Aposthia

Aposthia

Aposthia is a rare congenital condition in humans, in which the foreskin is missing.

Toward the end of the 19th century, E. S. Talbot claimed in Medicine that aposthia among Jews was evidence for the now-discredited Lamarckian theory of evolution. It is likely that the cases he described were actually hypospadias, a condition in which the urinary meatus is on the underside of the penis. Neither condition has a particularly high incidence among Jews.

Aposthia in Islam

According to legend, the prophet Mohammed was born without a foreskin However, Arabs had been practising circumcision long before this, and this legend is not the reason that Muslims circumcise.

Aposthia in Judaism

The Midrash of Ki-Tetze [כי תצא] notes that Moses was born aposthic. Other sources tell us that Jacob and David were also born aposthic. Jewish law requires males born without a foreskin or who lost their foreskin through means other than a formal circumcision ceremony (brit milah ברית מילה) to have a drop of blood (hatafat-dam, הטפת דם) let from the penis at the point where the foreskin would have been (or was) attached. The Talmud (Shabbat 135A) records a discussion of whether the importance of this letting of blood supersedes Shabbat, on which only a child who was born the previous Shabbat can be circumcised. If a regular circumcision is delayed, there is no disagreement that this may not be performed on Shabbat. However, in the case of aposthia, there are two schools of thought.

R. Elazar Hakappar said that the school of Shamai and Hillel do not differ as to a child that is born without a foreskin. Both agree that the blood of the covenant must be drawn from the glans. The school of Shamai, however, contends that this may be done on the Sabbath, while the other holds that the Sabbath must not be desecrated on that account.

David Levy, former Israeli Foreign Minister and member of Knesset, was born aposthic. Arye Avneri's authorized 1983 biography of Levy notes this:

"When David Levy was born on 1937 21 December, in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, his mother Sima noticed at once that he was different from other baby boys. He had been born already circumcised, for the foreskin was entirely missing."

The rabbis in Rabat proclaimed that this foretold that Levy would grow up to be a "leader of Israel", even though the State was not founded until Levy was 11, in 1948. It should be noted, however, that this proclamation was not necessarily prophetic of the founding of the country Israel, for "Israel" is a term occasionally used to mean "the Jewish people."

Sources

  • Aposthia in Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  • E. S. Talbot, "Inheritance of circumcision effects", Medicine 1898.
  • Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah § 263 Law 4 (ש"ע י"ד ס' רס"ג הל' ד).

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