"And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" Leviticus 12:3


Why does this sidrah, which details the purification process for women after childbirth, repeat the law of male circumcision? We have already learned about the law of circumcision in Genesis with Abraham.

The most common explanations given are that from this new law we learn that we must circumcise during the day not at night and that we circumcise on the eighth day, even if it falls on Shabbat.

We know that circumcision is part of establishing a covenantal relationship between the Jewish male and God and is an essential marker of Jewishness. However, does this mean that women are left out of the covenant because they are not circumcised?

The Bechor Shor, a 12th-century commentator from Orleans, gave a proto-feminist response and argued that women have a covenantal ritual of their own, paralleling the circumcision of men. This ritual is the proper observance of the rabbinic laws governing the menstrual blood. He concluded that, like circumcision, the blood of menstruation is covenantal. He worked within the framework that Jewish women derive and express their Jewishness through their relationship with Jewish men.

Recently, some have proposed that the monthly purification in the mikveh is not just for the purpose of making the Jewish woman sexually available to her husband, but to enhance her connection with God. Furthermore, they argue that women can (like men) thank God for the "covenant you have sealed in our flesh" in the second paragraph of the Grace after Meals, since women embody the covenant with God no less than circumcised men. Nonetheless, God's covenant with all of the Jewish people exists independently of the symbols that reinforce that covenant, such as circumcision and going to the mikveh.

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