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Clarification From HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky Regarding Metzitzah B’Peh

I wish to clarify remarks that were attributed to me on the subject of Metzitzah B’Peh.

The practice is indeed time honored and is followed by the majority of the Orthodox Jewish community today around the world, as it has been for thousands of years.

To my knowledge, it has not been proven that the practice leads to contraction of illness. The halacha is extremely sensitive to health concerns and it is wrong to insinuate that Jews who are very particular in the care of their children would be engaging in a practice for thousands of years which is inherently dangerous.

We have a sacred responsibility to protect our children from danger and that responsibility is paramount. However, in the absence of an inherent danger from our performing mitzvos or following our traditions, we must follow them. In my view, there has been no demonstration of an inherent danger associated with Metzitzah B’Peh.

The statement that, “I don’t think there is a response to them,” referred specifically to those who allegedly said it would be invalid to use a tube where there are demonstrable health issues present as to either the Mohel or the child.

Similarly my comment that in my community “as far as I know they do metzitzah with a tube,” refers to a case where a health concern has been established and was in no manner intended to suggest that I believe that it should be universally adopted.

In no way should what I said be misconstrued as supporting the curbing of, or outside interference with, Metzitzah B’Peh. In fact, we have very effectively self-regulated the practice over the past 3500 years.

Jews have made tremendous sacrifices over the millennia to properly observe our religious obligations and traditions; it would be a shame to return to the days when parents and circumcisers feared performing the hallowed bris which enters every Jewish male into a covenant with God.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

22 Responses

  1. The Jewish Week is an anti semetic, anti religious rag. Nothing more. It uses the word Jewish in its name as a cover up. Much like J Street is a so called Jewish organization. These are people with a real chip on their shoulder and lots of guilty feelings. I pity them.

  2. It was clear from the way the article was written, that Rav Shmuel was tricked into the comments that were attributed to him.
    The Jewish Week seems to be leading the fight to eliminate Metzizah B’Peh, perhaps as surrogates for many in the MO community. Rav Shmuel would not issue nor publicize his Daas Torah via this medium.

  3. An obvious issue is whether the risk of contracting disease is universal or specific to certain individuals. The anti-Jewish mouthpieces, such as the Anti-Jewish Week routinely seek to blaspheme anything they gat their hands on, and Metzitzah b’Peh is one of those issues. Reb Shmuel shlit”a was suckered into a statement that was taken out of context and aired – concerning a mohel that had the disease. Look at the rishus of these people, the anti-Jewish media and similar groups, and those who claim to be spokepeople for Klal Yisroel. Shame on them. May we be protected from hearing these voices of blasphemy.

  4. dmmd,
    You lie just like the Jewish Week. Please read the article linked. Its NOT a “documented” case. its just an article about the issue with admittedly NO proof or documentation. They say they don’t even know which mohel did the bris!!!!

  5. People should send email to the jewish weeks editor. I just did from their web site. Their misrepresentation and sly ways of collecting statements for their papers should not be used on our gedolim!

  6. to dmmd: But there’s not a shred of evidence in that article that links a particular case to a mohel as opposed to some other caretaker who had contact with the child. That’s the issue in these “cases” there are many possible sources and no tests have confirmed contraction of a disease from a mohel over any other person the baby encountered. Also I have not seen any statistics about the percentage of cases in post-mila babies compared to the population at large. Without good evidence it just seems like another anti-mila campaign. It is extremely hard to believe that health danger is not taken seriously … given how seriously it is taken in relation to shabbos or other care issues.

  7. (Without choliloh referring to the news story referred to in #5 where I know nothing about the Mohel:) There is a Tshuvah from Harav Samson Refoel Hirsch ztsl in which he writes that if there was ever a danger to the child, then is was caused by the immoral lifestyle of that paticular Mohel!

  8. Sad.
    There are ant-milah forces out there.
    The literature of neonatal herpes virus infections has grown over the past 15 years.
    The two aren’t related: not every medical researcher, public health epidemiologist, or pediatric intensivist is an anti-semite.

    We must fight the anti-semites and anti-milah forces out there. However, we must look at the medical literature honestly without automatically assuming there is an evil motivation behind it.

  9. To those who attacked dmmd:

    The reason “there’s not a shred of evidence” is because the mohelim in question either refused to come forward or refused to submit their DNA.

    Hmm … now why would that be?

    Wouldn’t the y be doing a great service to klal Yisroel if they would submit their DNA and prove that there was connection between themselves and the infected infants?

