Has the OU Gone Stupid?

I understand that the Orthodox Union (OU) panders to its ultra orthodox constituency even to the extent of supporting Rabbi Belsky in his defense of convicted child molesters and his rejection of the CDC’s scientific competency about the risks of MBP. I even get that they are backtracking on the scientific evidence that oral-genital suction during circumcision is dangerous.

But now they have entered the realm of extreme amaratzus (rabbinical ignorance). According to Steven I Weiss, their publication, Jewish Action, now states,

Among halachic [Jewish law] authorities there is a consensus that suction must be performed, but they disagree as to whether the suction can be performed via a tube (thereby avoiding direct contact with the mouth) or via [direct] oral contact.”

Really! Last I heard, the Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moses Sofer) counted as a “halachic authority.” In 1837 he wrote to his student in Vienna, Rav Eliezer Horowitz,

Your valuable [letter] has reached me. You write correctly that we find no requirement to do mezizah specifically with the mouth. Only the mekubalim [kabalists/mystics] require this for they say that Divine judgment is softened through mouth and lips . We do not reckon, however, with the “hidden” when there is even a minute danger.

The psak (ruling) of Moses Sofer goes on to explain that pressure with a gauze is sufficient to meet the requirement of metzitzah.

So let me get this, they can claim a “halachic consensus” which ignores the chasam sofer, one of the most important poskim of the last few centuries who says oral suction is not required in any form.

The biography of the chasam sofer on the OU website begins, “To mention the Chasam Sofer is to evoke an aura of unique awe.” Terrible prose, but clearly, adulation.

If you know anyone at the OU, ask them, has the chasam sofer has lost his aura and is he  no longer part of the “halachic consensus?”

29 thoughts on “Has the OU Gone Stupid?

  1. It strikes me that a halachic consensus is beside the point. The practice is harmful to infants. Is there no hierarchy of mitzvot at all? Given that it’s known that oral contact with the circumcision wound allows for the transmission of disease is there no ‘higher’ halacha that directs that a Jew protect and preserve the life and safety of innocents, one that trumps whatever halacha that’s being cited as mandating MBP? A sick person is allowed to take medicine and to eat on Yom Kippur but nothing can come between a mohel’s mouth and an infant’s bleeding penis? One the one hand preservation of health and rachmanes for the sick is ascendant yet on the other hand – what? I’d like to have one of the frum commenters here explain the rationale for MBP in terms that would stand up to being read aloud to a mixed-gender, interfaith audience of intelligent well intentioned people without leaving them aghast and repulsed.

  2. MPB. The etiology of pedophilia. Carl Jung. The collective racial unconscious, This practice of MBP becomes part of that collective racial unconscious carried on for generations.. A craving, Add to that the brain damage from Herpes (amongst the pedophiles), Getting closer, And then during the two weeks of Niddah, the Tsadikim banging their heads against the wall, continual cumulative brain damage., These are just a few of the main causes of super charedi pedophilia, What are the statistics of pedophilia amongst,, Reform Conservative, Reconstructionist, Revival Jews? I am sure that some statistics could be gathered.
    Also, differerential rates of pedophilia amongst those who underwent MBP vs. those who didn’t (amongst the Charedi community)???

    Century old traditions, But Herpes was not an issue then, times change and for the collective health of our infants, one dead or diseased baby due to MBP is one too much.
    What an uproar over measles. When I was a kid, it was no big deal I did not get ot nor my sibling nor my unvaccinated children. I am am haaretz, how does that go , he who saves a life, ……. what about he who unnecessarily sacrifices a life?
    Did Hashem swhisper in Moshes ear, “suck them good????” There was no AIDS then either, but society has adapted to new health practices.,

    One damaged infant due to this pre-historic barbaric custom, is one too many..
    It would be interesting to do a psych eval. of charedi mohelim, What similarities do they have. Who is attracted to this “job”? It is not random.

    • Oral herpes was a huge issue, probably since MBP started. It is hard to trace, because it can be transmitted by symptomless carriers, and because babies died all the time in the olden days. But it was probably the “rash” the prompted the Chasam Sofer’s statement. Oral herpes is the major threat. And at least 60% of all adult humans naturally carry it. It has nothing to do with pedophilia, and it isn’t even an STD.

