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Periah (also spelled as priah) is a Hebrew word (Hebrew: פריעה) that means uncovering.[1] Periah is the name given to the second part of the Jewish ritual circumcision procedure.


Jewish ritual circumcision is carried out by a specially trained religious official called a mohel. The inner foreskin of an infant boy is fused with the underlying glans penis by a synechia. James Peron (2000) reported:

Periah consists of tearing and stripping back the remaining inner mucosal lining of the foreskin from the glans and then, by use of a sharp finger nail or implement, removing all of the inner mucosal tissue, including the excising and removal of the frenulum from the underside of the glans. The objective was to insure that no part of the remaining penile skin would rest against the glans corona. If any shreds of the mucosal foreskin tissue remained, or rejoined to the underside of the glans, the child was to be re-circumcised.[2]

(The following text or part of it is quoted from the free Wikipedia article Uncovering, priah:)

The main goal of "priah" (also known as "bris periah"), is to remove as much of the inner layer of the foreskin as possible and prevent the movement of the shaft skin, what creates the look and function of what is known as a "low and tight" circumcision.[3]

According to Rabbinic interpretation of traditional Jewish sources,[4] the 'priah' has been performed as part of the Jewish circumcision since the Israelites first inhabited the Land of Israel.[5]


The periah procedure was introduced in the Second Century by the rabbinate as a result of the conflict that occurred between Jewish and Greek culture in Biblical times. The periah procedure is not mentioned in the Bible so there is no Biblical support for the procedure.

Frederick M. Hodges, D. Phil., (2001) has provided a vivid description of the value that the Greeks placed on the prepuce. The Greeks valued the longer tapered prepuce. Exposure of the glans penis in public was considered rude and unacceptable. Athletic events were carried out in the nude. The prepuce was frequently tied with a cord called the kynodesme to prevent inadvertent exposure of the glans penis.[6]

The Jewish male, with his circumcised penis and exposed glans penis, was placed in an impossible position. The answer was epispasm.

At that time, Jewish males were only given the original style of circumcision, which only removed the tip (acroposthion) of the foreskin, so they were still substantially covered by foreskin.[2] Minimal stretching (tissue expansion) could easily recover the glans penis and make the Jewish male appear as the Greek culture demanded.

Hall (1992) reported that epispasm evidently was very popular with Jewish men and was practiced for several centuries. Hall believed that surgery was necessary, but that was not correct.[7] It apparently reached peak popularity in the First Century C.E.

Epispasm did not sit well with the rabbinate. In about 140 C.E. the rabbinate decreed that periah would be added to the ritual circumcision of infant Jewish boys,[2] [4] however there is no Biblical authority for the periah procedure.

As reported above, the function of periah was to remove as much foreskin tissue as possible to cause the maximum amount of tissue loss and trauma, so as to make epispasm as difficult as possible.

Transfer to medical practice

When medical doctors started to do circumcision in the Nineteenth Century, the procedure adopted was essentially the Jewish version with periah. According to E. J. Spratling (1895) who emphasized the importance of tissue destruction:

To obtain the best results one must cut away enough skin and mucous membrane to rather put it on the stretch when erections come later. There must be no play in the skin after the wound has thoroughly healed, but it must fit tightly over the penis, for should there be any play the patient will be found to readily resume his practice, not begrudging the time and extra energy required to produce the orgasm. It is true, however, that the longer it takes to have an orgasm, the less frequently it will be attempted, consequently the greater the benefit gained...[8]

And that is the way non-therapeutic infant circumcision is still done today, essentially just as the rabbinate ordained in 140 A. D.

See also

External links


  1. REFweb (21 October 2022). periah, Wiktionary. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  2. a b c REFjournal Peron JE. Circumcision: then and now. Many Blessings. 2000 (Spring); III: 41-2. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  3. REFweb (7 March 2014). Styles – Judaism and Islam (archive URL), Circlist. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  4. a b REFbook Glick LB: Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America. Pp. 46–7. ISBN 978-0-19-517674-2.
    Quote: the rabbis go on to dedicate all of chapter 19 to circumcision .. milah, peri'ah, and metsitsah. This is the first text specifying peri'ah as an absolute requirement. The same chapter is where we first find mention of the warning that leaving even "shreds" of foreskin renders the procedure "invalid."
    Note: Section 19.2 from Moed tractate Shabbat (Talmud) is quoted.
  5. REFbook Rabbah b. Isaac in the name of Rab: 71b, in: Talmud Bavli Tractate Yebamoth.
    Quote: The commandment of uncovering the corona at circumcision was not given to Abraham; for it is said, At that time the Lord said unto Joshua: 'Make thee knives of flint etc.' But is it not possible [that this applied to] those who were not previously circumcised; for it is written, For all the people that came out were circumcised, but all the people that were born etc.? — If so, why the expression. 'Again!' Consequently it must apply to the uncovering of the corona.
  6. REFjournal Hodges FM. The Ideal Prepuce in Ancient Greece and Rome: Male Genital Aesthetics and Their Relation to Lipodermos, Circumcision, Foreskin Restoration, and the Kynodesme. Bull. Hist. Med. 2001 (Fall); 75: 375-405. PMID. DOI. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  7. REFjournal Hall RG. Epispasm: circumcision in reverse. Bible Review. August 1992; : 52-7. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  8. REFjournal Spratling EJ. Masturbation in the Adult. Medical Record. 28 September 1895; 48: 442-443. Retrieved 23 August 2023.