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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘bris’

Pittsburgh Rabbi Denies Botching Circumcision

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, who was accused last week of botching a circumcision of an 8-day-old boy who was rushed to the hospital after his penis had accidentally been cut off, told a court that is not at fault.

The incident revived worldwide publicity at a time when anti-circumcision lobbies have succeeded in convincing some European officials to back the prohibition of non-medical circumcisions.

Rabbi Rosenberg admitted that the baby boy had been injured, but the lawsuit against him does not specify the wounds. The parents said through the lawsuit that they rushed the baby to a hospital for surgery and leech therapy that helps the body to accept reattached parts.

The suit charged Rabbi Rosenberg with causing a “catastrophic and life-changing injury.”

In his lawyers’ response to the lawsuit, the court was told, “Rabbi Rosenberg performed the Bris Milah in a careful and competent fashion, with the care and skill normally exercised by Mohels under the same or similar circumstances” and “denies that he is liable to plaintiff,” the Pittsburgh Tribune reported.

Mohel Urges New Dads to Help Make the Cut at Circumcision

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Natan Zaidenweber thought the mohel was kidding. His wife, Linda Raab, thought it was some kind of religious formality and didn’t give it a second thought.

But the mohel, Cantor Philip Sherman, was serious. Though most fathers demur when he invites them to perform the bris on their sons by clipping their foreskin, preferring to delegate the task to someone professionally trained in the procedure, Sherman finds that about 5 or 10 percent of dads agree to do the cut.

“It is the father’s mitzvah to actually perform the bris as Abraham did for his son, Isaac,” Sherman said. “Many fathers have told me what an incredible moment it was for them to do the actual bris and enter their sons into the covenant of Abraham.”

The Mill Valley, Calif., couple realized the cantor wasn’t joking only once the ceremony was underway. Sherman began with a naming ceremony for Jay Hilay and his twin sister, Sivan Rose. Then he again offered Natan the option of making the cut.

The new dad stepped forward, and as his startled wife screamed his name in a tone that she says was intended to say, “Are you crazy?” a friend reassured her it would be easy.

“I then took a deep breath, surrendered to the faith I had in Phil and motioned that they had my blessing to proceed,” Raab said.

Sherman, who says he has performed more than 20,000 circumcisions, set up what was needed, gave the baby some sugar water, put a clamp in place and offered Zaidenweber some direction. Making the cut, Zaidenweber said, was a powerful bonding experience.

“I’m glad I did,” he said. “I’m glad I have that connection with my son. Your love is equal for both [twins], but it’s special that we have that bond.”

For Raab, too, the experience was a positive one. Sherman had told the gathering that a baby’s cry during a bris is like the sound of the shofar opening the gates of heaven.

“I closed my eyes, heard Jay’s cry and actually was able to experience it as deeply spiritual and beautiful,” Raab said, noting her pride that her husband took on the role.

“He stepped up, fearlessly, with a faith in himself that I wouldn’t have had in myself,” she said. “I have since been aware of how much his modeling has helped me to muster more courage as I face the tasks of mothering.”

If the couple were to have another son, would Zaidenweber make the snip again? Yes, say mom and dad, without hesitation.

For the Sake of Keeping the Bris Milah, Give Up Metzitza B’Peh

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

The Israeli Rabbinate has apparently weighed in on the the Metzitza B’Peh issue (MbP). Sort of. A complaint was filed by an anti-circumcision activist against Yehudah Teichtal, a Habad rabbi in Germany who did this procedure on a baby immediately after circumcising him.

Rabbi Teichtal contacted the Chief Rabbinate in Israel requesting a response. He got one. From the Forward:

Moshe Morsiano, chair of the Division of Circumcision for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, emphasized in a letter dated April 22 that there is no justification for avoiding metzitzah b’peh “unless the mohel has a sore in his mouth, or some infectious disease.”

What is interesting about this response is the deceptive nature of it. (Although I do not believe it was purposely done that way). From the tone it sounds like MbP should almost always be done. And that only in the rarest of circumstances should it be avoided.

I suppose the reason they framed it this way is because of the centuries old tradition of doing so. But the second part of that letter is of no less significance. In fact I would say it is the most important part of it and indicates the exact opposite. It says that MbP should be avoided if the mohel has a sore in his mouth or some infectious disease.