      I have never heard of HIV being transmitted via metzitza. It is probably possible, but it is not a major concern. Simply a propaganda tactic.

      As for measles, 0.3% of people who get it die and 10% of children have life threatening complications.

      • See my post Belsky says Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP) Is Safe But Most Yeshivish Personalities are Silent. Among other things I write:

        Most of the Yeshivish (non-Hasidic ultra orthodox) follows their own poskim who rejected MBP at various times during the last 100 years because they felt MBP was dangerous and thus against halachah.

        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.

        In the past the risks were the spread of tuberculosis and Syphilis. The essential fact is that since Semmelweis, medical practice has recognized the need for hygenic procedures. No licensed medical practitioner would ever apply his/lips to an open wound, unless there was a snake bite and there was no mechanical suction device available.

      • Never meant to imply that HIV is related to MBP, just that there are diseases whicih were unknown back at Har Sinai, And furthermore, I also did not imply that oral herpes is an STD. never said that.
        I assume you are an MD or work for the CDC, can you provide stats re measles, in particular??? Please do not distort what i write see above statements. that does not mean to denigrate your opinion, but do not tke leaps of judgment without reading thoughtfully.
        How in gods name do you know that oral herpes was a huge issue since MPB started . What year approx, was that who initiated it, and when was it first documented., and when was the connection to Herpes first documented, and was the disease even recognized then, or are you just extrapolating? sometimes that is correct, and sometimes BS. and if so wth didn’t they ban it then, inquiring minds want to know. Start with the year that MBP began and the history and which rrabbanim dreamed it up. yummy.,
        the procede to CDC stats which i assume you have if you read the chars correctly , benefit of the doubt. Please, we need much more info in what year did MBP originate, by whom the posek the rambam or MosheRABBEINU.????

        • The connection as it happens was first documented in 1837 in Vienna by a Doctor Wertheim who alerted R’ Elazar Horowitz to an outbreak of fatal rashes on babies circumcised by the same mohel. Now, of course in those days, there was no DNA testing, but the symptoms in the babies and the fact that the mohel was asymptomatic point to HS1. The mohel had no tuberculosis or syphilis sores or gumma.

          I said it has likely been a threat far longer than that, as the disease itself is an ancient one. Judging by molecular clock, oral herpes has been present since the dawn of time. Seeing as that is the case, it can be postulated that as long as M”BP has been around, it spread that way. “We propose a time-scale for HSV-1 evolution that demonstrates a slow divergence into different clades starting ~700.000 years before present (BP).”

          For measles, see here.
          Measles, by contrast diverged from rinderpest after the Second Temple.

          • Elon,
            Thank you for your thorough presentation of these issues. however
            “oral herpes has been present since the dawn of time'”. One would predict that a discussion of that approximate date might get us into a world of controversy. So I am willing to be happy with a “heck of a long time”.
            Perhaps I missed it in the long detailed and welcomed articles which you supplied (thank you) but did you comment on when MBP was first originated? If not is there anyone else here who can? YL?? To this observer, even willing to accept “since the dawn of time” (was that before the dinosaurs?, or before Chava was produced from Adam’s rib)?? or even earlier?
            I am being obvious jocular, but am extremely interested in knowing when the practice started, and by whose rabbinical decree. Clearly it wasn’t just an enterprising Rabbi looking for more income, and clearly it wasn’t just some pedophiliac mohel who wanted to raise his fees and get a hardon to go with it?

            So by which of CHAZAL AND ABOUT WHEN, did this practice originate, and to throw in a kicker WHY?? They must have been successfully stopping the bleeding prior to the the emergence of MBP, or we wouldn’t have had 600k souls at Har Sinai. (ah, but those were only the men over specific age). Wonder what the hygienic conditions were in the desert? Or maybe it wasn’t really from Hakodeshbaruchu direct to MosheRabbeinu, but if it were, I wonder if that was part of version one , or the second hike up??? Maybe it was a punishment for Egel Hazahav? Maybe MBP was from the dawn of time, hardwired into the human brain, just like circumcision. But that if so was only for the chosen people, but we were not yet the chosen people.
            If the answer has already been commented upon, I apologize, but I was not able to locate it here on the comment board. Someone surely knows?????
            Maybe wikipedia?

