Rav Hayim Leiter
Don't Shoot, I'm a Mohel
I just finished watching season 12 episode 20 of Grey’s Anatomy. That’s right, I watch Grey’s Anatomy. And it’s not just because my wife loves it. Generally (no pun intended) I tend to enjoy it. But this particular episode was atrocious. SPOILER ALERT- stop reading now if you haven’t watched.
The episode in question dealt with the topic of gun control. I have long known that the writing staff of this show is quite liberal. In fact, there are so many gay characters I like to jest that Shonda Rhimes (the show’s creator) is singlehandedly responsible for the legalization of same sex marriage in America. But when tackling one’s right to bear arms, I believe the show took a turn for the worse.
Throughout the episode, all but one of the main characters were opposed to owning a gun. Even the token war veteran was opposed. The only character who voiced support for the issue was homeless runaway that had to protect herself growing up in a car. And even she, for no apparent reason, forsook her beliefs by the end of the episode.
Now, I understand that the area I live in demands a larger presence of firearms than the locale which the show originally airs, but that’s not as much my issue. My concern is the liberal world’s lack of discourse which this episode reflects. That’s not even an accurate description. Liberals in today’s day and age would rather eradicate any opposing position instead of substantiating their own. A common refrain are things like “He’s way too conservative, I can’t be friends with him.” And that notion is what I saw in this episode. The opposing view had to disappear in order for the show to reach its resolution. In effect, all of the characters now agreed and could be “friends” and all of the viewers could get their settled, end of the sitcom feeling we all so much crave.
So, you must be asking, “What does all this have to do with Brit Milah.” Good question. I’ll tell you. Within the last few months I set up a Facebook Business Page. I use it as a platform for publicising interesting and provocative news on Brit Milah. About two or three weeks ago I posted a story about a group called the Intactivists. The group’s main platform is that a child should be left intact and at least be allowed to choose if he wants to be circumcised or not. This story talked about how there was a group of Intactivists making a tour of the southern United States wearing all white suits with red paint on their genitals. During their protests they would hold up signs stating “Circumcision causes a loss of 16+ functions”. This led to our social media interaction.
I posted the article about the Inactivists with the following comment: “16+ functions?? btw, it’s a penis not a Swiss Army Knife”. What this group meant with this slogan is that there are 16+ ‘benefits’ to having a foreskin, most of which are sexually motivated. One of my students at Pardes reposted this and that’s when I started getting some very interesting comments on the post.
The first of the comments began harmlessly pointing out why this group was protesting and what they believed. I wasn’t aware at the time that I was speaking with representatives of the Intactivists. The first comment was something to the effect of “You may believe that circumcision is commanded, but we are deeply concerned with the loss of penile sensation and that each child should be given a choice.” I responded by saying that those concerns are not so relevant to my community because we do believe we are commanded. What I said next changed everything.
I mentioned that I was worried that these protests were really just masked anti-semitism. If these groups were really interested in stopping bodily mutilation and letting the child choose then why aren’t they protesting at the malls? Young children are having their ears pierced there against their will almost daily. What ensued was extremely telling.
It happened to be that I posted my comment just before I went to sleep. When I awoke in the morning this post was littered with more anti circumcision, and anti Jewish hate than I’ve ever seen. The comments ranged from things like “You Jews always hide behind that anti-semitism crap” to probably the worst of all: an image of an observant Jew in a prayer shawl holding a baby. The caption read “Can I suck your baby’s _____ ?” (my editing) Then an image of a woman with a look of disgust on her face. Then the Jewish character remarked, “No, no, I’ll cut it first.” Then there was an image of a woman giving a thumbs up and a smile. An obvious shot at Metzizah B’Peh (which I am also against).
The attacks even moved into my review section of the business page. I’ve had former clients review my performance so as to be a reference to future clients. One of these Intactivists gave me a 1 out of 5 rating and wrote nothing in the comment section. Facebook’s policy is that if someone rates you without writing a comment there is no way to contest it and I have no doubt that this individual knew this policy. So I commented on his rating, stating that it was spam. The person responded to my comment saying, “This is not spam, you cut babies penises. You’re sick.”
Needless to say, being that I was a bit of a social media novice, I was concerned about all this. I worried that I was now on these people’s radar and they’d be back to harass me no matter what I posted. I did what I thought best, I deleted the post. I was far from able to respond to all these attacks, not that it would have done any good. And I didn’t want to give these people a platform to spew hate.
But the most interesting part about all of this is, they’re gone. Since I deleted the post no one has been back to comment on any of my other posts which all disagree with their stance. And that’s my whole point-- discourse is no one’s goal anymore. The Inactivists just didn’t want any bad press, and they wanted the pro-circumcision camp to shut up and go away. And much like that episode of Grey’s Anatomy, some people out there probably feel settled, vindicated, and victorious. But I, for one, feel sick to my stomach. I have to be honest, I’m not sure if I did the right thing by deleting the post. I certainly did not forward the discourse I desire. But at the same time, it takes two to Tango. I honestly don’t think the other side would have been open to honest conversation. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens if there’s a rerun.
This first appeared in the Times of Israel