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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘halachah’

Rare Discovery of Mikveh in New England Rewrites US Jewish History

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Researchers in  Connecticut have unearthed in a old farming community a 19th century mikveh that has totally changed view of Jewish history in the United States.

In addition to the rarity of finding a mikveh in the United States dating back approximately 120  years, the University of Connecticut researchers were astonished to see that the mikveh was more similar those in ancient Israel rather than in America.

“The stone and wood-lined structure from Old Chesterfield may be the only mikveh excavated outside a major North American city and may be the only example of its kind at one of the settlements created by a wealthy philanthropist who in the 1890s established farming communities for Jewish immigrants in New Jersey and Connecticut,” according to the university’s UCONN website.

Approximately 500 people lived in the old rural eastern Connecticut community. Historians have generally assumed that Jewish immigrants shunned tradition as part of their assimilation into the American “melting pot.”

Many immigrants clung to Jewish laws, such as kosher slaughtering, but the observance of ritual bathing was far from common, especially in a rural community.

“The image many people have of those who belonged to the earliest agricultural communities is that they were largely socialists, and that they weren’t particularly religious,” said Prof. Stuart Miller, Academic Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the university and an expert on ritual baths in ancient Israel. “This is going to enable us to write a chapter of Jewish history which to my knowledge hasn’t been written, one that will deal with the spiritual life of these communities.”

“This mikveh is very exciting because there’s really nothing else like it in the United States,” Miller said. “It’s intact, it’s magnificent, and from a religious law point of view, it’s a marvel.”

It was a routine message from  State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni that brought Miller to the site, where he later realized that mikveh was located there.

Miller was raised in New Jersey but spent several years researching ancient mikvehs in Israel. Colleagues mentioned Miller’s name to Bellantoni, who called him to ask if he would look at an old ritual slaughterhouse that had been found.

“I’ll be honest. I wasn’t really expecting anything,” Miller said. “I was thinking, ‘I write about and work at sites that are 2,000 years old. What am I going to find in Chesterfield?’”

When miller arrived. he noticed the high walls of the slaughtering house and was told that a mikveh might be located at the site, despite rabbis at the time who were bewailing the disappearance of traditional Judaism.

Previous discoveries of mikvehs, one of them dating back to the 1840s in Baltimore, didn’t prepare Miller for what he found in Connecticut because the rural mikveh was made of stone with concrete floors, unlike those found in Baltimore and elsewhere.

“I know what a mikveh is,” Miller said. “And this doesn’t look anything like a modern mikveh. What I’m expecting is a tiled pool. And suddenly I’m seeing concrete. I’m standing there staring at this and thinking, ‘Where am I? Am I in Sepphoris [an archaeological site in Israel]? Is this really Chesterfield, Connecticut?”

Miller knowledge of mikvehs, both in the United States and in Israel., led him to work with his team to excavate a pipe that provided water from a nearby slope.

“They theorize that the settlers fulfilled the religious command to use only water from the heavens or the earth by connecting the mikveh to a brook or pond about 200 yards away and relying on gravity to draw the water into the ritual bath.,” the university website reported.

Further research in archives allowed the researches to get a clearer picture of Jewish life in the farming community 120 years ago. One letter, written in Yiddish around 1915, lamented the demise of a creamery that was going bankrupt.

One surprise concerning Jewish law was that the Connecticut mikveh’s stairs were made of wood, which also lined the walls and in apparent contradiction to laws in the Talmud that forbid the use of wood in building a mikveh. Further research revealed that many Eastern European communities interpreted the law differently.

The researchers plan further excavations to uncover the remains of the old synagogue in Chesterfield, which was partially destroyed by arson in 1972 and completely destroyed eight years later.

Why Don’t We Celebrate Two Days of Purim in Jerusalem?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

While the rest of Israel celebrates Purim this Sunday (the 14th of Adar), Jerusalem celebrates on Monday (the 15th of Adar).

Why?

Well, the easy answer is “because Jerusalem is a walled city from the time of Joshua.”

