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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Brit Mila’

Metzitza B’Peh – Knowledge is Power

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

It is a hot button issue that raises the hackles of the right. And it has been discussed to death. But the subject has come up again with a recent decision by a federal court criticizing the New York City Board of Health requirement of informed consent with respect to Metzitza B’Peh (MbP) – the over 3000 year old tradition of direct oral suction of the blood from the circumcision wound.

I understand the right wing argument against this requirement. But I still strongly disagree with them. To briefly restate the issue, the sages delineated the procedure for a Halachic circumcision (Bris Mila). The final step – Metziza (withdrawal of the blood) – is listed as the mandatory health requirement part of this procedure. Chazal required it in the belief that it was dangerous to the health of the child to leave that blood on the open circumcision wound. Although the Talmud never tells us how to do it, Metzitza has always been done B’Peh – by oral suction.

Over a century ago, when some babies died as a result of doing MbP, there were major Poskim who said it could be done in other, more sterile ways. There are Poskim today that say the same thing. On the other hand there are Poskim that disagree and say that MbP is an absolute requirement and that Metzitza must be done orally.

A few years ago there were some babies that died shortly after their Bris – having contracted the herpes virus. It was determined that the Mohel had a live herpes virus but at the time it was asymptomatic. The New York City Health Department concluded that the herpes virus was contracted by the baby via the direct oral suction of the circumcision wound by the Mohel. Long story short – as a result of that conclusion they issued a requirement that parents give their informed consent in writing if they wanted the Mohel to use MbP.

Then all hell broke loose. Those communities (mostly Chasidic) that believe that MbP is a Halachic requirement felt that the government was encroaching on their religious rights. They took legal action and were joined by Agudath Israel in filing a federal lawsuit claiming a violation of the separation clause of the first amendment. Furthermore fueling the debate is the fact that many non Chasidic Yeshiva type communities prefer MbP – considering it more Mehudar (an enhancment of the basic Halachic requirement).

The right wing has also characterized this as an attack on Bris Mila itself – seeing this intrusion into our religious practices a slippery slope towards a ban on Mila itself.

The New York board of health on the other hand saw this as a health issue. In a nod to the first amendment they did not ban MbP since a baby contracting herpes from an infected Mohel is a rare occurrence. But they do consider it dangerous enough to require a warning. This is why they require informed consent in writing by the parents of a child about to be circumcised by a Mohel using MbP.

This all made sense to me. But in an surprising decision, a federal court issued a sharp criticism of this rule as specifically targeting a religious community… and thus violating the constitutional amendment separating church from state.

Avi Shick has written an op-ed in the New York Daily News supporting that decision – asking New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio to rescind the requirement for informed consent. Avi is basically saying that the government should keep its nose out of our business. What about the health issue? He calls their argument about that weak. Among other things he says the following:

The First Brit Milah at Oz veGaon

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

About two months after Givat Oz veGaon was established, in memory of the three youths Gilad Sha’er, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Frenkel, may they be avenged, a moving event was held on the hill – the first brit milah (circumcision) ceremony in the forest, which is situated facing the Gush Etzion junction.

David and Ilana Brenner, residents of Elazar in Gush Etzion, invited their guests, relatives, and the mohel to Givat Oz veGaon, where the ceremony was conducted. The baby, who became part of the renewed history of Gush Etzion, was named Oz Michael.

The baby’s grandmother, Naomi Brenner, one of those expelled from Yamit, emotionally summed up the event: “We felt a special atmosphere here, in the place that is named after the precious boys who fell. A brit symbolizes continuity. We look at one another here with joy, and the desire to be in Eretz Israel.”

The baby’s grandfather, Igor Tofeld, added: “This isn’t just a moving event because we gathered in this place. This is our first grandchild, and I am very happy that Ilana and David chose this location. This symbolizes that the people of Israel lives, and that with all that has happened, we will be victorious.”

The mohel, Rabbi Hayyim Moshe Weisberg, too, expressed his emotion at performing the first brit at a new Jewish site.

Oz veGaon was first settled by members of Women in Green and the Zionist Midrasha, the night after the murder became known. In the days and weeks that have passed since then, many youth and visitors from all over Israel have come to the hill, that is next to the site of the kidnapping. They renovated and restored the site, and started to establish the infrastructure needed to turn it into a regional tourism center.

“The preserve was established to continue life in Eretz Israel, give a living soul and provide a constant Jewish presence at another location in Gush Etzion. It therefore was only natural for the family to conduct their first son’s brit here, in the Oz veGaon preserve, and to call their baby Oz Michael,” say the heads of Women in Green, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar. They add that “the phrase ‘In your blood live’ [recited during the brit ceremony] received redoubled significance here.”

The two, as well as the activists and supporters from among the nearby communities and the members of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, call upon the public at large “to conduct events at the site, to enjoy the beautiful forest and the facilities that have been established, and to strengthen the Jewish presence.”

Rabbis, Pols Slam Brit Mila Decision

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Haredi politicians blasted a Supreme Court decision Sunday that granted a mother the right to refuse her son’s circumcision.