  10. To those who attacked dmmd:

    The reason “there’s not a shred of evidence” is because the mohelim in question either refused to come forward or refused to submit their DNA.

    Hmm … now why would that be?

    Wouldn’t they be doing a great service to klal Yisroel if they would submit their DNA and prove that there was no connection between themselves and the infected infants?

    That would end the debate.

    But why haven’t they done so?

    Any ideas?

  11. Shlomo 2 is right. If the accused mohelim prove themselves disease-free, it would be a Kiddush Hashem to silence the accusers who give fodder to our enemies. Furthermore, they’d alleviate the hurt and fear of parents (like myself) who entrusted them with their newborn children without prior knowledge that they are under investigation for transmitting infections. If they’re found positive, they should humbly be modeh to the emes and find a new parnassa.

  12. #19, first of all, you’re not telling the truth. RSRH did not base his accusation against infected mohalim on the Chasam Sofer! And the accusation is clear nonsense and motzi shem ra, as is obvious to any normal person, so shame on you for repeating it.

    As for the Chassam Sofer, the heter he gave was only in one case, which was an extreme sh’as had’chak.

  13. To Quixotic613:

    The DNA testing is not to see if the mohel is “diseased,” but to see if the DNA of the baby’s virus matched that of the mohel. If it does, this would show that the virus came from hi, If it did not match, then one could say that the link between the mohel and the child is unproven.

    To Millhouse:
    First steap is to establish the risk. This can only be done of hte mohelim cooperate.

    If the DNA link is established, at that point a shailah can be formulated as to how many deaths per thousand is acceptable in order to continue this practice.

  14. The three Tendler articles that link MBP to neonatal herpes do not give any example as to the parameters of what maternally contracted NHSV would resemble and how they differ from The cases presented. Tendler’s cases are in fact textbook cases of maternally transmitted HSV. Young (<25), White, sero-negative, primagravid, with a sero-positive (discordant) partner, 38 weeks gestation, SEM herpes appearing 10-12 days, Dissemated NHSV appearing 11-16 days, and CNS NHSV appearing 16-19 days, all "give or take a day". Some parameters may differ, but that's the textbook case. However any test that may implicate the mother or exonerate the mohel is not done. If you compare that claims in the three articles with their citations, the authors have a very nasty habit of quoting a citation and either writing something that cited article does not say or writing the exact opposite of the citation. As far as DNA comparison is concerned, the mohel need not co-operate. There are at least 4 cases where a mohel is accused of infecting more than one baby. DNA the virus of the two unrelated babies (with different parents, hospitals, and caretakers) and a common Mohel. If the babies match, the Mohel is on the hot seat. Despite the fact that DNA testing has been used since 1976 to trace HSV-1 epidemics, this simple step was never done, including in Tendler's cases where 2 babies were in the same hospital within three weeks of each other. The reason being, if they don't match you lose half your cases. Likewise no test that would implicate the mother was performed. No follow up serology at 12-16 weeks to verify that she stayed seronegative and is not the source, and no test for a discordant partner.
    Asst. NYC health commissioner Dr. Julia Schillinger, the rishanta spearheading this pogrom is an idiot for the follow reasons:

    Despite being a co-author of at least 5 papers on the demographics of HSV infection she is oblivious to the fact that the authors rely on 1980 United States statistics to support the likelihood of a mohel transmitted infection in their Israeli and Canadian cases, while ignoring current Israei and Canadian papers which demonstate the likelihood of maternally transmitted HSV-1.
    Rubin and Lanskowsy exclude the mother from consideration in their 2 cases of HSV-1 infection because it's unlikely either mother had multiple partners, which is an HSV-2 risk factor and NOT an HSV-1 risk factor according to TWO articles by the everclueless Schillinger.
    Schillinger presented her research on the first year of manadatory NHSV reporting in NYC at the 2007 ISSTDR conference and despite the fact that 39% (2 out of 5 babies) of known cases of NHSV are HSV-1 , despite the fact that 66% of fatalities were due to HSV-1, and despite the fact that 66% of fatalities were girls, she maintains that any case of HSV-1 in the orthodox community is due to the mohel, when her own research says otherwise. As far as Fischer's testing is concerned, he was tested several times and never produced a virus. He declined further testing when Schillinger offerd the following no win situation: If he produces a virus that matches, he's banned for life from doing MBP, If produces a virus that doesn't match, he's banned for life from doing MBP because he produced a virus and he's a risk.

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