I heard Rabbi Immanuel Schochet bring this up in a lecture as an off hand comment, that circumcision is bodily mutilation, and thus the only reason why Jews can do it, is because it they are specifically commanded to do so. As such, Non-jews (Who fall under the 7 noachide laws) are not to be circumcised.

Is this his rhetoric, or is this discussed anywhere in Jewish literature?

  • 2
    Who says gentiles are prohibited to mutilate their bodies? I've seen gentiles with tattoos and piercings for instance.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:26
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/a/25696/603
    – Menachem
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 15:54
  • 2
    Huh??? Jacob's sons required that all the men of Shechem be circumcised. How could they have required that if they weren't allowed to do it? Considering this, can you provide some link to what Rabbi Shochet actually said? It doesn't collude with Biblical facts.
    – DanF
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 18:51
  • 3
    @DoubleAA That fact, alone, doesn't prove that these Gentiles are permitted to do it, you know.
    – DanF
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 18:54
  • If you like an answer, consider marking it correct. If not, consider clarifying which additional information you want.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


According to Rambam (Hilkhot Milah 3:7), not only is it permissible for a gentile to circumcise himself, it is a mitsvah!

As he writes in a responsum (ed. Blau # 148), this is in the category of eino metsuveh v'oseh; one who performs a mitsvah in which he is not obligated:

מותר לישראל למול הגוי אם רוצה הגוי לכרות הערלה ולהסירה, לפי שכל מצוה, שהגוי עושה, נותנין לו עליה שכר, אבל אינו כמי שהוא מצווה ועושה

It is permissible for a Jew to circumcise a gentile...since [for] every mitsvah that a gentle does, he is given reward, but not [to the same degree] as one who is commanded and does it.

However, R. Pinhas Horowitz writes in Panim Yafot (Genesis 17:1) that Abraham didn't circumcise himself before being commanded to, since it is forbidden for even a gentile to wound himself.

This is somewhat similar to the answer given by R. Yehoshua ibn Shu'aib (quoted here), but the latter notably does not state that there is an actual prohibition.

Importantly, however, the claim that a non-Jew may not injure himself is quite dubious. See R. Pinchas Zvichi's lengthy responsum in Ateret Paz (1:3:HM Ha'arot 7:3) who questions this.

Furthermore, not every injury is included under the rubric of "wounding". I am not aware, for example, of any sources the prohibit ear piercing for this reason. (R. Yitshak Yosef writes explicitly that it is permitted in Yalkut Yosef YD 182:11). It seems very reasonable to assume that if one has some reason to perform a circumcision, (a procedure whose merits can be argued (at least in certain cases) on health grounds) that it wouldn't be considered a wound at least for a Jew. The parameters of wounding for a non-Jew may or may not be identical. It is difficult to know, since almost no sources indicate that it exists at all).

In summary, the answer to:

Is this his rhetoric, or is this discussed anywhere in Jewish literature?

Is 'yes'.

In the main elements of the question: that non-Jews are prohibited from injuring themselves and that circumcision counts as a forbidden injury are indeed found in Jewish literature. However both points appear to be minority views. Whether or not referencing an obscure writer and ignoring the views of classical writers can be considered "rhetoric" is up to you to decide.

  • 1
    Care to explain yourselves commentless downvoters?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 21:50
  • @wfb updated with haflaah who is explicit.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 23:47

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