OF THE HEBREWS’ CHILDREN – Shmot – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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OF THE HEBREWS’ CHILDREN – Shmot – Ex.1:1-6:1 by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

          Genocide is nothing new.  Pharaoh of Egypt was mandating a gradual genocide of his Israelite slaves when he decreed that all male Hebrew babies would be drowned in the Nile.  Moses’ mother hid her infant son as long as she could, then put him in a basket and floated him in the river while his sister Miriam watched his progress from the bank.

          Enter Pharaoh’s daughter, come for a dip.  Finding the boy in the basket, she picks him up, looks him over and observes “mi-yal-dey ha-ivrim zeh – this is one of the Hebrews’ children.”   How does she know?

          Commentators offer lofty reasons, like the sacred beauty that shines around little Moses, or the fact that the Torah describes him as na-ar – a youth – rather than ti-nok – a baby – or even yeled – a small boy.   As young as he was, they suggest, he already behaved as if he was half grown.  It remained for Ibn Ezra to cite a rather obvious reason: he was ma-hul – circumcised.  Although some writers, like the modern commentator Rabbi Gunther Plaut, suggest that Egyptians might have circumcised their sons too, we have no such record in the Torah.  Circumcision was, and remained, the Jewish trademark.

          Today that trademark is under attack.   Contradicting scientific evidence that circumcised men are freer of some diseases, some liberal governments are prohibiting the process when done for religious or other non-medical reasons. Finally, here is one issue that Jews and Muslims agree on.  True, we do the operation at very different ages – 8 days vs. 13 years.  One mohel told me that at 8 days the child is least sensitive to pain.  No wonder Arab boys are sent to an isolated camp when their turn comes.  Maybe that’s how they train suicide bombers?  In any case, both Jewish and Muslim authorities are challenging these pseudo-humanitarian laws in countries like Holland and Denmark, and fighting their consideration in some American states. 

          In the past, it was reported that the British royal family had all their male babies circumcised by a mohel.  After all, if you want a specialist, he’s it.  What about the new little prince?  So far, no one from England that I have asked knows for sure, but it would be quite interesting to confirm just what operation, if any, young Prince George had – particularly since his mother has some Jewish ancestry.

          I would welcome any facts that are out there.

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