The Body: Themes & Theology

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The human body itself has an essential and specific role in the fulfillment of several important commandments—for example, wearing tefillin (phylacteries) on the head and arm, or sitting in a sukkah. Most remarkable is brit milah, the ceremony of ritual circumcision first commanded to Abraham (Genesis 17:10).

Circumcision has remained the most widely observed of Jewish practices by Jews worldwide--even in the most trying of circumstances, such as during the Holocaust. In the Torah, God calls this physical act on the body--on an organ so fraught with associations of responsibility and irresponsibility, good and bad human behavior--"My covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow”--perhaps one important indication of the significance of the body in Judaism.

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