Belsky says Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP) Is Safe But Most Yeshivish Personalities are Silent

Yeshiva World and Matzav have been publicizing the kol koreh  (public proclamation) denouncing NYC moves to require mohelim (circumcisers) to get signed consent forms that describe the infection risks of Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP) which is oral suction to remove blood after circumcision. The Kol Koreh rails against this desecration of Jewish tradition, this imposition on religious freedom. The kol koreh has about 200 rabbinical signers. Strangely, not a single member of the Moetzes of Agudah has signed. In fact very few Yeshivish personalities have signed. I only notice Rabbis Wachtfogel,  Olshin, Solomon,  Feivel Cohen and Hillel David. Most of the Yeshiva world gedolim did not sign. Why is that?

The answer is simple, most of the Yeshivish world follows there own poskim who rejected MBP at various times during the last 100 years because they felt MBP was dangerous and thus against halachah. A hundred years earlier the Chassam Sofer also rejected MBP for similar reasons.

If you don’t believe me see this fine review article by Shlomo Sprecher. If you prefer going directly to rabbinical sources see Rabbi Moshe B. Pirutinsky’s Sefer Habrit (1972). Rabbi Pirutinsky, a mohel, was a student of the Chofetz Chaim. This sefer has haskamot (endorsements) by Rabbis C. Shmulevits, Y Hutner, Y Ruderman, M M Zaks, M Gifter, M Feinstein and S. Kotler. The sefer was reprinted six years later with the same haskamot. 

So it is not surprising that most yeshivish rabbonim will not sign the kol koreh. In fact the only interesting question is why R. Yisroel Belsky claims there are no risks. I am not surprised that in the current climate of science denial he insists he knows more about statistics than the experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most prestigious epidemiological organization in the world. By why is he also rejecting the conclusions about MBP put forth by the gedolim he reveres? The answer is that he is an occassional mohel who has practiced MBP for some years. Clearly, he made a decision at some point to go that route in spite of the predominant alternative view in the yeshiva world. The other interesting question is why the yeshivish world has not challenged the claim that MBP is safe? Actually my question is rhetorical. They are probably silent for political reasons.

NYC politics and the orthodox vote is why the health department came up with the signed consent form. If the Health Department had its way it would ban MBP. But they concluded that this will not stop it from happening. So they settled for warning parents. Chasidish parents will probably ignore the warning. But non-chasidic parents will think twice about MBP and will therefore think twice about hiring a hasidic mohel.

I wonder whether the litvish rabbonim who lack the courage to openly state their position are secretly hoping that the Health Department consent forms will prevent the spread of MBP into their world? The consent form will have an added bonus for the yeshivish world; it will help their mohelim get more work.

[Added 9/4/12- See this discussion of the medical evidence of the risk of MBP by mohel and vascular surgeon, G. A. Gelbfish.]

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14 thoughts on “Belsky says Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP) Is Safe But Most Yeshivish Personalities are Silent

  1. Link to the CDC report referrred to above:
    “Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Following Jewish Ritual Circumcisions that Included Direct Orogenital Suction — New York City, 2000–2011”
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6122a2.htm

    If you have never heard of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/about.html
    The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) series is prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    Often called “the voice of CDC,” the MMWR series is the agency’s primary vehicle for scientific publication of timely, reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective, and useful public health information and recommendations.
    MMWR readership predominantly consists of physicians, nurses, public health practitioners, epidemiologists and other scientists, researchers, educators, and laboratorians.

  2. The Proper Performance of Bris Milah
    http://www.haemtza.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-proper-performance-of-bris-milah.html
    Guest Post by Rabbi Moshe Zuriel
    “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….”

    • Nudnik, Thanks again. Your link is worth following. Rabbi Zuriel does a good job of establishing the halachic basis of fulfilling metzitzah by alternative methods. Most interesting was his point that all the original halachic sources dont have b’peh in their language. In other words, the requirement was suction, but the method is not specified. Since suction is an enactment to reduce health risks, the preferred method should be the one that is safest (i.e., via pipette).

