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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘bris’

The Aveilus Of Tisha B’Av Week

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

One may not perform several actions during the week in which Tisha B’Av falls. This is referred to as shavua she’chal bo. For example, one may not take a haircut or wash his clothing (Ashkenazi Jews are forbidden in these actions prior to the week of Tisha B’Av in accordance with the ruling of the Ramah). The Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 551: 4) writes that in a year when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos and is pushed off to Sunday (as it does this year) there is a machlokes as to whether there are any prohibitions during the week before Tisha B’Av. The Mechaber seemingly sides with the view that there are no halachos of shavua she’chal bo in such circumstances.

Many Achronim explain that the dispute is based on the understanding behind the establishment of the fast of Tisha B’Av. The Gemara in Ta’anis 29a says that the Beis HaMikdash was lit close to the end of the ninth day of Av and continued burning throughout the tenth day of Av. Reb Yochanan said, “Had I been in the generation when Tisha B’Av was established, I would have established it on the tenth day of the month since the majority of the Beis HaMikdash burnt on that day.” The Gemara says that the Rabbanan who established the fast on the ninth day of the month did so because they felt that it was better to establish the fast day on the day of the troubles’ onset.

Based on this, they explain that the first opinion holds that there is no shavua she’chal bo in a year when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos and is pushed off to Sunday because the Rabbanan only argued that, when possible, the fast should be established at the onset of the troubles. However, when it is not possible to fast on the ninth day of Av (i.e., when it falls out on Shabbos), they would agree with Reb Yochanan’s view that the fast should take place when the majority of the Beis HaMikdash burnt – namely on the tenth day of Av. Based on this, the week that precedes Tisha B’Av is not the week when the fast falls out, since in a year like this year we fast on the tenth day of the month (Sunday) – which is the beginning of the following week.

The other opinion holds that the halachos of shavua she’chal bo do apply to the week prior to Tisha B’Av, even when it falls on Shabbos, because they opine that the Rabbanan hold that the fast should always be on the ninth day – even when one cannot fast on that day. The reason why we fast on Sunday is merely to make up for not being able to fast on Shabbos. However, the fast day is primarily on the ninth day. Hence all the halachos of shavua she’chal bo apply, since Tisha B’Av falls out during that week – namely on Shabbos.

This permits us to explain another machlokes, the one between the Mechaber and the Ramah (554:19) regarding whether one must keep aveilus betzina (hidden aveilus, i.e. marital relations) on Tisha B’Av that falls on Shabbos. The Mechaber says that one may have marital relations on the ninth day of Av when it falls out on Shabbos. The reason: The fast was primarily established to be on the tenth day, and the ninth day is not a fast day at all. Therefore, the Mechaber holds that one need not keep any aveilus betzina on the ninth day. But the Ramah argues that this is forbidden and that one must keep aveilus betzina since the Rabbanan established Tisha B’Av to always be on the ninth day of Av – even when one cannot fast.

There is one problem, however, with this suggestion. Why does the Mechaber say that, when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos and is pushed off to Sunday, there is a leniency regarding one making a bris milah? In siman 559:9, the Mechaber writes that one who makes a bris milah on a Sunday Tisha B’Av (that really fell on Shabbos) does not have to fast and may wash his body. In contrast, one must fast and may not wash his body if making a bris milah on the regularly scheduled day of Tisha B’Av. If we explain that the Mechaber is of the opinion that when Tisha B’Av falls out on Shabbos and is pushed off to Sunday (making Sunday the actual day of the fast, and thus Tisha B’Av didn’t fall in the prior week), permitting one to have marital relations on Shabbos, why is there any leniency or discrepancy regarding the fast on Sunday?

A Parent’s Anguish

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

This is the most painful letter I’ve ever written. I’ve been through many horrific experiences. My parents were survivors of the Holocaust; they were shattered people. I know you will understand this since you too are a Holocaust survivor.

The scars of that period never heal in those who went through it. As much as my parents celebrated, as much as they laughed and rejoiced, the nightmare was forever with them. My parents raised us with much love. They literally lived for us. They saw their entire families wiped out and now their children represented all that was lost. They never felt a need take a vacation alone – when they did go away it was always with us, their children.

This was the nurturing I was exposed to, and I brought up my own children the same way. They were always my first priority. I was always home for them. I was always there for them. This was equally true of my husband.

As we know, at the bris of every baby boy we say a berachah that the child may merit to enter the covenant of Torah, chuppah and ma’asim tovim. Yes, the dream of Torah-committed parents is different from that of secular parents, whose hope is that the child will grow up to be successful, which in our society means to make loads of money.

Every Friday evening when I lit Shabbos candles I took an extra few moments to pour out my heart and beseech Hashem to grant my husband and me the privilege of seeing our children under the chuppah embracing a genuine Torah life.

Hashem blessed us with eight children – six boys and two girls. Baruch Hashem, all our children found good shiduchim and we saw them all under the chuppah. But very soon everything fell apart with one of them.

I once met a woman from Jerusalem who had five children, one of whom was killed while serving in the army. An insensitive person visiting her during the days of shiva foolishly said, “Thank G-d you still have four children.” She told me that remark was like a knife in her heart. If somebody has five fingers and one is amputated, would you say to that person, “Your hand is fine – after all, it’s just one finger that’s been severed”? If you lose a finger your entire hand is damaged and can no longer do that which seemed so simple only yesterday.

I often think about that woman’s story. In a way I too have lost a finger have been offered foolish consolation. “Don’t get upset, you still have seven children from whom you have nachas.” They can’t comprehend that I go to sleep and wake up with just one thought: “My child, my child, my child is missing.”

My other children are exemplary in their commitment to Torah, their devotion to mitzvos and the respect and love they show us, but this one son and his wife have caused us terrible anguish. And that anguish has taken over our lives and gives us no peace.

This one son married a girl who has agendas. I do not pretend to be a psychologist so I will not even attempt to analyze the situation. But this little wife has made a great breach in our family and destroyed our harmony, our unity. She does not talk to or recognize any of my other children, her husband’s siblings. She does not visit them and does not communicate with them. She will not allow my son to see his siblings or to visit and talk to them.

My son gives the impression that he is in accord with this. The cousins do not know each other. They are not permitted to spend time together.

Why does my son allow this? I don’t know. We all live in the same community and our family tragedy has become public knowledge. Our entire family has suffered. A hundred and one times I have tried to reach my son and daughter-in-law but it has been to no avail. The same holds true for the attempts made by my other children.

My husband and I begged, cajoled, and compromised our dignity – and our children did the same – but our son and daughter-in-law snubbed all our efforts. They locked their doors and their hearts.

It’s Official: No Circumcision in Germany – Jewish Hospital Bans the Brit

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Jewish Hospital in Berlin has suspended all religious circumcisions of children following a ruling delivered by a German court on June 24 banning the practice.

The district court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys “is a serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” and raised an outcry of protest from Jewish and Muslim groups, both religions performing circumcisions on their children as a symbol of religious faith.

The ruling was made on a case in which a 4 year-old Muslim boy’s circumcision by a doctor led to pervasive bleeding and medical complications.

Gerhard Nerlich, a spokesman for the hospital, announced that “we are suspending circumcisions until the legal situation is clarified”.

The hospital performs approximately 100 religious circumcisions a year.  Two surgeries scheduled to take place were cancelled by the hospital, with calls placed to the families explaining the reason.

In its ruling, the court found that performing the religious circumcisions impinged on a child’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” and was “against the interests of a child to decide for himself later on to what religion he wishes to belong”.  “Even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, [circumcision] should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent”, the court said.  It noted that once a boy reaches the age of consent, he will be permitted to have a religious circumcision performed on himself.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany condemned the ruling as “an unprecedented and dramatic intrusion on the self-determination of religious communities”, calling it “outrageous and insensitive”.

