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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Brit Milah’

To Inform or Not to Inform – That is the Question

Friday, September 14th, 2012

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has just come out with a statement joining Agudah in opposition to the proposed NYC legislation requiring  “informed consent” before going ahead with Metzitza B’Peh (MbP). This is in spite of the fact that they do not recommend the procedure for their own constituents.

I assume the reason for this is that they believe this to be a church state issue. And that they believe that even signing a consent form about a religious practice is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to practice one’s religion freely. And that it may be a slippery slope to further – more serious intervention in religious rights.

I don’t want to re-hash the whole argument here. But I have to admit being conflicted about it – because both sides have valid issues.

Every time an argument is made by one side which all seem like good arguments – the other side comes out with an equally good argument for their side. Here are the questions:

Where do you draw the line between protecting your citizens and freedom of religion?

On the other hand – how does signing a consent form interfere with religion?

On the other hand -when the risk is so low, is there really a need for a consent form?

On the other hand – why not inform even if the risk is low – if it is really there?

On the other hand – if informing the public about this is the main concern, why not simply require that parents be informed? Why require government documentation?

On the other hand –  will a policy of informing the public actually be implemented without the government requirement to document it?

On the other hand – if one segment feels that MbP is a religious requirement and the risk is so low, maybe those people should not be required to sign a consent form – since it might scare people away from it unnecessarily?

For me, preventing the mouth from coming into contact with an open wound makes a lot of sense. Even if there never was a single case of herpes ever reported – doing something like that seems like the height of folly!

With all the bacteria a mouth is known to contain – and the possibility that it might contain bacteria or viruses that are very harmful to a vulnerable 8-day-old child while an adult carrier might not even be aware of it – it is not exactly rocket science to know that putting your mouth on an open wound is not a good idea. Add to that the recent cases of Herpes that government health agencies like the CDC believe to be caused by MbP - opposition to it seems like a no brainer.

But then there are the arguments put forth by others based on different medical experts who say the statistical probability of contracting a disease from the mouth of a Mohel is so low and that reported cases of MbP infection by a Mohel remain unproven, that any regulation at all – even signing a consent form is an unnecessary infringement by the government on the religious rights of its citizens.Add to that the fear of the ‘slippery slope’ argument and all the tumult in the world about circumcision in general (e.g. the ban on it by a German court in Cologne until the age of consent) – and it seems like that is a good argument to fight that proposed legislation.

So after taking another look at it – at this point I am just not sure. I still tend to side with not opposing the legislation because I don’t think there is a slippery slope here. Nor do I think that interferes with the right of a parent to go ahead with MbP if he chooses to. All it does is inform him about the possible dangers.

Will it scare him away? If he is a Chasid, probably not. If he is not a Chasid, let it scare him away. What is lost if he does Metzitza in a more hygienic way without direct oral contact? [Note:  an overview of how metzitza b’peh is not halachically required previously on this blog].

I can actually hear both sides of the argument. But it may be a moot point. It appears the city of New York has just approved the legislation.

The Proper Performance of Bris Milah

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: The following post was submitted to me by someone who is close to Rabbi Zuriel. It is a footnoted and well sourced Halachic analysis of the Mitzvah of Bris Milah and Metzitza B’Peh.

Rabbi Zuriel lives in Bnei Brak and was a close talmid of Rav Ruderman famed founder and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. He has written well over 30 Seforim on subjects ranging from Shas to Tanach to Mussar to Kabbalah.

After moving to Israel, Rabbi Zuriel learned with – and became very close with many Gedolei Torah including Rav Sraya Deblitzky, Rav Shmuel Toledano, and Rav Friedlander – the famed mashgiach of Ponovezh.

He also learned with Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook, and was the Mashgiach in Shalavim. He is very knowledgeable in all areas of the Torah, and very well informed regarding current events and history . His approach is an independent one and is solely guided by his understanding of the the Torah.

His words follow. 

It is always sad to see dispute and bickering amongst brethren. It is even more aggravating to see anger and emotional outbursts, bitter accusations and personal attacks in the public domain. The present controversy regarding how to do the metzitzah of blood during Bris Milah, if by mouth or by tube, is a case in point.

If we check the Gemarah source[1] and so too the Rambam[2] , and the Shulchan Aruch[3] , we see no mention of the “Peh,” the mouth. The Hebrew word for suction is “motzetz” and this can be performed also by the use of a tube using mouth suction. It is important to precede all discussion on this topic by “putting everything on the table”. We are not discussing a Biblical Commandment, nor are we referring to a Rabbinical enactment from the Gemarah’s time. We are referring to a hallowed Minhag from days of yore to use the mouth only.

Certainly the withdrawal of blood is a Rabbinical enactment, but the direct application of the mouth is only a Minhag. Beyond that, using a tube by mouth suction is also a utilization of the mouth and should not to be considered as abolition of the use of the mouth[4]. This understanding is important to know before we clarify what a parent should decide in cases of doubt.