To me that tells the whole story. Those who carry the herpes virus cannot always tell when it is present in the mouth. It is not always symptomatic in the early stages. A mohel can have the virus and not be at all aware of it. To me that says loudly and clearly that MbP should be avoided at all times. If cold sores can be asymptomatic there is always a risk of it being there.

It should also be clear from Rabbi Morsiano’s statement that he too believes that MbP is not a requirement. Or he wouldn’t have suggested using an alternative method of doing metzitza under any circumstances.

In an era where so much more is known about transmission of diseases by the mouth… and where there are strong indications that some babies have contracted herpes around the time they were circumcised from an infected mohel … and where the CDC advises against it, I don’t see how anyone can do MbP. Even by the Chief Rabbinate’s standards.

The fact that this happened in Germany where circumcision itself is being challenged is significant. I think it highlights the damage that is done by equating MbP with circumcision itself as those who are fighting the New York City Department of health are saying. More than once I have heard that equation being made. Some accuse outright that New York is trying to outlaw circumcision. Others either imply it or say that outlawing MbP is a slippery slope that could lead to outlawing circumcision completely.

If we give the those who oppose circumcision this kind of ammunition, they will have something to base their accusations that a bris is a barbaric procedure that endangers the lives of innocent little babies! No doubt that is what the anti circumcision activist who filed a complaint in Germany was thinking. If a mohel insists on a dangerous procedure that he says is a religious requirement, he will have a leg to stand on. This is not a leg that we should concede. Because aside from the tragic results that may occur on a baby and his family, the impact it could have on Bris Mila itself could be devastating.

Even though there are so many Poskim that do not – including the Chief Israeli Rabbinate I realize that Chasidim do consider MbP to be a Halachic requirement. This is why I would oppose any legislation that would outlaw it. But I do support the NY health department requirement that parents be informed of the danger honestly. And by honestly I would include the concession that the chance of infection is indeed very low. But I would at the same time insist that as low as it is, it is real.

I therefore reassert my plea that the Agudah withdraw its opposition to this requirement. Because the more we oppose requirements by experts in the field with no axe to grind against Judaism; people whose intentions are only the health and welfare of the public – the more we endanger circumcision itself. The anti circumcision people are no doubt looking very carefully at what is happening in Germany… and that will certainly influence their actions here. Eizehu Chacham? Ha Roeah Es HaNolad!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Words Of Thanks

I am a resident of Sea Gate and a victim of Sandy.

Our community was hit hard. No house was spared, and while some sustained more damage than others, all our basements were flooded and had to be completely demolished, with everything torn out and disposed of. The magnitude of this disaster cannot be fathomed unless you experienced it.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the New York City sanitation and police departments for their wonderful work. To Shomrim and Hatzolah and all the many individual volunteers who joined in the cleanup and recovery efforts: there are no words.

We are so grateful. May Hashem repay all of you.

Machi Spitzer
Brooklyn, NY

Two Very Special People (I)

Naomi Klass Mauer’s yahrzeit tribute to her mother, Irene Klass, and her husband, Dr. Ivan Mauer, was beautiful and moving (“Two Years Ago – Two Very Special People,” op-ed, Nov. 30).

I was privileged to know them both, and she captured their essence perfectly.

Barbara Gilor
(Via E-Mail)

Two Very Special People (II)

Naomi Klass Mauer’s article about her mother and husband was very touching.

Irene Klass was the embodiment of chesed and creating a Jewish household. Ivan Mauer was very smart and loved opening up a sefer or book, digesting it, and sharing it at the Shabbos table. Though his wit was sharp, his heart was soft.

Naftali Armon, Esq.
New York, NY

Halacha And Female Kosher Supervisors

There was something very crucial lacking from “The Mashgiach Wore a Dress: The Fight over Opening Kosher Supervision to Women” (news story, Nov. 30) – namely, what the halacha on this matter happens to be.

I would therefore like to note the opinion of Reb Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, who clearly writes in Igros Moshe (Yorah Deah 2:44, 45) that a woman may not serve as a mashgiach for kashrus. The prohibition has nothing to do with the idea being “new,” as Emunah chairwoman Liora Minka maintains, nor does it have anything to do with the halachos being beyond the comprehension of women.

Of course we should assume that the people involved are all working l’shem shamayim. However, I do not understand why Minka is ready to take her female kashrut supervisors case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court. If the Chief Rabbinate says it is not in accordance with halacha, why is she seeking government intervention? Does she honestly believe she knows better than the Chief Rabbinate or Reb Moshe? It seems there is another objective here

Max Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

U.S. Support For Israel

I was fascinated by Walter Russell Mead’s front-page essay last week (“Why Americans Support Israel”). Like many of my fellow Jews, I have always feared the existence of widespread latent anti-Semitism in America and especially its coming to the fore in times of economic crisis.