            • We only know for sure from the Talmud. They do not claim that MBP was always the practice. It is described as a safety measure (presumably to prevent infection! or excessive bleeding). Just to be fair to them, this was standard state of the art medical wisdom based on two assumptions, saliva is antiseptic (!) and that the infection risk could be combatted by drawing out blood from a distance from the wound (hence suction). Silly in retrospect but they were listening to the doctors. The Chasam Sofer understood this and said, just do what our contemporary doctors tell us to do.

              I don’t fault the ancient rabbis for accepting the medical expertise of their time. I fault everyone who has ignored the evidence of microbiology and infectious diseases dissemination. But this was a 19th century development.

  3. “…Who is attracted to this “job”? It is not random….”

    Follow the money which I bet is quite good, in total, for a mohel in a Haredi community. Lots of babies. Probably the mohel enjoys high status as well. I wouldn’t do that for any money but then I’m not Haredi though I am a physician.

    By the way- measles is a bad disease; it was then and it is now. I had it – nasty – but a pregnant woman with measles is in a world of hurt. Check the CDC website.

    • Seth, do you really think that a mohel has high status ? i would not have guesse , and they are , of course not MD’s, just zayin,== suckers.

      • “..do you really think that a mohel has high status ? i would not have guessed…”

        I don’t know, honestly. In the assimilated circles in which I travel many are Jewish physicians who do this as a service to the community and as a nice little sideline; they don’t derive their social status from being mohelim. I figure there are few or no Haredi physicians so that an individual performing circumcisions among the Haredim is probably a person of some religious standing. Perhaps someone can provide some up to date information. I’d be interested to learn.

        • Seth, in the ultra orthodox world a mohel is assumed and expected to be truly religious and only receives certification from a rabbi after both apprenticeship and mastery of the relevant Jewish law. It is definitely a position of some status. As to profitability, it varies. The select few who are popular can do enough jobs a day (seven days a week) to make out nicely. Some of them do it part time and it is just a sideline. There are also some who on principal refuse payment and if pressed to accept payment will direct the money to a charity.

          I said seven days a week because if the eighth day falls on shabbos the circumcision is done on shabbat. Naturally the payment is dealt with another time and construed as not being payment for work on shabbat.

        • The Reform movement’s certified mohelim are all physicians who then particpate in training specific to customary Jewish practice. They place emphasis on using anesthesia something not ordinarily the practice of orthodox mohelim of children. These days, even orthodox mohelim usually do adult circumcisions in medical facilities with medical back up. they may also do it there to avail themselves of anesthesia not available to non-medical personnel.

          At one point, Mt. Sinai had a program to train traditional mohelim in some medical facts and considerations. I dont know if it or any similar program is now functioning. I vaguely recall such programs in Israel organized in collaboration between the Chief Rabbinate and some medical institutions.

          • Yerachmiel, this is in response to your comment from 10:33 AM today, June 18. There does not appear to be a response button (hey, you trying to freeze me out?)
            You state that the Rabbis were just following the commonly accepted science of the age. Yeah, and amongst the fallacies of the past (no pun intended), the sperm (semen) supposedly had a mini homunculous iinside, which led to the logical conclusion that spilliing of the seed, was, in fact tantamount to murder (or abortion, as you like). And hence the ban. Do pedophiles worry about spilling of seed? Add on Mishkav Zachor, that’s two strikes, and our imagined drama of a day or two ago, re having the two internecine Satmars in one jail cell, that might add incest as well. A triple chet by a double, split in half “REBBE”.

  4. Hello,
    I appreciate your blogs as they are help me to understand a religion /culture for which I am not very familiar with, it provides me with education, however I often have a hard time understanding some of what is said, as it refers to Hebrew dialogue for which I do not speak or read. Any suggestions on where to find meanings of the words/phrases used. Thank you so much.

    • Ann, thank your for reminding me that while I focus on the orthodox Jewish world I want to be understandable to any reader. Usually I try to translate key prhrases, even if not all. In fact, when deciding what to translate I try to decide whether the gist can be gotten from the surrounding text. Sometimes i write in a rush or get carried away with passion and lose sight of that issue. I have thought of creating a glossary, but just dont ever find the time to do it. However, Wikipedia will help on some terms. If you can specifically identify terms that seem important in your comments, I will go back and furnish translations.

