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Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised?Gender and Covenant in Judaism$
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Shaye Cohen

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780520212503

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520212503.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 28 May 2020

A Canonical History of Jewish Circumcision

A Canonical History of Jewish Circumcision

(p.3) Chapter 1 A Canonical History of Jewish Circumcision
Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised?

Shaye J. D. Cohen

University of California Press

This chapter provides a history of Jewish male circumcision, from the Bible to the Talmud, to the high Middle Ages, analyzing changes in meaning, ritual, and surgical practice relying on different sources of account. Circumcision is done in private houses, in the most convenient and lightest room in the infant's house. A detailed account provided by the famous essayist Michel de Montaigne says that the ceremony takes place before a congregation of men; a female intermediary (the godmother) takes the baby from the mother and brings him to the man (the godfather) upon whose lap the circumcision takes place. The ritual is accompanied by prayers, wine, and fragrance. Furthermore, the chapter surveys the meanings that are attributed to circumcision in the sources which the rabbinic Jews regarded as canonical; that is, the Bible, the Mishnah and Talmud, and later rabbinic works—the texts that medieval Jews knew and revered, and the texts whose teachings about circumcision are of concern to the scholars.

Keywords:   circumcision, Jews, Bible, Jewish circumcision ceremony, Michel de Montaigne

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