Which is partially right.  Jerusalem was a walled city in the time of Joshua, but the walls we see today were built in the 1500s, in the Ottoman Era.  From the early 13th century and until the mid-16th century, Jerusalem was not a walled city at all.  And indeed, it was unclear to the Jews of that time when they should celebrate Purim.

Rabbi Eshtori Ha-Parchi of the 14th century tells us that when he came to Israel, he was told that in Jerusalem they celebrated on both the 14th and 15th of Adar, as they were uncertain which one they were obligated to keep.  Rabbi Eshtori brings an entire Halachic discussion about what should be done, and adds that he wrote his rabbi, Rabbi Matityah in Bet-Shean, to ask him what he should do.

Rabbi Matityah wrote him back: If I would be in Jerusalem on the 14th of Adar, and they would read the Megillah, I would leave the synagogue.  Otherwise they could say about me “The fool walketh in darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2, 14).  And the same is true for Tiberias.

Rabbi Eshtori finished by saying that Rabbi Matityah is right.

We don’t know what changed the minds of the Jews of Jerusalem, but today there is no doubt – and we celebrate Purim in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar.

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Menachem Elon: The Sweet Revolutionary

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Justice Menachem Elon, who passed away on February 6, revolutionized the study of Jewish law, Mishpat Ivri. He personally took the Choshen Mishpat – the hornbook of Torah laws on interpersonal relations – out of the closet of the yeshivas, where it was the specialized expertise of rabbis given the honorific accolade of Yadin Yadin, into the modern courtroom.

Scores of leading American law schools now emulate Elon and offer courses in Jewish or Talmudic law. Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset now look proudly to our traditional teachings when they enact laws that govern a contemporary society because Elon taught them that the wisdom of centuries of rabbinic study and debate can guide a modern society.

He was an intellectual revolutionary, but unlike most historic figures who have broken new paths, he had no ego. All who knew him were struck by his humility, personal grace, compassion, and sweetness. Lawyers are a contentious lot, but Menachem Elon – a mentor to hundreds of lawyers – had no sharp elbows. Though he differed frequently with colleagues on the Israeli Supreme Court – and particularly with Aharon Barak, who served as president of the court for much of Elon’s tenure – he never was heard to utter an unkind word about those with whom he disagreed.

As a frequent guest in the Elon home and one who was in tune with virtually all his views, I expected expressions of acrimony from him over issues on which his opinions were rejected by less traditionally oriented colleagues. I never heard what I expected. Dissenting judges frequently say, “I respectfully disagree,” not truly meaning the respect that the words express. Justice Elon truly respected even those who disagreed or did not comprehend his own commitment to Torah and Halacha.

A remarkable feature of Elon’s scholarship was his insistence on personally doing the work that bore his name. When I first met him, the English translation of his monumental Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri was being crafted by American lawyers and scholars Bernard Auerbach and Melvin J. Sykes. Elon happily confided in me how much he enjoyed his many sessions with the translators, reviewing punctiliously the remarkable work they did in making his landmark treatise understandable (and even enjoyable) to English-speaking readers.

In their Introduction to the Jewish Publication Society’s four-volume translation, Auerbach and Sykes observed that they had benefited from “the many hours we have spent with Justice Elon” and said that the product was “more than just a translation, our work has been a collaboration with him.”

Justice Elon encouraged me to file friend-of-the-court briefs in cases pending in the United States Supreme Court to transmit to the American justices the wisdom of Jewish law on issues that came before the court.

In 1999 and again in 2007 the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of execution methods that were excessively cruel. A brief I wrote and filed in 1999 on behalf of Jewish groups appended 30 pages from an English translation of the Talmud in Sanhedrin. My friend-of-the-court brief concluded with the observation that “if execution by the electric chair, as administered in Florida, results in unnecessary pain and disfigurement, it would be unacceptable under the principles underlying the traditional Jewish legal system applied 2,000 years ago, and should also be unacceptable under the Eighth Amendment today.”

To top off more ancient authorities, I cited and quoted Justice Elon’s conclusion in an opinion he wrote for the Israeli Supreme Court in State of Israel v. Tamir:

According to Jewish law, a death sentence must be carried out with the minimum of suffering and without offense to human dignity. This is based on the biblical verse, “Love your fellow as yourself,” and the rule is, “Choose for him a humane death.” From this we declare that even a condemned felon is your “fellow.” The justice gave my brief – which I sent him in draft form before I filed it – the personal attention and critical review I had hoped for, and he even considered seriously (but wisely rejected) my request that he formally attach his name to it.

He was, of course, a master of the Hebrew language, and he wrote lovingly and poetically not only about the law but also about Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. He came within a hairs-breadth of being selected Israel’s president, and no one could have filled that position with greater elegance than Menachem Elon.

The Ketubah as a Prenup

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

I was just reading an article in The Forward about a “Jewish prenuptial agreement” being upheld in the American courts.

For the first time, a state court has affirmed the constitutionality of a Modern Orthodox-sponsored prenuptial agreement meant to protect agunot — Jewish women “chained” by husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce. Read more.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have always considered the Ketubah, Jewish Marriage “contract” to be a prenup of sorts.  Actually, it’s not a contract; it’s more of a signed pledge by the husband to give financial compensation to the wife if the marriage must end.

The main purpose of the ketubah is to prevent a husband divorcing his wife against her will, which, in talmudic times, he had the right to do. The knowledge that he had to pay his wife her ketubah would serve as a check against hasty divorce.

The wife promises nothing in return.  The Chabad site adds more information:

The ketubah is a binding document which details the husband’s obligations to his wife, showing that marriage is more than a physical-spiritual union; it is a legal and moral commitment. The ketubah states the principal obligations of the groom to provide his wife with food, clothing and affection along with other contractual obligations.

If the Ketubah would be taken seriously, as an enforceable legal document then there would be fewer agunot, ”chained” women awaiting Jewish divorce from their husbands.  And maybe some men would think a lot more before threatening their wives with divorce.

What’s interesting is that the Ketubah actually gives the wife the upper hand in marriage.  It lists what the husband must do and basically takes for granted that the wife will do whatever is expected.  She doesn’t sign the document.

It’s too bad that the Ketubah isn’t taken more seriously in courts, both in Israel and abroad.

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Telling it Like it is – Publicly

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

There is a thoughtful and challenging post by Dr. Yoel Finkelman on CrossCurrents that discusses an issue I touched upon in aprevious post. Therein – among other things – I bemoaned the fact that a Torah personality of renown chose to remain anonymous about expressing some very strong feelings he had. He was disappointed and even shocked at how members of his own Charedi world reacted to a Kiddush HaShem done by an Orthodox Boxer.

I don’t know who it is, but I applaud that Rabbi’s concern. However I still question why he chooses to remain anonymous about it. I felt then, as I still do that had he put the power and prestige of his own name behind his feelings instead of asking a prominent writer (Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein) to write about it, the impact would have been much greater.

Dr. Finkelman uses this as a jumping off point to ask why this Torah personality felt he had to hide his identity from the truth. If he truly felt he was espousing a Torah viewpoint, why not come out and say so? What was he afraid of?

Dr. Finkelman provides us with an answer: The infamous Kanoim (religious zealots). We all know about them by now. These are people who ride roughshod on rabbinic personalities and try and manipulate them under the guise of standing up for Torah values. There are consequences when a given Gadol doesn’t listen to them.

I recall an instance where a Torah personality said something similar to Jonathan Rosenblum about another important issue. He was afraid of being called a ‘Fake Gadol’ by stating his opinion on the matter. He therefore chose to not address the problem personally and allowed Jonathan to do it in his stead.

I have said it before and I will say it again. No matter how altruistic one is – if he is afraid to speak the truth out of fear of being attacked, that is not leadership.

Now I am sympathetic to someone that fears the consequences from a zealous group of ‘defenders of the faith’. If someone is not in a position of leadership that is one thing. But if he is, then he is required to stand up and to lead.

Although I do not hide behind an alias, I am not in a position of leadership and do not face the kind of zealotry that these Rabbinic leaders must face. However with a relatively large readership that spans the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy and beyond – I have certainly experienced some of that zealotry. It is not pleasant when it happens. And it affects my family. I almost stopped blogging a while ago because of it. But I feel it is important to speak the truth as I see it and understand it.  Occasionally I have suffered the consequences for that and have been attacked (verbally) on more than one occasion.

Whatever pressures I have felt, multiply that exponentially for a Torah personality of national or international repute. I therefore completely understand when a rabbinic leader fears the repercussions of his words. So even though our situations are similar, they are not comparable.

Perhaps it is easy for me to judge, not being in his shoes. But the truth is that if one is a leader one must rise to the occasion and overcome the fear. If we are to be a people of the highest morals, values, and ethics, it behooves our leaders to be unafraid to teach us what they are… even if it upsets a few zealots.

I would go a step further, if I were in his shoes. I would condemn these Kannaim and put them in their place publicly and de-fang them. They should be identified and told to cease and desist from the overly zealous pressure they put on their leaders. On the pain of excommunication (or something akin to it) by a Beis Din.

All of this begs the question about the actual value of Daas Torah as the Charedi Rabbanim teach it. The fact seems to be that there are issues they believe in which are not publicly addressed. And yet at virtually every Agudah convention at least one speaker, talks about the importance of listening to Daas Torah and hammers away at it.

Daas Torah defines what Agudah is all about. But if their rabbinic leaders cannot express their Daas Torah fully and freely out of fear, what is it really worth anyway? Partial Daas Torah is not Daas Torah. It behooves the membership of the Agudah Moetzes and other rabbinic leaders of prominence to reassess their fears and stand up for their beliefs. And not fear telling the people the word of God as they understand it.

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My Machberes

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Satmar Shidduch

In the midst of preparations for the grand Satmar chassunah held on Wednesday, October 17, another grandchild of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, became engaged. On October 15, Zvi Hersh Meisels was engaged to the daughter of Rabbi Naftali Meir Babad, Tarnopol Rav in Kensington and Tartikov Rosh Beis Din; son of Rabbi Asher Aleksander Babad, zt”l (1910-1985), Tartikover Rav, and son-in-law of Rabbi Kalman Pinter, zt”l (d. 2009), Sulzberger Rav.

The chassan is the son of Rabbi Shimon Zev Meisels, Rav of the Beirach Moshe district of Kiryas Yoel and author of Sefer Binyan Shimon. The chassan is the grandson of Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels, Seagate Rav, as well as of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. The engagement was formalized in the home of the kallah’s father in Boro Park. In Kiryas Yoel, long lines led to the home of the Satmar Rebbe where well-wishers gave their joyous mazel tovs.

Women And Hatzolah

Rachel Freier, an attorney representing women in the greater Boro Park community, had long felt there was a need for emergency services for women in labor to conform to our community’s level of modesty. The idea “has nothing to do with feminism, it has to do with the dignity of women and their modesty,” said Mrs. Freier.

Though turned down by Hatzolah, she was careful to avoid framing the proposal as a critique of the widely praised organization, whose work she respects greatly. Instead, she said it was a matter of reclaiming a “job that has been the role of women for thousands of years [that of a midwife].” We are proud of Hatzolah,” she said, adding, “Hatzolah leaders do not fully understand what a woman feels like when she is in labor.”

Ezras Nashim, Hebrew for “women’s section,” the name of the new organization, is modeled after a program created two years ago in New Square. Hatzolah’s four-member rabbinical board released a memo for members saying they would not engage in discussions on the matter. A similar proposal had been rejected some 25 years ago.

