Circumcision or Hatafat Dam Brit Ritual Using the Heel

bare feet walking in the sand

In the journey to Judaism, it’s long been a part of our tradition for cis men who were not circumcised to take part in a circumcision ritual. For cis men who enter the covenant already circumcised, there’s an alternate ritual called Hatafat Dam Brit, the taking of a single drop of blood from the head of the penis. While I fully support the right of all adults to alter our bodies, I have been opposed to infant circumcision since I was seven and first learned about it; in this time of changes, when trans men and others might find these ancient rituals meaningful, I found myself wondering about alternatives. The more I thought about them, the more I found myself spiraling back to the words God told Abraham and Sarah when he told them to travel to a new land, far from their home. God said “Lekh lekha” – “Go. Walk. Find yourselves!” And from those words I crafted this ritual, which can be done by anyone of any or all genders who might find it meaningful.

The person entering the covenant is seated with one shoe and sock removed.

The person doing the ritual procedure, a doctor, mohel, anyone else, is seated across from them with some alcohol, cotton, and a sterilized pin or needle.            

Ritual leader:
When our ancestors traveled to Egypt from that new land, they left on foot. Centuries later, when they departed from Egypt, they left on foot. It was on foot that they walked to Mount Sinai, where they formally entered in covenant with God. On foot they walked back to the land their ancestors had departed from. And for so many centuries since that time, our people have walked and wandered the world, on foot.

Today, you formally enter the covenant our people make and keep making in every generation with the Holy One. In honoring our tradition and changing it as we move through time, today, as a symbolic reminder of the ancient custom of circumcision, we are about to take from your heel a small drop of blood, to ground you in our sacred history by reminding you of our journey on foot from the time of Sarah and Abraham to the present moment.

So we say now: Blessed are You, Eternal One, Creator of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your command­ments, and invited us to mark our body with a sign of entering into covenant with You.

Here the ritual leader takes a drop of blood from the heel of the person.

Then all present, if there are witnesses, respond with:
Now you carry this sign of entering the covenant. May your journey through life be blessed, step by step, together in community. And let us say – Amen.

The ritual leader recites a Shehekhianu.



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