Halachic Proof that Circumcision is a Violation of the Non Aggression Principle

Someone commented on a previous post:

There are many justifications for Milah vs. NAP. I wrote a lot about this for the drawer, so just ask, and i can write it here. To start, it is a clear benefit to the child in the social sense, the same way extra fingers are removed. Having it later is more painful.

In that post I had said the following about circumcision.

And in the end, Judaism forces me to be a minarchist, of a sort. To draw a line from my own personhood instead of from something outside myself. To have just a little intuition of my own. I circumcised my son without his consent, and thereby broke the NAP, the holy of holies of libertarian law. I hated it. I cried. And then even I, the uncontrollable libertarian radical teeming with hatred of the State, drew a line from within to circumscribe power. I did, and will do brit milah, and that’s it. I can’t explain why in any logical terms other than God told me to. And I will not go any further than that into the realm of power over other men. Not ever. Not one inch.

Anyone who wants to read my back and forth with Walter Block on bris milah can do so here, at Economic Policy Journal.

My position is that a bris on an 8-day old baby necessarily violates the NAP. It is an unnecessary surgery, and despite the benefits of circumcision, there are also drawbacks. Never mind what they are, the fact is that the kid has no say in whether to do it or not, and it should be his decision. Other issues such as dressing, bathing, feeding, putting in a crib by force, disciplining, etc. are issues of safety and child rearing, and if these are not done, a child will have serious problems in life.

The other side claims as this commenter did, that it is a clear benefit to the child socially. Perhaps so, but a child can decide this when he is, say, 6 or 7 when he may begin becoming embarrassed by having an ערלה (foreskin) for whatever reason. If he decides to do the surgery then voluntarily then fine. That wouldn’t violate the NAP at all, assuming a 7 year old has the capacity to voluntarily do something. (Let’s not complicate things.)

But this kind of argumentation is beside the point. There are obviously ways to justify circumcision as not violating the NAP, whether you make a medical, social, or child rearing argument, none of which I accept, but let’s assume I do. Still, there is the halachic issue of what a bris actually is, and here we get into a more Talmudic form of argumentation.

Taking the case of a child born circumcised, or an adult conversion where the man is already circumcised, we clearly see that one קיום (fulfillment aspect) of a bris is itself the violence of the act. Why? Because a child born circumcised still needs to be wounded by his father. A convert who is already circumcised also needs to bleed in order to be converted. Without a הטפת דם ברית, (drawing of covenant blood) a father does not fulfill the mitzva of circumcision on his son who is born circumcised.

Now say what you want about circumcision itself. Wounding a baby for the sake of wounding a baby for no purpose other than to fulfill a mitzvah is clearly a violation of the NAP. And it is an integral part of the bris. Blood must be drawn. This is also why a Gomco clamp is considered פסול (unsatisfactory) for circumcision, because with a Gomco there is no bleeding.

Clearly then, one kiyum of a bris is violence. Certainly, it is absolutely minimal. One prick, one drop of blood, and nothing more than that. But it is still there. One point of a bris is to violate the NAP, and therefore my point still stands. Judaism forces me to be a minarchist of a sort, and draw a line demarcating violence from within myself.

Indeed, to say עד כאן. “Up to here, and no further.”

To reinforce the idea that above the NAP is God Himself, and as sure as He is the One Who commanded me to observe the NAP, He is also the One Who commanded me to violate it in the case of circumcision.

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4 thoughts on “Halachic Proof that Circumcision is a Violation of the Non Aggression Principle

  1. So you picked the one ideology in the entire world to follow that demands the least from its adherents and and still managed to renege on its singular and most fundamental tenet?

    “And I will not go any further than that into the realm of power over other men. Not ever. Not one inch.”

    You have no further to go. You literally cannot fall any lower as a human being as you have nothing of value left to betray besides your god and it can’t speak on your behalf to the rest of us—or honour your contracts.

    • But does it work for other libertarians? For an anarchist, you can say that the point is to force him to acknowledge that there is some power above the NAP. Alternatively, to force him to develop character and stick to red lines, since it is much easier to stick to a principle when you hold it absolutely and have never violated it. None of these reasons apply to a minarchist libertarian.

      Hmm… all these “him”s are getting me thinking. I am hereby curious how Rafi would explain why women are exempt from circumcising their sons.

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