When we object to circumcision on the basis of its denying the child’s right to autonomy over his body, it could seem that we are making a valid claim. Indeed, by what right are we, as parents, allowed to make the decision to bring a child into the Covenant? But shouldn’t we also ask ourselves honestly whether we have the right to bring a child into this world at all? Is that not a much greater injustice than circumcision?
What gives us the right to bring a child into a religious covenant by way of circumcision, without his consent? Circumcision, after all, to be Jewish means to be part of a nation that is rooted in a covenant that asks Jews to risk their very existence for the sake of a moral and religious mission. How can we commit children to a lifelong mission that they may not wish to fulfill? On the other hand, what right do we have to bring children into the world without giving them a higher mission? What right do we have to throw children into this turbulent jungle, filling them with anxieties and uncertainties, without giving them a clue as to their higher purpose?
A harsh approach to those who are on the verge of leaving the fold has caused much damage. Sadly, this phenomenon seems to repeat itself in every generation. Whenever people quarrel over matters related to ideology and faith, and a person discovers that his more lenient opinion is in the minority, all too often—although his original view differed only slightly from the majority—the total rejection he experiences pushes him over the brink. Gradually, his views become more and more irrational and he becomes disgusted with his opponents, their Torah and their practices, forsaking them completely .
In previous generations, parents arranged marriages for their sons and daughters, convinced that the spouses they chose for their children would be ideal life partners for them. In a similar way, Jewish parents throughout the generations bring their newborn sons into a covenant with the God of Israel, eternally uniting them with their most ideal Partner. Brit mila is the act by which a Jewish child and God become engaged.