  3. I live in the Yeshivish world, and I strongly disagree about the premise of the post. The Kol Koreh was signed by a wide spectrum of Rabbonim, and there is no need for more. The blogger does not bring a single example of any Rav who did not sign because of idealogical reasons. The reason is because there are none.
    I have attended hundreds of brissim of yeshivish (not chassidish) people, and have never seen metzitza that was not b”peh.
    As for the so-called science, there have been many questions asked about the methods these investigators used. In any event, the numbers of infected victims, even if they would be linked to Metzitza B’peh, are so minimal, that it is no less safe an activity than many other things i.e. drive cars.
    I have never heard of anyone in my extended network of friends, all of whom do MBP, that had a negative incident. I have, unfortunately been to levayos of car crash victims, and i have heard of many of those.

  4. One other question. Why has Rav Belsky, one of todays most knowlegable rabbis, been stripped of the title “Rabbi”. Very few people deserve it more than he does, even if you don’t agree with everything he does.

    • Very few mothers die in childbirth but everyone breaks shabbos to drive a pregnant women in labor to a hospital. B’h it rarely happens but we dont take the risk. the chasam sofer ruled we rely on medical opinion about whether to do MBP. medical opinion is unaninimous with exception one doctor. Why are you now a maven than all the doctors in the world except one who is a mohel himself (and therefore somewhat nogeiah b’davar)

      • I don’t know how you know the opinion of ALL doctors. The Yated has run articles by very prominent ones refuting the accusations about MBP. How many doctors do you know that did independant research on the effercts of MBP? But this really skirts the main issue, which is that risk- taking is something we all engage in To someone that places no value on MBP, why should they not just say that it’s better to do without it if there is ANY risk. Yet that same doctor will risk his life on a dangerous road just to attend a ball game, which he does place value on.
        Even this skirts the main topic of the original article, which is the laughable assertion that most Yeshiva Rabbonim purposely did not sign the Kol Koreh. Did you call even one prominent Yeshiva Rov before making this assertion? Why are you blaming Rav Belsky more than any of the other signatories. If your theory was correct the other Rabbonim would not have signed.

        • Please reread the article. Or perhaps even read it. It answers most of your questions. You are rudely hocking. Take the time to carefully ask a question in a way that respects what I have written carefully. Hocking is disrespectful. Then come back with a specific question or two that shows you are aware of what was said.

          re rosh yeshiva. I am a chasam sofer eynekel. His psak is good enough for me. It has been reaffirmed by many others as the sources above make clear.

  5. Just to draw a quick distiction between childbirth an dMBP. The Halachah is that risks that are normally taken by society are permissible under Halachah, whereas those that aren’t are prohibited. Normal procedure for a birthing mother is to get her under medical care. Normal procedure for a Bris is to do MBP.

    • Really. This is a modern chidush. Childbirth used to be done at home. Before Semmelweis hospitals were more dangerous (because they did not understand infection prevention). But medicine changed. So the very basis of the new normal practice, understanding of infection is why newer and better understanding lead to rejection of MBP as sakkonos nefashos. BTW, then it was tuberculosis that mohelim were spreading and led to band on MBP. Now it is herpes.

      Believe me, you do not want to somech on a surgeon who does not grasp all the basics of infection. They all also accep the CDC opinion.

      Stop reading Yated, Hamodia, YWN & Matzav. Try CDC bulletin, or latest consensus statements by professional organizations in pediatrics, infectious diseases, and epidemiology. Then we can discuss.

      Alternatively tell me you will go to Rav Belsky if you need a serious medical condition cured.

      • I just read the CDC report. According to them, chances of death as a result of MBP lies at 1 in 20,000. Just to contrast, I researched chances of deat in a car crash (over a lifetime of driving). 1 in 100. Will you still drive?

        • Shmerel, could you site your sources for the 1 in 100? BS, IMHO, give us the source. One in 100 people who travel in automobiles over a lifetime die in crashes??? Really, do you really believe that? Either you are fabricating, or you misunderstood some statistics that you read. 2012, are you still here???

  6. Car crash and risk of infection are not comparable for this. At least choose another similar transmittable disease.

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