The world famous Chasam Sofer wrote a responsum to permit using other methods than the mouth (“Bris Olam”, page 216)[5]. The great Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh permitted the use of a short tube (Shemesh Marpeh, page 70). Rabbi Yitzchok Herzog wrote[6] that since the medical experts claim that there is a danger of infection in many cases, it is advisable to use a tube. He adds that those who insist adamantly that the withdrawal should be done by direct application of the mouth “are mistaken and so too cause others to make a mistake”.

The illustrious Rabbi Avraham Kook permitted the use of a tube when in doubt of infection (Da’as Kohen, 142) [also, see the words of the Aruch Hashulchan[7] and Rabbi Chaim Berlin[8]]. Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank claimed[9] that since the entire purpose of the Rabbinical enactment of withdrawing the blood from the wound is to avoid infection, this act being done by the tube is part and parcel of that healing process. May we add that this would even be a “hiddur Mitzva” since this is even safer than the personal physical contact of the Mohel to the open wound.

But why is there such a vehement outcry against the usage of the tube? The answer is that for nearly two hundred years there is fear of Gentile government intervention making the essential circumcision ritual illegal. This started in Paris in 1843, reached Germany and Poland and today in California a small group of “humanists” appealed to the State Legislature to ban the practice. This move was defeated.

The fear is that if we ourselves admit that this mitzvah could be damaging to the child, the Department of Health might make capital of our admission. The second cause of the great emotional outbursts of resistance to any change in the ceremony is the worry to keep intact all of Jewish way life, to stay as close as possible to the customs of our forefathers; to forestall all reforms.

Germany’s Circumcision Police

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

There was a head-spinning moment in Germany last week: News emerged that a rabbi had been criminally charged for performing his religious duties. Rabbi David Goldberg of northern Bavaria, who shepherds a 400-member community, is the first person to run afoul of a ruling by a Cologne judge earlier this year that criminalized circumcision, a basic religious rite.

There is some precedent outside of Germany for such a ruling. In 2001, a Swedish law sparked a protest from Jews and Muslims by requiring that a medical doctor or anesthesia nurse accompany registered circumcisers, and that anesthesia be applied before the procedure. The law is still in effect.

In 2006, a Finnish court charged a Muslim mother with assault for circumcising her baby, and this was followed by a Jewish couple being fined for causing bodily harm to their son. The Muslim mother wasn’t ultimately punished, and in 2006 the Finnish Supreme Court said her actions weren’t criminal and religious circumcision not a crime. In the United States, a San Francisco ballot initiative tried last year to make circumcision an offense punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison; it failed to get enough votes. (In Germany, the Cologne judge seems not to have not yet specified punishment for violations.)

The ban by the court in Cologne, however, is the most troubling. For decades Germany has been an example of how a nation can take responsibility for its previous crimes. It is very moving to see Germany’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin, just two blocks from the country’s parliament. But the circumcision ban deserves universal scorn.

The American and European rabbinate should lead a delegation of mohelim (ritual circumcisers) to Germany to seek arrest for civil disobedience in protest against government persecution. I would join them and call upon Islamic imams to stand with us.

Does the German government really want to get into a public battle over whether they are better guardians of the health and welfare of Jewish (and Muslim) children than their parents?

The Los Angeles Times recently cited a study predicting that as the number of circumcisions goes down in the U.S., the cost of health care will steadily climb. Eryn Brown reported that “If circumcision rates were to fall to 10% . . . lifetime health costs for all the babies born in a year would go up by $505 million. That works out to $313 in added costs for every circumcision that doesn’t happen.”

Why? Because circumcision has been proven to be the second most effective means—after a condom—for stopping the transmission of HIV-AIDS, with the British Medical Journal reporting that circumcised men are eight times less likely to contract the infection.

The New York Times echoed these findings in an Aug. 27 report that projected “declining U.S. circumcision rates could add more than $4 billion in health care costs in coming years because of increased illness and infections.” The story focused on the American Academy of Pediatrics updating its 13-year-old policy on circumcision and declaring that the health benefits of circumcision—in reducing chances of HIV infection and other STDs, urinary tract infection, and cancer—outweigh the risks.

While the Germans decry the barbarity of circumcision for men, they also overlook the benefit to women who are the men’s partners. Male circumcision reduces the risk of cervical cancer—caused by the human papillomavirus, which thrives under and on the foreskin—by at least 20%, according to an April 2002 article in the British Medical Journal.

While some attempt to equate male circumcision with female clitoridectomy, the comparison is absurd. Female circumcision involves removing a woman’s ability to have pleasure during sexual relations. It is a barbarous act of mutilation that has no corollary to its male counterpart. Judaism has always celebrated the sexual bond between husband and wife. Attempts to malign circumcision as a method of denying a man’s sexual pleasure are ignorant. Judaism insists that sex be accompanied by exhilaration and enjoyment as a bonding experience that leads to sustained emotional connection.

We Jews must be doing something right in the bedroom given the fact that, alone among the ancient peoples of the world, we are still here, despite countless attempts to make us a historical footnote.