In some ways this fear was largely irrational inasmuch as there has never been a country as hospitable to Jews and their religious practices as the United States. Professor Mead seems to point to American traits of realism and fundamental honesty as underlying the broad support in this country for Israel.

Perhaps it takes European-style sophistication for Israel to always be perceived as wrong.

David Perlmutter
(Via E-Mail)

Polish Court’s Ruling On Shechita

I view the anti-ritual slaughter decision in Poland as an ominous sign (“Polish Court Rules Against Ritual Slaughter,” news brief, Nov. 30).

While it is true that the elected government sought to protect both Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter, and it was a court that disallowed it, I am afraid the prohibition will nevertheless gain traction throughout Poland. The court found that exempting religious slaughter from the general stunning requirement in order to accommodate religious practice was arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional.

Since stunning is usually a means of ensuring the humane treatment of animals during the slaughtering process by eliminating the possibility of pain, the court ruling effectively declared and underscored that religious tenets that prohibit stunning during animal slaughter are inhumane. That does not bode well for kosher slaughter.

Shimon Geller
Los Angeles, CA

Rice And Libya

Re “Some Questions for Ambassador Rice” (editorial, Nov. 30):

While I do think Ms. Rice is not really responsible for her misleading statements concerning the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, I also think she might be able to shed important light on how she herself was initially misled and whether there was a larger cover-up of the failure to provide protection to American personnel there.

Daf Yomi

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Do Not Add To Them! ‘Shabbos is not a Time for Tefillin’ (Shabbos 61a)

The Gemara cites a machlokes about wearing tefillin on Shabbos. As we all know, the accepted custom is not to wear tefillin on Shabbos. However, what is not clear is whether it is simply unnecessary to wear tefillin on Shabbos or actually forbidden.

Elsewhere, the Gemara cites two reasons for why tefillin are not worn on Shabbos (Eruvin 96a; Menachos 36b). One reason is based on the pasuk in parshas Bo, “They shall be for you as a sign upon your arm” (Shemos 13:9). The Gemara explains that tefillin must be worn as a sign on weekdays. Shabbos, however, is also referred to as a “sign” in the Torah; therefore tefillin are not worn as they are not necessary.

The Maharsha explains that according to all opinions this is the primary reason (see Aruch Hashulchan 30:3). The Rishonim (Smag, positive commandment 3; Rabbeinu Bachaye, parshas Lech Lecha) add that on weekdays, we have two “witnesses” who testify that we are servants of Hashem: bris milah, the sign of the covenant that Hashem made with us, as well as tefillin, which serve as a sign of our servitude to Hashem. Shabbos is also a sign of the unity of Hashem and the Jewish people, as the pasuk says, “It is a sign between Me and you,” (Shemos, 31:13).

No Bris Milah, No Tefillin On Shabbos

The Terumas Hadeshen (Teshuvos 2:108, cited in Birkei Yosef 31) asks whether an uncircumcised Jew must wear tefillin on Shabbos. Halacha dictates that if two brothers die as a result of bris milah, it is forbidden to circumcise a third brother. On a regular weekday, this third brother has only one “witness,” that of tefillin. On Shabbos, he would have an opportunity to have two: Shabbos and tefillin.

The Terumas Hadeshen states that this Jew should nevertheless not wear tefillin on Shabbos. He explains that the Smag drew the metaphor of two witnesses as an aggadah. He never intended it to be the basis for halachic conclusions. Therefore, an uncircumcised Jew is also exempt from tefillin on Shabbos.

The Radvaz (Teshuvos 2:334) adds that even according to the metaphor of the two witnesses, an uncircumcised Jew is exempt from tefillin on Shabbos. Why? The Gemara (Nedarim 31b) states that if a person makes a neder not to let uncircumcised people benefit from his possessions, he is forbidden to allow benefit to a gentile but he may allow benefit to an uncircumcised Jew. This is because the very mitzvah to perform bris milah, even if one is unable to, is a sign of the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Interestingly, the Rokeach (30, cited in Aruch HaShulchan) explains that bris milah alone is an insufficient sign since it testifies only to the covenant Hashem forged with us. Tefillin testify also to yetzias Mitzraim, as does Shabbos. Therefore, the sign of Shabbos can take the place of tefillin.

