Sunday, June 12, 2011

Russell Crowe Tweets Circumcision: Nothing New Under the Sun Dept.

The Internet is ablaze with the comments of Australian actor Russell Crowe, who Tweeted about the barbarity of circumcision.
A Crowe follower told the Australian celebrity that he was expecting a son soon, and asked for his input on whether he should have his baby circumcised.
Crowe responded harshly, saying that "circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin?"
The actor added that "babies are perfect" when they are born. Crowe later said that he "will always stand for the perfection of babies, I will always believe in God, not man's interpretation of what God requires."

I find Crowe's Tweet fascinating - not because he brings anything new to the table, but for precisely the opposite reason: his comment is actually thousands of years old. No, Crowe isn't that old - but his tweet almost exacly repeats a conversation between Rabbi Akiva and Turnusrufus (a Roman representative in Judea who apparently liked to shmooze with Rabbi Akiva) found in the Midrash Tanchuma (Tazria 7):

"שאל טורנוסרופוס הרשע את ר’ עקיבא "איזה מעשים נאים של הקב"ה או של בשר ודם?
אמר לו ר’ עקיבא: של בשר ודם נאים.
אמר לו טורנוסרופוס הרשע: הרי השמים והארץ יכול אתה לעשות כהם.
אמר לו ר’ עקיבא: לא תאמר לי בדבר שהוא למעלה מן הבריות, שאין שולטין בהן, אלא בדברים שהן מצויין בבני אדם.
אמר לו: למה אתם מולים?
אמר לו: אף אני הייתי יודע שאתה עתיד לומר לי כן. לכך הקדמתי ואמרתי לך מעשה בשר ודם הם נאים משל הקב"ה.
הביאו לטורנוסרופוס שבולים וגלוסקאות (ועוגות).
אמר לו רבי עקיבא: אלו מעשה הקב"ה! ואלו מעשה בשר ודם! אין אלו נאים?
הביאו לטורנוסרופוס אנוצי פשתן וכלים מבית שאן (בגדים יפים),
אמר לו רבי עקיבא: אלו מעשה הקב"ה! ואלו מעשה בשר ודם! אין אלו נאים?
אמר לו טורנוסרופוס: הואיל הוא חפץ בברית מילה, למה אינו יוצא מהול ממעי אמו?...
ולמה אינו יוצא מהול? לפי שלא נתן הקב"ה לישראל את המצות אלא כדי לצרף בהן
The wicked Turnusrufus once asked Rabbi Akiva: Whose creations are better: those of man, or those of God?
Rabbi Akiva answered: Mankind['s] creations are nicer.
Said to him the wicked Turnusrufus: Behold the heavens and the earth. Can man fashion similar items?
Responded Rabbi Akiva: Don't ask me about things that are above [the ability] of the creations, over which we have no dominion. Rather, let us speak about items that are found among people.
[Turnusrufus] asked: Why do you circumcise?
[Rabbi Akiva answered]: I knew that was what you wanted to ask me. That is why I said that mankind's creations are better. 
Rabbi Akiva brought before [Turnusrufus] sheaves of grain and biscuits, said: These (the grain) are the creations of God, and these (biscuits) are the creation of man. Which are nicer?
He then presented stalks of flax and [linen] cloth from Beit She'an and again said, These (the flax) are the creations of God, and these (cloths) are the creation of man. Which are nicer?
[Turnusrufus] asked: If God wishes for people to be circumcised, why does He not create us circumcised?...
Rabbi Akiva answered: Why does the child not emerge circumcised? Because God gave the commandments to Israel to forge (and purify) them...
Truth be told, Russell Crowe doesn't need to love circumcision. It's not for him or about him. It's not about health, curbing HIV, or any other medical matter. It's a matter of faith and covenant. It's a declaration that we believe not in nature alone, but instead in God who both created that nature, and then gave us a covenant to purify ourselves in nature.
Perhaps that's the most important message of all in this great bris brouhaha. We live in an age of faith in reason, evolution, science, computers, technology; anything but God. Now more than perhaps any other time - even the times when the Romans celebrated the perfection of the human form, we need circumcision, to articulate our firm faith in the Creator, and the Torah He gave us by which we must live our lives.