Brian D. Johnson, writing in Forward, recounts his self-inflicted circumcision in horrid detail.
There, next to the sink on a white hand towel, lay an assortment of personal care items. I examined them with an eye for my mission. There was a nail file (obviously no), tweezers (?), cuticle scissors (probably not), nail clippers (no, too scary), and a disposable razor (hell no).
I resigned myself to the cuticle scissors.
I took the scissors and a snow white towel over to the bench, spread out the towel, sat down and began to organize myself for the bris. I thought about Abraham and how he had performed his own bris, a real bris, not a drop-of-blood bris. Abraham has a reputation for doing most everything Hashem asked him to but, nevertheless, Hashem’s demand must have seemed rather odd. Not as odd as killing his only son, but still plenty odd. Abraham did it anyway, and then proceeded to do the procedure on his servants. Abraham wanted so much to be in the covenant with Hashem that he took out his knife (or whatever passed for a knife in those days) and whacked away. If that’s what Abraham was willing to do, how could I balk at just a drop of blood?
One hand made a fold of skin in the correct area and the other hand wielded the scissors. I positioned the scissors, closed my eyes and thought about Abraham. I started to close the scissors until I felt a pinch and then closed the scissors a bit more. Opening my eyes and pulling away the scissors, I inspected the site and found, much to my dismay, nothing. Not even a mark and certainly not a drop of blood. Fail.
I was determined and undeterred by my failure. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to pain, so it came as only a bit of a surprise that I choked at the first nibble from the cuticle scissors. I prepared for my second attempt and thought about who I would become following the bris. Hereafter, I would be called to Torah as David (my middle name), son of Abraham and Sarah (my mother’s name). I am becoming the son of Abraham. And just as Isaac didn’t flinch when his father Abraham raised the knife above him, I shouldn’t flinch at mere cuticle scissors nipping at me. I needed to be strong, like Abraham and Isaac. All I needed to do was draw a drop of blood.
Determined to re-double my effort, I grabbed a fold of skin, poised the cuticle scissors and started to close them with a more resolute purpose. I passed the threshold of discomfort of my first attempt and entered into another level of pain. Thinking that I had done the deed, I removed the scissors and opened my eyes to inspect the spot. Again nothing, just an angry red mark. No blood. Fail. Apparently becoming the son of Abraham is not easy, and that was the lesson of my second attempt.
Extremely discouraged, I thought about what I was going to do next. I could fake it and tell the bet din that I had drawn a drop of blood and no one would be any the wiser — except Hashem, of course. Hashem would know that I had failed the test and not entered into the covenant. I would forever have that on my conscience and I didn’t think I could live with that lie. I would need to make a third attempt.
This time, I thought about that covenant with Hashem. If Hashem knew I made a Best Effort, then I couldn’t be blamed. I mean, who knew the skin of my privates was made from kevlar? And I didn’t have the right tool. And I really felt some pain from the last attempt. I mean, would Hashem forgive me if I put my all into making the effort one more time and failed? I think He would. But maybe I wouldn’t fail this time. Maybe I would draw that drop of blood and everything would be fine. So, one more time. I would know that I’d made that Best Effort, and then I could meet with the bet din with a clear conscience.
I pulled out the fold of skin and poised the scissors for the third time. I closed my eyes and the scissors for that third time. I crossed through the threshold of discomfort of the first time and then the pain of the second time. I made my Best Effort. This time, it really, really, really hurt and I was convinced that something had happened. I opened the scissors and my eyes and inspected my work. It was unimpressive. I mean, there was a what appeared to be a cut, but blood was not coming out. I thought I might have seen some pink flesh exposed beneath the white, but.. fail.
I’ll stop there, fearless reader, but lest you walk away dismayed at Johnson’s inability to rouse a holy drop of blood, he eventually does, and all is good. The story ends happily Jewish ever after.
Nothing defines win-win as much as this series of unfortunate events.
Gain a religion, save a few shekels.