can't be made up later with words.

So the negative long term effect is that there is a barrier between him and the Jewish part of his identity, a barrier that may be insurmountable for him later.

On a personal level, I was almost not circumcised on the same types of concerns. I'm very grateful that it went the other way. I suspect your son may feel the same way when he is older. So I'm going to second Yirmeyahu here and say that it isn't a neutral vs. an active choice. Either one is an active choice with medical, spiritual and emotional consequences.

  • Thank you very much for your balanced answer. I appreciate it. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 20:30
  • @frenchatheist It is a advisable to have an Orthodox person preform the circumcision, should you decide to have it done, see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/34862/…
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 23:26
  • @frenchatheist, I would recommend the Orthodox mohel just for competency and because the procedure is less painful that way, if for nothing else. Medical circumcisions are done with a special clamp which is designed to be used with little-to-no training, so an OB-GYN or Pediatrician may agree to do it, but not really be versed in the procedure.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 23:49


this link provides information and reasons for a circumcision and I believe that even though they are positive reasons they show the downside of not performing a circumcision.With regard to the negative effects,being cut off from the nation of Israel is a possibility if one does not have a circumcision(it is a seal on the person that he is from the nation of Israel) .

Tosfos(Makos 13b) and Raavad(Hilchos Milah 1:2) hold that the punishment of kares(being cut off from the nation of Israel) begins right away and continues everyday.This is a very severe sin.

  • 1
    I read that short text with attention. It doesn't suggest any bad consequence of having the circumcision later, rather than earlier. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 16:46
  • Just for the record the upvote on the last comment was "mine" but was neither intentional nor can I seem remove it.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 16:59
  • I don't understand what you are looking for? If you are looking for detriments for not circumcision right away on the eighth day there are definitely are as I quoted,but they are spiritual.So not sure what your exactly looking for?
    – sam
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 17:09
  • The "very severe sin" would be mine, I gather, not the infant's. Right? And "being cut off from the nation of Israel" would be reversed the day the circumcision is eventually performed. Right? Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 20:28
  • @frenchatheist that's a bit complicated. The commandment is on the dad, but by the letter of Jewish law you would not be your son's dad, so it's hard to say what kind of sin you'd commit, as you are not obligated in Torah. A rabbi would need to be asked. Being cut off would only happen to your son if he refused or neglected to be circumcised. When exactly in his life it would take effect is debated. Some people can't be circumcised for medical reasons, for example. There are ramifications of having a foreskin even when you can't help it, but being cut off from Israel isn't one of them.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:37

The only possible consequence for your son is that IF he becomes religious later in life, he will be faced with the obligation to get himself circumcised. If he backs out (because the surgery is nothing to sneeze at) and shirks this obligation, he will be in a slightly "sinful" state, which will pose an obstacle to his good standing in the Jewish community. It will be more of a problem with Orthodox Jews, but the problem decreases with more assimilationist sects.

  • 1
    "slightly 'sinful' state" I'm confused by your use of "slightly". Can you give me an example of a state he could be in worse than chayav kareit bemeizid?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 21:57
  • how about chayiv misa? Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 6:41
  • You're right. The only thing worse than this "slightly 'sinful' state" is being obligated in the death penalty.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 14:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .