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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Metzitza B’Peh’

Rabbinical Group Aims to Standardize Circumcision in Europe

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

A European rabbinical group has created a union to include every mohel – ritual circumciser – in an effort to standardize ritual circumcision and combat attempts to ban it.

Based on the model of Britain’s Initiation Society, the Union of Mohalim in Europe seeks to “unite approved mohalim across Europe under a single banner, ensuring that all communities can be assured of the high level of training and regulation,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the Conference of European Rabbis.

In April, a dispute occurred between the Conference of European Rabbis and a Chabad rabbi from a rival group, the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. The Chabad rabbi, Menachem Margolin, published an op-ed criticizing the Conference of European Rabbis for its disapproval of metitzah b’peh — a controversial ritual involving oral suction of the circumcision wound…”

In December 2012, German lawmakers passed a law that guarantees parents the right to circumcise boys for religious reasons. The vote followed a court ruling in Cologne that defined ritual circumcision as causing “bodily harm,” and the German parliament later passed a law preserving ritual circumcision. However, the Cologne court ruling led to partial bans on circumcision in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and intensified the heated debate over the issue in Scandinavian countries and beyond.

Israeli Rabbinate Backs Berlin Rabbi for Oral Suction at Brit

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has sent a letter of support to Berlin Chabad Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, who was charged by an anti-circumcision activist for practicing the ritual of oral suction of a small amount of blood at a circumcision.

The practice is widely accepted in Israel but caused controversy in the New York area after several reports of herpes. At least two boys died and two others suffered brain damage in the 11 cases of herpes reported by New York City health officials after the practice was carried out at circumsions in the years 2004-2011.

Last September, the board of health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain signed consent forms from parents before performing the rite.

Rabbi Moshe Morsiano, director of the division for circumcisions in the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, emphasized in his letter that that the ritual of oral suction should not be carried out when the mohel is ill or has a sore in his mouth.

Rabbi Morsiano listed a number of opinions written by rabbis of the past several generations, all whom concluded that the ritual, known in Hebrew as Metzitza B’Pe, is integral part of ritual circumcision.

The Rabbinical Center of Europe, which represents m ore than 700 rabbis, also has supported Rabbi Teichtal.

The controversy in Germany is particularly important because of last year’s ruling by a judge in a German province that circumcision is illegal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in and backed legislation to make sure that religious circumcision remained legal.

“The Jews of Europe must have religious freedom,
said the Rabbinical Center. “All Jewish leaders have the responsibility and obligation to stop any interference with any detail of Jewish practice”.

Mother Blames Mohel for Baby’s Herpes after Circumcision

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

This year’s second case of herpes resulting from the “metzitzah b’peh” custom immediately after circumcision was reported in New York, and the mother of the baby has blamed the mohel for performing to rite without her consent.

The baby survived after contacting the disease following the ritual of the mohel sucking a bit of blood after the circumcision, a custom that is practiced mainly by the Haredi orthodox community in the United States but which is common throughout Israel.

Controversy over the procedure and numerous reports of Herpes prompted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to require parents to sign a consent form before the procedure can be performed.

The mother of the baby said she the mohel did not ask her for permission.

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.

Metzitza B’Peh: Infant Russian Roulette

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

The most recent issue of Ami Magazine called on readers to oppose New York City’s proposed law requiring informed parental consent before performing Metzitza B’Peh.

Just when I thought there was nothing more to say on the issue of Metzitza B’Peh (MbP), the cover story in Ami Magazine compels me to comment.

The ultimate analogy to MbP is the following. Take a gun that has a 1 million bullet capacity. Place one bullet in one of the chambers leaving the rest empty. Take that gun, point it at the head of your 8 day old infant and pull the trigger.

Is there a sane person in the world that would do that? I think the answer is obvious.You would have to be literally insane to do such a thing even though the odds of killing the baby are statistically insignificant. Why would anyone do such a foolish thing? There is a loaded gun and a chance that the bullet will end up in your child’s head!

And yet that is precisely the argument being made by those who oppose the proposed New York City law requiring informed consent by parents before allowing a Mohel to do Metzitza B’Peh. The argument is that the percentage of infants found to have been infected by herpes due to MbP is statistically so insignificant that requiring parents be informed about the danger is an unwarranted governmental interference in the practice of Judaism.

The logic of this argument truly escapes me. I wonder how they would answer the question I posed? Would they tell you that you should point a loaded gun to your child and pull the trigger? Even if the chances are 1 in a million that the bullet will not be fired? I think I know what their answer would be.

Another argument they make is that there is no absolute incontrovertible evidence connecting the herpes contracted by the infant to the Mohel. This is true. Furthermore they say that in any case the Mohel washes his mouth out with an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine.

The problem with these arguments is that they lack any common sense. Is there any question that it is possible that a Mohel with an active herpes virus (unbeknownst to him) can transmit it to a child via oral contact with an open wound? Even people with the most rudimentary knowledge of medical science know that it is possible.The fact that there is no conclusive proof that this was the case in the cases cited above doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. The circumstantial evidence that they did pass it on to the infant was very persuasive to the CDC. Furthermore washing a mouth out with a strong mouthwash like Listerine has no effect on viruses. Antiseptics only work on bacteria.

My friends, performing MbP is playing Russian roulette with your child’s life! Are you willing to pull that trigger?

And yet there is a religious argument to be made in favor of it. This is what is really at stake here. Chasidim are adamant that MbP is an absolute religious requirement! If I understand correctly – they view a Bris done without MbP to be invalid! Leaving out the fact that that is certainly not the universal view in Judaism – including the view of many Gedolim of the past and present, let us grant them their right to believe that. They therefore argue that this is a church-state issue.

The problem with this argument is that the constitutional right to freedom of religion is not absolute. When there is a compelling interest of society that contradicts a religious ritual, the government has a right to interfere. To put this point in stark relief I will use an extreme example. If there was a religion that required human sacrifice, the government would certainly be within its rights to legislate against it. While MbP is nowhere near human sacrifice, the principle is the same. Where to draw the line of “compelling interest” is beyond my pay-scale and I will leave it to constitutional scholars to sort out.

That said, I would be opposed to the government legislating against doing MbP. That it is considered so vital by so large a segment of Jewry combined by the low probability of a child ever contracting herpes moves me to oppose it. In this case I do feel that banning the procedure would be an unconstitutional impediment to freedom of religion.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/metzitza-bpeh-infant-russian-roulette/2012/09/03/

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