I circumcised my heart for her.
It lay bare and bled for days.
But after a while it turned hard.
I still said those familiar things
because I'd always said them and
one day I said them to you
but I don't know if they're true.
26 February 1987
Most people think of circumcision as a minor surgical operation, the removal—for health or religious reasons—of a man’s foreskin. In the Bible that’s mostly what it means but occasionally it’s used metaphorically, for example, when God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh Moses says, “I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?” and, later, the apostle Paul tells the congregation in Rome, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart.”
I’ve always had a problem with the Abrahamic covenant. I could very easily not have a problem with it if God had only explained why circumcision. But he didn’t. He so often doesn’t. And for years people have been trying to guess why exactly circumcision? Why that? Was it not enough that they not shave? Or he could have commanded them, like the monks, to sport a tonsure? Where would be the harm in that?