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel of Har Nof, Jerusalem, said the ruling was indicative of Germany’s sentiments toward Jews.  “Throughout Jewish history, there have been many attempts to ban circumcision – this is nothing new, and unfortunately, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head in Germany,” he said.  “The circumcision procedure is something that is safe when performed by a trained mohel [performer of ritual circumcisions], we’ve been doing it for thousands of years, so it really comes down to the training of the mohel.”

The World Health Organization estimated that approximately 1/3 of men around the world are circumcised.

Germany is home to millions of Muslims and over 100,000 Jews.

Chabad of Berlin could not be reached for comment.

 

Please see the petition on Germany’s ban.

Why Women Are Obligated To Build The Beis HaMikdash

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

The Rambam, in Hilchos Beis Habechirah 1:12, derives from the pasuk in this week’s parshah, “u’veyom hakim es haMishkan… – and on the day the Mishkan was set up…” (Bamidbar 9:15), that the Beis HaMikdash can only be built by day, not by night. Further in that halacha the Rambam writes that both men and women are obligated in the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash. The Kesef Mishneh explains that the source for the halacha that women are obligated in this mitzvah is from the pasuk in parshas Vayakhel: “v’kol ishah chachmas lev beyada tavu – and every wise-hearted woman spun with her hands.”

The Achronim are bothered by this obvious question: Why are women obligated in this mitzvah? Since it only applies by day, it should fall under the category of mitzvos assei she’hazman gramma (time- sensitive mitzvos) that women are exempt from fulfilling?

The answer by some Achronim is based on the following Yerushalmi: The Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 says that the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash essentially applies even by night – except that if it is built at night it is not fit for the avodahs of the daytime. If the mitzvah only applied by day, a Beis HaMikdash that was built at night should not be fit for any avodah. This indicates that the mitzvah applies even by night; thus it is not a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma, and women are obligated in it.

Another suggested answer is that the Rambam says in Sefer Hamitzvos (mitzvas assei 20) that the building of the Beis HaMikdash’s vessels is included in the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash. The Aruch Laner, on Sukkah 41a, says that the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash can be built at night. Therefore the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash applies by night as well. It is therefore not a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

Even according to the Achronim who disagree with the Aruch Laner and hold that the vessels must be built by day (just as the Beis HaMikdash itself), they nevertheless agree that the Menorah may be built at night since its avodah (lighting it) may be performed at that time. Since in the Rambam’s view the mitzvah to build the Menorah is included in the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash, part of this mitzvah is continuous and thus not considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

The sefer, Har Hamoriah (Beis Habechirah 1:28), says that there are two parts in the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash: the actual building, and the planning, measuring and bringing of supplies. Only the actual building may not be done at night. The other aspects of the mitzvah, however, may be performed at night. Hence it is not a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma.

The Rishonim, on Kiddushin 29a, ask why the Torah feels the need to write a pasuk exempting a woman from the obligation to perform the mitzvah of bris milah on her son. After all, she should obviously be exempt since it is a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma? The Ramban and the Ritvah answer that women are only exempt from mitzvos assei she’hazman gramma on mitzvos that pertain to themselves. But when the mitzvah requires them to do something for someone else, they are not exempt. For example, without the exemption in the pasuk, a woman would be obligated to perform a bris milah on her son.

The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 112:3) understands the Ritvah’s answer to mean the following: Mitzvos can be classified into two categories; those that are obligations on the individual to perform, and those that require that a certain situation take place (gavra or cheftza). The Minchas Chinuch explains that the mitzvah on the parents to perform a bris milah on their son is not a mitzvah whereby they are obligated to perform a certain act; rather that they ensure that a certain situation is accomplished – namely that their son should have a bris milah. Regarding these types of mitzvos women are not exempt, even if it is a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma. Therefore, if the Torah did not write a pasuk that exempted women, they would be obligated to ensure that a bris milah was performed on their son.