The case in question stems from divorce proceedings currently before the Israeli family court. Last year, the civil court ruled that both parents must agree to the traditional brit mila procedure, but the father challenged the ruling in the rabbinical court. The latter ordered that the baby be circumcised, and levied a NIS 500 fine against the woman for every day she refused to submit the baby to be circumcised.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote, “the Jewishness of a Jewish boy is one of the matters that can be included in divorce, for if we rule otherwise, [this would mean that] a parent cannot include a cardinal and essential subject regarding his decision about the life of his child in the separation arrangements from his spouse – which in my eyes is inappropriate.”

In the political arena, reaction to the ruling came fast and furious. Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef called the ruling a landmark “yet another worrisome escalation in the ongoing trend, in recent years, to limit the authority of the Rabbinical Court. “

In addition, MK Aryeh Deri, leader of the Sephardi Haredi party Shas, called the ruling a “scandal.”

“Our forefathers, who sacrificed their lives for this commandment for thousands of years, did not dream that the state they hoped for would prevent a Jewish father from circumcising his son.”

On the Ashkenazi side of the spectrum, MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) claimed that “In the political climate that the present government exudes, with new anti-religious bills being presented on a weekly basis, it is only natural that the High Court would continue with its rulings that contradict the Jewish heritage and our right to exist here as Jews, and contribute to the division of the nation.”

 

Council of Europe Executives Advise Inaction on Male Circumcision

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

The Council of Europe has climbed down from along and weak limb by issuing a letter that in effect neutralizes a resolution by its parliament that equated mutilation of female genitals and non-medical circumcision of boys for religious purposes.

The Council called them “by no means comparable.”

The Council of Europe’s leadership sent a letter to the parliament that advised it against further attempts by members to target ritual circumcision.

European rabbis praised the Council of Europe’s leadership.

Rabbi Mendel Samama of the Conference of European Rabbis said the letter was a “sign of real progress on the issue of religious circumcision in Europe.”

The letter was in reaction to a controversial resolution passed by the council’s parliament last year that said the circumcision of boys was a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, called the letter a “significant step” that he said is “particularly pleasing in light of a worrying trend across Europe where liberal extremes have taken precedence over the basic human right of religious practice.”

Norway Wants to Limit Circumcisions to Hospital Rooms

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Norway’s health minister said Wednesday the countryman no intention of banning religious circumcisions but should restrict the religious practice to be carried out only in hospitals.

“If the children are circumcised in hospitals by competent personnel, we will prevent complications,” Health Minister Bent Høie told the Aftenposten newspaper. “This is the most realistic way to ensure the little guys against damage. All the other proposals risk exposing the boys to injury.”

He said that stories last year that the government would ban circumcision were totally untrue, but Anne Lindboe, Norway Children’s Ombudswoman, said last year, “This is not due to any lack of understanding of minorities or religious traditions, but because the procedure is irreversible, painful and risky.”

“A ban on something that is so common for religious or cultural reasons would not be for the good of the children,” he was reported as saying by Norway’s English-language The Local newspaper.

Jewish boys traditionally are circumcised in a ceremony in the synagogue or in a banquet hall, where a festive meal immediately follows the ceremony.

The health minister’s attempt to make sure that circumcision is carried out under hospital sterility also would turn the rite into a totally sterile ceremony.

There still are voices in Norway calling for banning circumcision of babies or young boys.

He estimated that some 2,000 ritual circumcisions would be carried out in Norwegian hospitals annually, and said that the government had yet to decide who would bear the cost.

Swedish County Eyeing Ban on Circumcision

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

A county in Sweden is moving ahead with plans to ban the non-medical circumcision of boys, its leading elected official said.

Per-Ola Mattsson, the commissioner of Blekinge County, said he will up bring up a ban on the practice with the county’s health board in February, according to a Swedish publication.

Mattsson, who is also chairman of the Public Health Board of Blekinge, told the Dagens Medicin medical news site he opposes the practice because minors “have no possibility to say ‘no’ to the surgery and therefore the county should not perform these procedures.”

In Sweden, non-medical and medical circumcision may be performed only by licensed professionals, as per legislation from 2001. Under the legislation, Jewish ritual circumcisers, or mohelim, receive their licenses from the country’s health board, but a nurse or doctor must still be present when they perform the procedure. Representatives of the country’s Jewish community told JTA they are pleased with the arrangement, as it does not prevent them from performing the ritual.

However, the rightist Sweden Democrats Party submitted a motion in parliament in September in favor of banning ritual circumcision, and the children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway — last week released a joint declaration proposing a ban on circumcision.

Court Suspends Rabbis’ Order to Require Woman to Allow Son’s Brit

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Israel’s Supreme Court has suspended a Rabbinical Court (Beit Din) order that a woman in divorce proceedings allow her baby son, now one year old, to be circumcised. The woman also was ordered to pay a fine of $150 for each day the brit mila is not performed.

She originally objected to circumcision because she said her son was not medically fit but since has said that a brit mila causes suffering.

The woman appealed the Netanya Beit Din’s decision to the secular judicial system, which put the rabbis’ order on hold until the judges reach a decision on whether the Beit Din has authority to order a circumcision.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/court-suspends-rabbis-order-to-require-woman-to-allow-sons-brit/2013/12/19/

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