Aposthia is a term that refers to the rare condition of being born without a foreskin.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, E. S. Talbot claimed in Medicine that aposthia among Jews was evidence for the now-discredited Lamarckian theory of evolution. It is likely that the cases he described were actually hypospadias, a condition in which the urinary meatus is on the underside of the penis.
Aposthia in Judaism
The Midrash of Ki-Tetze [כי תצא] notes that Moses was born aposthic. Other sources tell us that Jacob, his son Gad and King David were also born aposthic. Jewish law requires that males born without a foreskin or who lost their foreskin through means other than a formal circumcision ceremony (brit milah ברית מילה) to have a drop of blood (hatafat-dam, הטפת דם) let from the penis at the point where the foreskin would have been (or was) attached. The Talmud (Shabbat 135A) records a discussion of whether the importance of this letting of blood supersedes Shabbat, on which only a boy who was born the previous Shabbat can be circumcised. If a regular circumcision is delayed, there is no disagreement that this may not be performed on Shabbat. However, in the case of aposthia, there are two schools of thought.
- R. Elazar Hakappar said that the school of Shamai and Hillel do not differ as to a boy that is born without a foreskin. Both agree that the blood of the covenant must be drawn from the glans. The school of Shamai, however, contends that this may be done on the Sabbath, while the other holds that the Sabbath must not be desecrated on that account.
Aposthia in Islam
- Aposthia in Dorland's Medical Dictionary
- Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah § 263 Law 4 (ש"ע י"ד ס' רס"ג הל' ד).
- Amin-Ud-Din M, Salam A, Rafiq MA, Khaliq I, Ansar M, Ahmad W. Aposthia: a birth defect or normal quantitative recessive human genetic trait?. East Mediterr Health J. March 2007; 13(2): 280-286.