The Mechaber And The Zohar

The Mechaber (O.C. 31:1) rules quite clearly that it is forbidden to wear tefillin on Shabbos. “Shabbos is itself a sign,” the Mechaber explains. “By wearing a different sign, one denigrates the sign of Shabbos.” The Vilna Gaon (ibid.) points out that there is no source for this ruling in the Rambam or Tur. Rather, the Mechaber draws this ruling from the Midrash Ne’elam, the Zohar’s commentary on Shir HaShirim, which is cited at length in the Beis Yosef. This is one of the very few halachos that the Mechaber draws from the Zohar rather than Shas.

Tefillin On Shabbos Is Bal Tosif

According to the Mechaber’s explanation, wearing tefillin on Shabbos is not a Torah prohibition (see Aruch Hashulchan; Levush, ibid). However, the Magen Avraham (ibid.) cites the Rashba that wearing tefillin on Shabbos is a violation of bal tosif, the prohibition against adding mitzvos.

The Magen Avraham adds that this applies only if a person wears tefillin with the intention to fulfill a mitzvah. If he puts them on without this intention, he is not violating bal tosif (see Eruvin 96a). Nor is he demeaning the sign of Shabbos since he does not intend to wear them as a sign.

Who Performed Avraham’s Bris?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

In this week’s parshah Hashem commands Avraham Avinu to perform the mitzvah of bris milah. The pasuk tells us that Avraham was 99 when he performed the bris milah on himself. The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (29) and Tosafos, in Rosh Hashanah 11a, say that Avraham’s bris was performed on Yom Kippur. The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer adds that Shem, Noach’s son, performed the bris on Avraham. There are several explanations as to why Avraham had Shem perform his milah.

Some opinions suggest that since the milah was to be performed on Yom Kippur, Avraham did not want to perform the milah himself since this would violate the laws of Yom Kippur. One may only perform a milah on Shabbos or Yom Tov if the bris is on the eighth day. Since Avraham’s milah was not on the eighth day after he was born, it was considered not in the proper time – and thus Avraham could not perform the milah. Since Shem, however, did not keep the Torah he could perform the milah. Therefore Avraham asked Shem to perform the milah.

But there is a medrash (Bereishis 49:2) that says that Avraham asked Hashem as to who would perform the milah on him. Hashem told Avraham that he should do it himself. Avraham immediately took a knife and was about to cut, but hesitated because he was worried about his age. Hashem sent His hand and held onto Avraham – and Avraham cut. The medrash’s source for this is the well-known pasuk from p’sukei d’zimra: “vecharos imo ha’bris – and he cut with him the bris.”

As according to Tosafos and the Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer the milah took place on Yom Kippur, we must then ask the following: since according to the medrash that says that Avraham performed the milah together with Hashem, how can this have been done on Yom Kippur – since Avraham kept the entire Torah even prior to matan Torah?

This question is based on the assumption that the milah of Avraham Avinu was considered “shelo bizmano – not in the correct time.” For if it was the correct time (the eighth day of a boy’s life) then one is permitted to perform a bris on Shabbos and Yom Tov. There are some Acharonim (the Yehudah Yaleh in Yoreh De’ah 254 and the Sdei Chemed, 7:2) who answer that, in fact, Avraham Avinu’s bris was considered to be done on time since he performed it on the day that he was commanded to perform it. Even though he was 99 years old, the bris was still considered to be on time and therefore permitted to be performed on Yom Kippur. Other Acharonim suggest that the reason Avraham’s bris was considered on time was because the commandment was for him to perform the bris on that very day, as the pasuk says: “b’etzem hayom hazeh, nimol Avraham v’Yishmael b’no – on that very day, Avraham and his son Yishmael were circumcised.” Since the bris was performed at the intended time, it was considered to have been done on time – and permitted to have been done on Yom Kippur.

Yet this is not the general understanding. Most consider the bris of Avraham Avinu to be shelo bizmano and therefore not permitted to be performed on Yom Kippur. It is quoted in the name of Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik, shlita, that it is for this reason that there is no mention that Avraham made a seudah by his or any of his household’s bris milah – with the exception of Yitzchak. This is because the Sha’arei Teshuvah (551:31) says that one only should make a seudah for a bris that is on time. We only find that Avraham made a seudah for Yitzchak’s bris because that was the only bris that was performed on time.

