The attack on Bris Milah and Halacha

There are numerous reports in the press (see here) and on the internet describing Governmental and Human Rights Advocates opposing the practice of  ברית מילה  ,חס ושלום. This is a disturbing phenomenon and is something I’d like to see a world conference of leaders, yes even including Reform and Conservative, address. My view is that there needs to be representation across every group so that a consistent, cogent, well-argued, statistically supported and sensitive protocol of responses developed. The arguments need to be generic, and should be as accessible to the Aguda advocate, the Israel Rabbinate, the RCA, et al as well as the Reform advocate. This is a matter of extreme importance, and כלל ישראל assuming its loosest definition needs to unite and defend with vigour, professionalism, not to mention localised quiet diplomacy (at least at first).

This is an issue where most Yidden can unite, and I’d hope that the Eybishter would feel positively that we defend this attack on a most fundamental element of our identity. There are scholars, for example, who contend that the real reason for the Bar Kochba revolt against the Roman emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus, was due to the ban on ברית מילה.

There is a “side-issue”, however. That side-issue is Metzitza B-Feh מציצה בפה (immediate post oral suctioning after the cut). Look at the disgraceful description of this process here, for example. I call it a side issue not because I am taking sides and declaring oral suctioning unimportant or irrelevant to the Halachic process. I’m calling it a side issue because by over-focussing on this aspect, many un-diplomatic and emotive outbursts are now finding voice and providing uninvited fodder. These comments are not part of an over-arching considered, diplomatically crafted and complete strategy, as I’ve advocated above. Certainly it is an aspect of a ברית that will be used by those with a genuine concern about the methodology, and those who are against Milah, with or without oral suctioning. It’s important to remember that. There are even grossly distasteful “Jewish” blogs, that sound triumphant every time there is even a distant piece of uncorroborated information that suggests oral suctioning causes illness, or even death. Balanced individuals do ascribe genuine concern. However, anyone who emerges from the quagmire of those loshon-hora laden and defamatory blogs, knows that a quick shower followed by immersion in a mikvah is needed to remove the shmutz therein as a sanity starting point. ה ירחם

My own views:

Both my sons’ Brissen involved מציצה בפה (as did my grandsons). I didn’t ask questions at that time nor was it uppermost in my mind. On an halachic scale, I consider the oral practice as sufficient but not necessary. Doing so via a tube, is more in keeping with how I see the issue from a halachic point of view. It’s terrible though, that both sides of the מציצה argument (which is as old as the hills) are now again into name calling and delegitimisation. It is not helpful to say that it is forbidden by the Torah not to have מציצה בפה. In the same way, it is not helpful to say that it is forbidden to do so. There are very healthy (sic) and weighty halachic giants on both sides of the argument.

There is a tendency for each side to publicly belittle and malign the other’s valid halachic position. Above all, however, if there are sound and health-related concerns which are beyond statistical dispute and which may well be due to changing circumstances and new realities, such that the practice ought to now be forbidden using direct oral suctioning because this can be shown to be a direct or event contributory cause towards danger to the infant, then and only then, should there be a meeting of all Orthodox Rabonim, from around the world to re-examine the issue and indeed ban it across the board in favour of a tube.

My fear is that, at the minute, discussion of this is on a public world-stage and it only fuels those נכרים and נדחים who are impurely motivated against מילה in the first place.

I do hear the argument that in the current world climate, or at least in some countries, אפילו לשנויי ערקתא דמסאנא, we even resist even dicta to wear particular types of shoe laces (see סנהדרין עד) and, accordingly, as above, unless there is a genuine health issue, even those who are opposed to the need for oral suctioning without a tube, should get behind those who contend that such oral suctioning is an integral part of מילה. We are facing, in my estimation, new attacks. שחיטה is another.

In keeping with my view, I would argue that even those who are halachically or non halachically vegetarian, should cease that practice and insist on now eating meat (as opposed to the view expressed here), since there is a חשש that the אומות העולם are acting in a manner which is questionable and which threatens our rights and freedom to practice כללי הדת.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

5 thoughts on “The attack on Bris Milah and Halacha”

  1. Babies have contracted genital herpes from מציצה בפה. This is a life-changing illness that can even lead to death in newborns. It is beyond dispute that this has happened. Call it a case of nishtaneh hateva, but the practice cannot be condoned.


  2. My understanding is that using cotton wool and a pipette is all that is medically necessary, but there are many mohelim who are doctors who undoubtedly have a better idea than me.


  3. Sorry, I meant that that while I am in no sense an expert on this, my understanding is that preventative measures are sufficient.


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