Mrs. Freier had attempted to reach Hatzolah’s leaders to arrange a meeting. “The initial plan was for me to meet with Hatzolah and explain the need for women to join,” she said. “However, I was told that the policy of women not joining Hatzolah was set years ago…. We’re just trying to make a great organization even better. We’re not filing a complaint. We’re coming with a suggestion.”

On February 26 of this year, Mrs. Freier opened a recruitment drive for Ezras Nashim and a number of women indicated strong interest in joining. In total, Ezras Nashim had at its outset more than 200 women with various levels of medical training in its ranks. Mrs. Freier continued discussions on the matter with rabbinical leaders in the community. The new organization has the blessing of several rabbis.

Women And Burkas

In Israel, small groups of women living in some observant neighborhoods have chosen to wear burkas (a loose garment covering the entire body worn by Muslim women) in order to achieve maximum tznius. Not one recognized rabbi has endorsed burkas for Jewish women. On the contrary, several leading rabbis have strongly expressed their opposition to the strange behavior.

On Sunday, October 14, one of the “shawl women” was in the throes of childbirth and refused to be taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for fear of chillul Shabbos.

The story began when a man rushed into the shul on Avraham Ben-David Street early Shabbos morning calling for assistance for his pregnant wife. A member of Ichud Hatzalah of Bnei Brak went with the man. As they were running to the apartment, an ambulance was summoned.

The husband, however, told the Hatzolah member to cancel the call, explaining that his wife would refuse an ambulance since it was Shabbos.

The husband and the Hatzolah member were met by a second the Hatzolah member when they reached the apartment. They tried persuading the mother to travel to the hospital by ambulance, but she refused.

The first Hatzolah member called his mother, a midwife, and the delivery took place at the apartment. After the delivery they again attempted to persuade the new mother to be taken by ambulance but she remained obstinate.

Just Say No… to the Nonsense of the iPhone Smashing Rabbis

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Stories like the one in a Jerusalem Post article about the public smashing of an iphone by a Bnei Brak rabbi are so common place that reporting on them is no longer news worthy. And commenting on them has become an exercise in redundancy. In fact I just wrote about a story like this. This story takes it step further though. It is not only about how evil smart-phones are. It is about how vile and disgusting the people who own them are!

I am beginning to find that the more I see a story like this, the more I just want to fold up my tent, and go home. No matter how much one wants to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus and judge people and their actions favorably, a story like this comes along which makes it extremely difficult to do so. Here is an excerpt:

During his tirade, given from behind a table with an iPhone sitting on it, the rabbi inveighed against anyone possessing the popular smart phone. “A religious person who owns this impure device is an abomination and a disgusting, vile villain,” (Rabbi Lior) Glazer said.

OK. We all know about it. We all know that improper use of a smart-phone can lead to a disaster:

(Rabbi Lior) then gave an account of a man who had purchased an iPhone, which “ruined his life” and on account of which he got divorced from his wife.

Of course Rabbi Lior fails to take into account the very likely fact that this fellow probably had ‘issues’ that led him to “ruin his life” in that way. Issues that mentally healthy people do not.  That was the real cause of the problem.  As was the case with a Charedi principal who published his own story (in the now defunct Jewish Observer) of how he got caught up with child pornography on his computer.

As I recall him telling it, he said he never had any issues with child porn until he accidentally chanced upon it one day. Which led to him being caught in a police ‘sting’ operation. (Right!  He wanted us to believe that he was never a pedophile. As if the computer made him become one. Does anyone believe that?)

Nonetheless, Rabbi Lior, like virtually every other Rav in the very right-wing Charedi world of Bnei Brak blames such things on the technology. And not the abnormal psychology of the individual.

This is not to say that there aren’t problems for normal people. Of course there is. Especially for children whom we want to protect from these images. But this community sees a problem and uses the nuclear option to solve it! It is tantamount to killing a patient that has cancer in order to destroy the cancer.  Obvioulsy they see absolutely no value in smart-phones.  Which is why the following happened:

At the end of his sermon, the rabbi recited a brief prayer requesting that God defeat the nation of Amalek, an ancient enemy of the Israelites and Jewish people used as a catchall for evil in general. He then proceeded to smash the offending iPhone with a hammer in front of his audience until it was left in pieces on the table.