Counting The Previous Day’s Sefirah

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In this week’s parshah we read about the mitzvah of Sefiras Ha’Omer. Interestingly the reading of this mitzvah coincides with the actual time to perform the mitzvah. The pasuk says, “u’sefartem lachem…sheva Shabbasos temimos – and you should count for yourselves…seven complete weeks.” The mitzvah is to count the days and weeks from the second day of Pesach until Shavuos. One is required to count sefirah at night. We learn from the word temimos that optimally one should count at the beginning of the night so that the entire night can be counted.

One who forgets to count sefirah at night may count during the day without a berachah, and then continue counting the rest of the days with a berachah. If one forgets to count sefirah at night and does not remember to count by day, he may not count with a berachah thereafter.

The following is an interesting question that can commonly arise: One forgot to count Thursday night and did not remember to count during the day on Friday. He then accepted Shabbos early and reminded himself afterwards that he had not counted sefirah. While it is technically still the day (it’s still light outside), this individual has already brought in Shabbos. Do we already consider it nighttime, rendering it too late for him to count for Thursday night’s requirement – and he thus may no longer count with a berachah? Or does the fact that it is actually still daytime enable him to count, even after he has accepted Shabbos?

In answering this question some Achronim refer to a similar halacha from the Taz. The Taz (Teshuvos 600) discusses a scenario where a community did not have a shofar on Rosh Hashanah, which fell out on Friday. After the community accepted Shabbos early, a non-Jew brought them a shofar. Here’s the question: Do we still consider it daytime and thus the shofar can still be blown, or is it nighttime and there is no longer a mitzvah to blow shofar? The Taz gave two reasons for why they could blow shofar. First, accepting Shabbos is similar to making a neder, whereby if it was done b’taos (mistakenly) it is not valid. Since the community would not have accepted Shabbos if they knew that they would be receiving a shofar afterwards, the acceptance was done b’taos – and is not valid.

Second, the Taz, quoting the Beis Yosef in the name of the Smag, says that in regard to calculating the eighth day for a bris milah we only look at whether it is actually day or night. It does not matter if one davened Ma’ariv or accepted Shabbos early; if it is still day the bris will be eight days from the day, not from the night. The Vilna Gaon explains that mitzvos that are not dependent on Shabbos, even if one accepts Shabbos early, are considered as if done during the day. Based on this the Taz ruled that they could blow shofar – even after accepting Shabbos.

Reb Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 4:99:3) discusses whether the Taz’s ruling can be applied to the question of Sefiras Ha’Omer. The first point that the Taz used to permit the community to blow shofar after they accepted Shabbos early was that it was considered that they accepted Shabbos b’taos, since they would not have accepted Shabbos had they known that a shofar was going to be brought. Reb Moshe says that this reasoning can only apply if one only accepted Shabbos (i.e. said “Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos”), but has not yet davened Ma’ariv. But if one already davened Ma’ariv, we will not consider the acceptance of Shabbos to be b’taos.

This is because there are several variations from the Taz’s scenario. In the Taz’s example, the ruling affected an entire community. When an entire community mistakenly accepts Shabbos early, even if they davened Ma’ariv, they do not repeat Shemoneh Esrei. Regarding Sefiras Ha’Omer, however, we are generally discussing an individual who forgot to count the night before. The halacha is that an individual must repeat the Shemoneh Esrei if he mistakenly accepts Shabbos (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 263:14). Therefore if we consider the individual’s acceptance of Shabbos to have been done mistakenly, it will result in rendering the seven berachos that he davened in Shemoneh Esrei to be berachos levatalah – since he must repeat Shemoneh Esrei. How can we assume that in order to fulfill a mitzvah mi’de’rabbanan (according to many opinions Sefiras Ha’Omer is only mi’de’rabbanan nowadays) one would not have accepted Shabbos, if by doing so we create seven berachos levatalah? And perhaps even if it was in order to gain a mitzvah de’oraisa – if we are discussing an individual’s acceptance of Shabbos where he already davened and will have to repeat Shemoneh Esrei – we would not consider his acceptance of Shabbos to be b’taos. This would leave him with seven berachos levatalah.

