Circumcision [the sign of the covenant of Abraham] is indeed of value if you practice the Law; but if you habitually break the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision [it is meaningless in God’s sight].
If you follow the law, your circumcision [C a key distinctive of Jewish identity; Gen. 17] has ·meaning [value; benefit]. But if you ·break [transgress; disobey] the law, it is as if you were never circumcised.
That most intimate sign of belonging to God that we call circumcision does indeed mean something if you keep the Law. But if you flout the Law you are to all intents and purposes uncircumcising yourself! Conversely, if an uncircumcised man keeps the Law’s commandments, does he not thereby “circumcise” himself? Moreover, is it not plain to you that those who are physically uncircumcised, and yet keep the Law, are a continual judgment upon you who, for all your circumcision and knowledge of the Law, break it?
Circumcision, the surgical ritual that marks you as a Jew, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being circumcised. The reverse is also true: The uncircumcised who keep God’s ways are as good as the circumcised—in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law uncircumcised than break it circumcised. Don’t you see: It’s not the cut of a knife that makes a Jew. You become a Jew by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes a Jew. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.
For the bris milah (circumcision) is of benefit if you stand in mishma’at (obedience) to the Torah. But if you are guilty, if you are sur min haTorah (deviating from the Torah) (2:23), your bris milah has become uncircumcision.
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