I need not mention how absolutely ridiculous this is. Or how much ignorance this shows about the value of iphones. Or how futile this gesture is. Or the possible Chilul HaShem this may be because of how ignorant it makes our rabbis look.

I also seriously doubt there are too many people who bought an iphone who will be moved to rid themselves of it by hearing of this.  Nor do I believe that of those Charedim who do own iphones would ever access pornography – except for those like that elementary school  principlal that have some sort of psychological problem.

One of the things that I believe to be driving this mentality is the idea that it is only a problem for religious Jews. And that the non Jewish world is evil by nature. Or just doesn’t care about it. We are not like the Goyim. We are a holy people! We must separate ourselves from them!  And THIS  is how a Torah Jew deals with it!  THIS is how we are Mekadesh Shem Shamyim – sanctify God’s name!

Really? That is another big mistake they make. There is not a decent parent in the civilized world – Jew or gentile – that isn’t concerned by what goes on in the dark corners of the internet. Pornography is available at a single click of a mouse.Chat rooms abound with pedophiles trying to lure victims into their net all the time. They are good at what they do. They can entice even the nicest and most innocent young girls or boys from the best of homes to come and see them under the most innocent sounding pretext.

This happens every day. Hundreds of times. These rabbis are not the only ones who know that. Everyone does. It is not a secret. We are all in this together – Jew and gentile alike. The Torah world is not unique in its very legitimate ‘fear’ of the internet’s very accessible dark side. That’s why there are filters. Filters -  and guidelines of internet use for children – that were created by non Jews.

No rational person should do to an iphone what Rabbi Lior and many others like him did, smashing it to pieces as though he was destroying Amalek… and treat anyone who uses an iphone as though they were the most vile people on earth!

A far better example for us is the non Jewish “First Family”. From the Daily Mail Online (May 12th):

Barack Obama has revealed that he made his eldest daughter wait until she was 12 before allowing her to have a cell phone. The President said that he finally agreed to give 13-year-old Malia a mobile last year – but banned her from using it during the week. His youngest daughter Sasha, nine, has been told she must wait before being given the same privilege.  During the week neither of the Presidential daughters can use their computers or watch TV for anything except homework either, he added.

This may not be the exact way we should handle it. But it is a lot closer to that than what Rabbi Lior did. I think most rational people realize that smashing iphones is not the way to solve the problems of the internet.

Or do they?

I wonder just how many people are affected by something like this. It isn’t like Rabbi Lior just decided out of the blue to smash an iphone in public. This technology was after all banned by another Bnei Brak Rabbi, whom many consider the Posek HaDor.  And he was not the only Charedi Rav in who banned it! Rabbi Lior and others like him are simply taking their cues from them.

Is it just a few extremists or are there actually mainstream Charedi Jews who so shun the internet that they would resort to smashing them when they find them – as if they were destroying Amalek?  Is this how the world of the right sees it?

Is this the issue they think will destroy the Jewish people more than any other? If that is the case, how are they going to treat the vast majority of Jews who will no doubt ignore this event and the edicts that generated it.  It isn’t only Modern Orthodox Jews that use smart phones. It is the Charedi world too. Like Agudah Executive Director, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, who pulled out his Blackberry during a speech he gave about the evils of the internet at the last Agudah convention!

Is there now going to be a new divide among Charedim themselves – the “evil” Charedim who are as vile as Amalek for having an iphone and those who think iphones should be smashed?

I almost hope that is the case. Because if that happens, I welcome the “evil” ones.  Because they are NOT evil.  They are normal. They will survive into the future. Those who smash iphones will isolate themselves into extinction. We should honor those who stay on the rational side of this new divide. And for their courage in just saying NO! to nonesense.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/to-inform-or-not-to-inform-that-is-the-question/2012/09/14/

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