Metzitzah B’Peh – Where We Are And Where We Need To Go

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

As a vascular surgeon for over 20 years I care for wounds daily. As an occasional mohel for 30 years I am familiar with all aspects of milah. I thus feel obligated to share my perspective on this most important topic. If I don’t, who will? In order to decide halachic matters, rabbis need accurate and representative medical input. This is my only goal.

From a medical perspective, the controversy over metzitzah b’peh (MBP) has focused on whether indeed there is any serious risk of transmission of the herpes type-1 virus from the mohel to an infant. Why is this a concern? It is well established that over 50 percent of adults show serological evidence of previous infection with oral herpes and some of these people will shed herpes from their mouth even without open sores. A 1999 study found that 70 percent of adults shed virus at least once a month even without oral lesions. This data suggests a theoretical risk of herpes infection transmission when a mohel has direct oral contact with the bris wound. An infant is immunocompromised, and an infection that is relatively mild in an adult can be deadly in an infant.

Is this just a concern, or does such infection transmission actually happen? There are a number of cases with a high index of suspicion that link MBP to herpes infection of an infant’s genital area. There were three such cases in the 1990′s (one of whose care I was involved in); eight cases reviewed in a paper in the medical journal Pediatrics in 2004; three cases between 2004 and 2006 in New York City, including an infant death and another who survived but with significant neurological damage; an additional four recently published cases in New York City from 2006-2010, and a death in 2011 in New York City attributed to MBP. These total 19 cases. It is almost certain that there are others, since not all cases are reported. Mandatory reporting was instituted in New York State in 2006. In New Jersey, no such requirement exists today.

It is the opinion of many infectious disease specialists and public health authorities that the association between MBP and herpes is adequately established by these cases, considering the location of the herpes in the infant’s genital area, the timing of infection soon after the bris, the clusters of association with a given mohel and other epidemiological parameters. Furthermore, basic medical theory eschews oral contact with a wound, especially since our current medical knowledge does not attribute any benefit to MBP. The risk/benefit ratio is thus infinite. As such, these specialists recommend modifying MBP by either using a gauze or glass tube instead of direct oral contact. This was the solution approved by the Chasam Sofer and other rabbanim, and adopted by many Jewish communities, when faced with the same issue more than 150 years ago.

A dissenting, minority opinion is presented by Dr. Daniel S. Berman, an adult infectious diseases specialist who has published in the lay press on this topic. He has reviewed the above data, critiqued the authors of previous medical articles, and has questioned the validity and motivations of their medical opinions. He suggests anti-religious bias as a significant factor in their conclusions and in the actions of the New York City department of health. He doubts that MBP is the cause of infection and posits that herpes is more likely contracted from other sources, such as caretakers of the infant. He also argues that no absolute confirmation of a causal relationship in any of these cases has ever been proven. To prove causality would require DNA evidence linking the specific herpes strains and this has never been done. It must be noted, however, that to perform DNA analysis, community and mohel cooperation would, of course, be necessary and this has not been forthcoming.

I am unaware of other physicians who share the essence of Dr. Berman’s point of view. Nevertheless, my observation is that Dr. Berman’s opinion has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of the chassidish and yeshivish communities. “Nothing has been proven and MBP is absolutely safe” has become the mantra in this discussion. Furthermore, there has been no halachic call to modify MBP at this point except from the Rabbinical Council of America.

I have described the status quo, but now come the real issues. Is it appropriate to accept a minority view in matters of fact and pikuach nefesh? How should halachic authorities decide in a case where medical facts and their interpretations are of such prime importance and where those facts are the subject of debate?

