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Is a convert who is a hemophiliac required to have a circumcision?

Is a convert who is a hemophiliac required to have a circumcision?

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Question:

Is a convert who is a hemophiliac required to have a circumcision, if it could result in his bleeding to death?

Answer:

I will answer this question in a theoretical sense. Before making any real-life decisions on the matter, you would need to present the details of the particular case before rabbinic and medical authorities who will evaluate each case individually.

This issue is discussed by many great halachic authorities,1 concerning prospective converts suffering from any of a number of ailments which preclude safe circumcision.

The consensus is that, unfortunately, such an individual cannot convert. The halachically described procedure for a male’s conversion must include circumcision. Since in this instance there is a danger involved in the circumcision, this person cannot convert.

In fact, even if he would wish to convert at his own risk, the Jewish court would not allow him to risk his life in order to become Jewish. Becoming Jewish is great, but staying alive is more important . . .

I would like to remind you that according to Jewish belief, a non-Jew need not convert to Judaism in order to achieve spiritual fulfillment. (See The Discovery of Planet Earth.)

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

P.S. Needless to say, the above only applies to a non-Jew who wishes to convert. However, a Jewish child who cannot be circumcised due to medical reasons does not lose his Jewish status or identity.

FOOTNOTES
1. Tzitz Eliezer 14:92:3 and 15:1:12; Be’er Moshe 8:126; Seridei Eish.
Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (8)
May 4, 2012
to robbie
There is a difference between interpreting and changing. The commentators and sages of old did not ever overturn a Torah prohibition. There is no rationale to do so. We slip further away in many ways and others who deny the Torah min hashomayim, the Torah from heaven, are leading the way further away from the Torah laws.
Anonymous
naperville, IL
July 1, 2009
Exception to what Rabbi Posner wrote
Please note that Rabbi Posner's answers only applies if the person has NEVER been circumcised. If the person has already been circumcised earlier in life, even in a completely secular way, then the person can convert without the ritual circumcision. Normally, a convert is required to undergo recircumcision, but this requirement does not apply when there is a life-threatening medical issue. Therefore, there are four possible classification of potential converts:

a. Already circumcised, medical issue precluding further cutting: Can convert without further cutting
b. Already circumcised, no medical issue: Person undergoes ceremonial cutting in which a few drop of blood are drawn.
c. Not circumcised, no medical issue: Full circumcision is required.
d. Not circumcised, medical issue precluding further cutting: Cannot convert
Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, CA
chabadcamarillo.com
April 10, 2009
i am a hemophiliac
i'm a hemophiliac and i did not receive a circumcision until i was 18 because i was born in iran and my older brother died from it. in todays world with the medical technology today hemophiliacs are able to safely have circumcisions done. I myself had mine done by a very prominent orthodox rabbi in los angeles and walked away with little trouble (although the pain that night and the next few days was pretty bad). Halachically a hemophiliac is forbidden to have a circumcision if it would risk his life, but today i believe that if you are able to then you are obligated to. converts should be allowed to have circumcisions if it no longer poses a threat to his life.
Anonymous
los angeles, CA
March 31, 2009
To Robbie
There is a tremendous difference between interpreting the law and changing it or inventing new ones. A group (such as Reform Judaism) which denies many-if not all-basic precepts of our religion does not have a say in any Halachic discussion. Perhaps all Jews should now stop believing that G-d gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai because over half the Jews alive believe it didn't happen? Or maybe we should become Christian because that is a plurality of people in the world? Bringing other beliefs into a Halachic discussion doesn't have a place. Also, Rabbi Schneerson would never have imagined changing Halachah to pander to a nonreligious Jew. He loved them like brothers and would have done anything to help them as people, but never would have helped them do something which the Torah forbids. To say otherwise would be a terrible slander against one of the greatest leaders of Torah Jewry in recent history.
Sammy
July 20, 2008
Sad, but understandable
I find it sad, but understandable. I converted to Orthodox judaism a year ago and understand how much pain this would mean for the person who wants to convert. The conversion to me was an attempt to make me whole, because I knew a part was missing, the Jewishness in me wasn't recognized. Now it is and I'm very happy with it. I feel very sad for the person who wouldn't be able to convert due to this or other medical restrains. I hope it will not happen to anyone.
Chava
Australia
June 29, 2008
Your reasoning dismisses the work of great rabbi's such as Rashi who dedicated their life to interpreting jewish law. They have given us the mishnah the talmud and the gamara. With only the Torah it would mean that Jewish doctors couldn't work on the Sabbath to save a life. Fortunately jewish law has developed by wise Rabbi's who have interpreted the Torah. The Maccabi revolt gave us the ability to work on the Sabbath to save a life after the maccabis were attacked and did not fight back on the Sabbath. This is only one example of an innovation which is deviation from Torah as you call it, which is jewish law. I might remind you that the five rabbi's who sat down and codified a lot of the jewish law did not always agree in their interpretation and left certain things undecided because the decision was split.
Robbie
June 22, 2008
This is not the "orthodox" or "unorthodox" view. This is the Torah "view," if you wish to call it that. This is the opinion of Jewish Law, as given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Any innovations that deviate from that are not Torah.
Menashe
NJ, USA
April 22, 2008
I find it somewhat alarming that Chabbad claim to be following Rabbi Schneersons desire to provide for klal Israel when these type of comments represent only the orthodox view, ie 7% of jews, the reform movement represents 42% of Jews according to some sources. The reform movement would allow a convert who was a haemophilliac to forgo circumcission, whilst I acknowledge that you have every right to disagree with this view I feel your comments are misleading by ommission of the fact that there is another view held by a greater majority of jews.
robbie
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