A Real People with a Real Prophecy

Monday, August 20th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah kick off by talking about Malkah’s attendance at the arrival of a Nefesh B’ Nefesh flight of new immigrants to Israel and her connection with celebrity kosher chef Jamie Geller, who made Aliyah to Israel along with her family on this flight.  They move on to talk about a Brit Milah that the Flieshers attended and also by talking how recent discoveries of a bathroom from an ancient synagogue in Germany and how it’s compared to a picture of a young Israeli draped with a flag.  Yishai ends by talking about how this is the last show before the month of Elul and how everyone needs to prepare for Elul by being closer to G-d.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Chancellor Merkel Pledges to Keep Circumcision Legal

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

After what German diplomats have described as a “disastrous” damage to Germany’s image abroad, especially in light of its Nazi past, it appears that Berlin has finally gotten the message.

(The JewishPress.com sent a petition with 12,000 signatures to the German Ambassador in Tel Aviv, declaring that “Germany has absolutely no moral or ethical right to pass any laws or make any statements regarding Brit Milah (circumcision) or on any other Jewish practice.”)

The German government on Friday pledged “quick action” to protect the right of Jews and Muslims to circumcise their boys, after a much protested court ruling to the contrary, AFP reports.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters the Chancellor was “concerned” about the judgement passed by the Cologne court last month, which defined religious circumcision as a criminal act against the child.

“It is absolutely clear to the federal government that we want Jewish, we want Muslim religious life in Germany. Circumcisions carried out in a responsible way must not be subject to prosecution in this country,” the apokesman said, adding, “It is urgently necessary that we establish legal certainty. It is clear this cannot be put on the back burner. Freedom to practice religion is a cherished legal principle.”

According to AFP, the German justice ministry is considering three options for new draft legislation to protect circumcisions on religious grounds.

In an interview published Saturday in Die Welt, the leader of Merkel’s conservative parliamentary faction, Volker Kauder, called for a resolution on the right to ritual circumcision to be passed in the Bundestag next Thursday.

Brit Milah on the Chopping Block in Germany

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Normally I hate the Germans, but you have to give them credit on this one! Let their banning of brit milah be a reminding to our beloved Jewish brothers and sisters in Diaspora that we don’t belong in foreign lands. Unfortunately, I doubt whether the new law will shake up the Jews of Germany in any meaningful manner. After all, if the slaughter of 6 million didn’t make them think twice about continuing to live in that polluted, blood-stained gentile land, this new measure isn’t liable to wake them up either.

In contrast to the reform congregations of Germany, I think it would be a blessing in disguise if the New York Supreme Court passed a similar law banning brit milah. Maybe it would alert the holy Jews of Brooklyn that they don’t belong in a gentile Christian country. True, they could move to New Jersey or South Florida in order to safeguard their religious freedom and continue to enter their newborn sons into the brit of Avraham Avinu, so I guess it would take a new nationwide anti-brit law from the Supreme Court of America to really wake them up and move them to come home to Israel. To be sure, there are those lovers of galut who would reason, “It’s not the end of the world – the Jews didn’t circumcise their children in the wilderness of Sinai either – we too can pass up on the mitzvah until Moshiach comes and takes us to Israel.” But for most normal thinking people, a United States Supreme Court law banning brit milah might be the very thing to save us from everlasting exile in heathen lands.

Now I know what you are thinking – “It could never happen in a democracy like America!” Sure, sure, sure, sure. That’s just what the Jews of enlightened and democratic Germany said before Hitler came to power. And don’t forget that a few decades ago, Russia was the Torah center of the Jewish world, until the Russians closed down the synagogues and burned all the books.

No, no, not in America!” you still insist.

Oh, my dear holy brothers in sisters – God forbid that there should be a world oil crisis during a freezing Brooklyn December, and then see how long it takes for the lovers of Xmas to turn savagely against the Jews, who, of course, will be to blame.

But it needn’t come to that extreme. There is already a devastating abolishing of brit milah in America. Though the Jews of America prefer to ignore it, thinking that a few more Birthright trips will make the problem go away, more than half of the Jews of America have already abolished brit milah by marrying out of the faith. It’s not only an end of brit milah – it is total Jewish castration. This silent Holocaust is already taking place. And it is increasing every year. The longer the Jews stay in America, the less real Jews there will be. Any high school math student can figure out the curve. In just another generation, the only conclaves of circumcision remaining will be in Brooklyn, Lakewood, and Monsey, until that oil shortage strikes occurs, and then who will protect them from the clubs and rifles of the lovers of democracy and Santa Claus?

Let it be said loud and clear from the pages of The Jewish Press – Jews do not belong in foreign, gentile lands, existing on the goodwill and courts of the goyim! There is no more reason to linger in exile. Hashem has given us our own Jewish State. Yes, there are many confused champions of democracy and liberalism here in Israel capable of passing anti-Jewish laws, but with the mass aliyah of America’s religious Jews, we will have the numbers to transform Israel into the true Torah Nation we all long to see. The very factor preventing this is the lack of aliyah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/brit-milah-on-the-chopping-block-in-germany/2012/06/27/

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