Is Adult Circumcision Necessary?

I am a Russian immigrant living in New York. I never had a circumcision, because back in those days the Soviets made it illegal. Now at age 40, I am wondering if it’s even necessary for me to have one. What does the rabbi say?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is absolutely necessary for a male Jew to be circumcised. It is the singular identifying mark of a Jewish boy. Circumcision is one of only two positive mitzvahs in the Torah (along with the Passover offering) that carries with it a penalty of Karet – meaning that failure to do so results in being spiritually cut off from the Jewish people. It is obvious that no serious Jew would choose such a fate.

Furthermore, the Midrash derives from the verse in Genesis 18:1 that Abraham sits at the entrance of Gehenom ("hell") and will not permit entry to any Jew who is circumcised.

There is an excellent movie which I recommend you seeing called "Europa Europa," the true story of a young Jewish boy who escapes detection from the Nazis during the Holocaust by disguising his identity. He is even selected to be part of an exclusive Nazi youth program to train its next generation of German officers. The fact that he has a circumcision is the lone reminder of his Jewishness, and proves to be the barrier against his assuming a full non-Jewish identity.

Many people become circumcised in adulthood (Abraham was 99!). A young Russian man I know recently had a circumcision, and he invited his father to be there with him. After the mohel had performed the Bris, the father asked to speak with him privately. They went into the other room and the father, visibly moved with emotion, asked if he could have a circumcision, too. So father and son both entered the Covenant of Abraham on the same day!

I suggest that you contact a mohel right away and get it done. Local anesthetic is used, so there is no immediate pain. If you tell me where you are located, I can recommend someone reliable.

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Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

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