Furthermore, I shudder to think of the almost unrecoverable stain and loss of confidence on the integrity of the halachic process that would result, should MBP be ultimately proven (via DNA or other means) to be a source of herpes transmission. Many will appropriately ask, “How could we have permitted such significant halachic decisions to be made based on the unconventional and minority opinion of Dr. Berman, when most other specialists felt that an association between MBP and herpes had been amply established? What type of system permits this to happen? Why didn’t we seek a wider consensus?”

Double Bris In The Amazon

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Against all odds, the spark of Judaism continues to burn brightly in the Amazon as two members of the Brazilian city of Porto Velho underwent a bris milah performed by a renowned Argentian mohel just days after Rosh Chodesh Adar.

Forty-one-year-old Isaac Portelo and 16-year-old Saatchel Benesby are two of just 16 Jewish residents of Porto Velho, which is the capital of the Brazilian state of Rondonia in the upper Amazon River basin and over five hundred miles from Manaus, home of the nearest Chabad center. According to Rabbi Arieh Raichman, the Chabad shliach to Manaus, it was on a visit to Porto Velho last May that he first discussed the idea of circumcision with the pair.

“When I arrived in Porto Velho and visited the local community, they were all very excited to greet me,” said Rabbi Raichman. “Some cried with emotion while others were ecstatic with joy as I was the first rabbi to visit them.”

While Portelo told Rabbi Raichman that he was eager to have a bris at the first possible opportunity, it wasn’t until 10 months later that Benesby decided he was ready to proceed as well.

“Saatchel had just spent Shabbos at a Shabbaton organized by Keren Nehor Menachem in Sao Paolo, where he met other Jewish youths from all around Brazil,” explained Rabbi Raichman. “I believe what touched him was that they gave him a bar mitzvah and celebrated this momentous event in his life. When they asked for his Jewish name, Saatchel said he didn’t have one but was going to have a brit milah with me.”

Both Portelo and Benesby flew to Manaus to meet with David Katche, an expert adult mohel who has performed over 11,000 brissos in South America and was in Manaus to perform a bris for any community members who wanted to be circumcised. Benesby received the name Moshe Chaim at his bris on February 27th and Portelo, who cancelled all his meeting in order for his bris to take place exactly one day later, was given the name Isaac Yoel. Both were performed at the Hospital Adriano Jorge, where director Dr. Raymison Monteiro gave the men access to one of the public hospital’s operating rooms at no charge.

“It was a great honor and inspiration to see two adults decide that there is something missing in their lives,” said Rabbi Raichman. “Every day, baruch Hashem, people take on new mitzvot and leave behind their old ways. However, this mitzvah has both a physical and spiritual imprint that lasts forever. Seeing them being circumcised, while being conscious, was an incredible demonstration of self sacrifice and it served as an encouragement for me and others to give more of ourselves in serving Hashem.”

Benesby’s mother accompanied him to Manaus for his bris and was inordinately proud of her son.

“It is an obligation for every Jewish male to be circumcised and I am very happy that my son did it. When he was born I went around to doctors in Porto Velho to have him circumcised but nobody wanted to do it. Now he did it and he did it with a mohel.”

Rabbi Raichman hopes to make future visits both to Porto Velho and other neighboring cities and says that there are currently almost 20 men in Manaus and four men in Porto Velho who have not yet had a bris. Portelo plans to learn Hebrew and would like to visit Israel. He continues to serve as a surrogate rabbi in his community, educating other Jews about Yiddishkeit and hosting Porto Velho’s Jews in his home on Friday night and on Jewish holidays. Benesby hopes to make a trip to Israel this summer along with his 26-year-old sister Suhellen and is very interested in learning more about his Jewish heritage.

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/feautures-on-jewish-world/double-bris-in-the-amazon/2012/03/30/

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