Another solution is that even though Avraham kept the entire Torah (as the Gemara says), certain discrepancies existed. Generally a bris milah that is not on time is not allowed to be performed on Shabbos or Yom Tov. However, since Avraham was not yet commanded to keep the Torah – and, for that matter, he was not commanded to keep Shabbos or Yom Tov – they were treated differently concerning this matter. Since they were not yet commanded to keep Shabbos or Yom Tov before matan Torah, a bris could be performed on Shabbos or Yom Tov even if it was not on time. Thus Avraham was allowed to perform his bris on Yom Kippur.

Daf Yomi

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Lulav, Shofar, Bris
“His Hand Is Not At Rest”
(Shabbos 3a)

Our Gemara discusses cases of transferring items from hand to hand. Our Gemara discusses all objects. On Rosh Hashanah and on Sukkos, we can clearly specify an object that would be given from hand to hand. When Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbos, we do not blow shofar. On Shabbos of Sukkos, we do not shake our lulavim. The concern that we might carry a shofar or lulav on Shabbos was so great, that our Sages deemed it preferable to forbid the performance of these mitzvos altogether.

A Shabbos Bris?

On the other hand, we find in the sugya at Shabbos 131b that a bris milah may be performed on Shabbos, if it is the eighth day after the child’s natural birth. The accepted halacha follows Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that it is a Torah prohibition to carry a knife through the reshus harabim to the site of a bris milah. Why did our Sages not forbid bris milah on Shabbos, to prevent the mohel from accidentally carrying a knife, just as they forbade lulav and shofar?

Skilled Mohel

The Rishonim address this question in various places throughout Shas, and offer a variety of answers. Tosefos (Megillah 4b, s.v. vaya’’avirena) explains that the mitzvah of bris milah has preeminent importance, since Hashem sealed thirteen covenants with Avraham Avinu in its merit, as we learn from the pesukim beginning, ““This is My covenant with you,”” (Bereishis 17). Furthermore, Tosefos explain that every Jew, regardless of the level of his Torah knowledge, must perform the mitzvos of shofar and lulav. Therefore our Sages were concerned that an unlearned Jew might accidentally come to carry. However, bris milah is only performed by a skilled mohel, who is presumably knowledgeable enough to refrain from carrying on Shabbos.

Communal vs. Individual

The Ran (Rosh Hashanah, on the Rif 8a) explains that on Yom Tov, the entire Jewish people are busy performing the mitzvos of the day, therefore they cannot be expected to keep an eye out to prevent one another from carrying. However, when a bris milah occurs, only the mohel is busy in performing the mitzvah. The other Jews assembled will be free to prevent the mohel from carrying his knife.

An Overriding Mitzvah

Other Rishonim (Ritva, Succah 43a; Meiri, Megillah 4b) explain that in contrast to the mitzvos, the bris milah itself involves a Torah prohibition. If not for the pasuk that orders us otherwise, it would be a violation of meleches choveil (wounding) to perform a bris milah. Since the Torah instructs us that bris milah takes precedence over a definite violation of meleches choveil, our Sages did not forbid it.

An Eight Day Count

The Ritva (ibid.) adds another explanation. As we know, outside of Eretz Yisrael, two days of Yom Tov are observed, since the messengers from the Beis Din in Yerushalayim were unable to reach Chutz La’’Aretz in time to inform them when the new month began, and on which day to observe Yom Tov. As a result, they observed both days just in case. Our Sages forbid shofar and lulav in favor of guarding Shabbos, since shofar and lulav might be observed on the wrong day. The certainty of Shabbos observance took precedence over the possibility of shofar and lulav. Even in places where they were familiar with the fixed lunar cycle, and knew which was the correct day for Yom Tov, our Sages made no exception. They wished to preserve one consistent set of rules for all Jewish communities throughout the world. Bris milah, on the other hand, does not depend on a lunar date. The certainty of bris milah performed on the correct day, eight days after birth, takes precedence over Shabbos.

Doubt and Negligible Doubt

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Shabbos 131b), discusses bris milah as also involving an element of uncertainty. Unbeknownst to us, the child may have been born with health complications, G-d forbid, which would classify him as a neifel, whose bris does not preempt Shabbos. He states that a question of the correct date is a justified concern, since the Bnei Chutz La’Aretz observed both days, without knowing which was the Yom Tov medeoraisa. However, only a small minority of babies are neifels, therefore it is a negligible doubt, which would not justify preempting the bris.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/daf-yomi-45/2012/10/04/

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