      However, sometimes something is so much an insider joke, especially when I write satire that translation is just too much of a chore. Also, irony and satire is especially hard to translate meaningfully.

      But keep asking the question about specifics and I or one of the other readers will be glad to reply.

    • Ann,
      To take the load off of YL, if you were to supply some anon, email addr, i can answer most of your questions, from time to time there are religious phrases with which i am not famiiar not being Yesh bred, but the vast majority i can translate for you. if YL would like me to share the load, up to you two, i do have spare time i do not know all biblical references but most of what appears on this site, i can translate, the vasst majority. , just an offer. as it were., aTehn i would feel also that i am paying for using YL’s cyberspace…. <>

  5. I would like to clarify this matter with the following information (taken from Wikipedia on ‘BRIT MILAH’ at the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brith_milah#Suction.2C_metzitzah_technique)

    Hopefully you will apologize for jumping to conclusions.

    In the ultra-Orthodox communities, most notably Hassidic Jews and some communities in Israel, use the oral method. [28][29] The practice has become a controversy in both secular and Jewish medical ethics. The ritual of metzitzah is found in Mishnah Shabbat 19:2, which lists it as one of the four steps involved in the circumcision rite. Moses Sofer (1762–1839) observed that the Talmud states that the rationale for this part of the ritual was hygienic — i.e., to protect the health of the child. The Chasam Sofer permittedmetzitzah with a sponge to be used instead of oral suction in a case presented to him for a ruling. His letter was published in Kochvei Yitzchok.[30] Moshe Shik (1807–1879), a student of Moses Sofer, states in his book of Responsa, She’eilos u’teshuvos Maharam Shik (Orach Chaim 152,)[further explanation needed] that Moses Sofer gave the ruling in that specific instance only and that it may not be applied elsewhere. He also states (Yoreh Deah 244) that the practice is possibly a Sinaitic tradition, i.e., Halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai.
    Chaim Hezekiah Medini claimed the practice to be Halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai and elaborates on what prompted Moses Sofer to give the above ruling.[31] He tells the story that a student of Moses Sofer, Lazar Horowitz, author of Yad Elazer and Chief Rabbi of Vienna at the time, needed the ruling because of a governmental attempt to ban circumcision completely if it included metztitzah b’peh. He therefore asked Sofer to give him permission to do brit milah without metzitzah b’peh. When he presented the defense in secular court, they erroneously recorded his testimony to mean that Sofer stated it as a general ruling.[32]

      • Please stop playing games. If you are an honest person and you practice what you preach, you should apologize to Rabbi Belsky immediately for making it sound like he was not aware of the Chasam Sofer. You can see clearly from what I posted that you re completely wrong. What you cited has nothing to do with what I posted.

        • My, my! EL! You are quite the defender of Rabbi Belsky. He wasn’t even the focus of my post. I mentioned him in passing about two facts with which he agrees. He still says Yosef Kolko is innocent and he still says the CDC is wrong about the risk of Herpes from MBP. If you don’t believe me, ask him. Yes I attacked him elsewhere. All I did here is note that his position on these two points is in conflict with the official OU position. I am sure he will tell you the same, that he thinks they are wrong.

          Now, on to the subject of this post. Does the chasam sofer hold that gauze alone at the end of the bris is enough or does there need to be suction from a mouth, either directly or by a glass tube. The OU published an article that says all poskim say you need oral suction in some form. I am saying they misrepresented halachah because the chasam sofer says gauze alone is enough.

          You threw out a set of facts with no proof whatsoever. You did something so very typical of our modern machmirim (http://wp.me/FbfD) who violate bal toisif, left and right. Here you are stuck with a kulah (leniancy) you don’t like it. But you cannot just say this a a modern orthodox rabbi. So you begin chipping away with all sorts of unprovable ways to dismiss it. When you can, you claim the purported ruling is a fabrication. But you cant do that either. Next you claim it was done under threat of government action to stop all circumcision. Proof, someone asks. You guys give a look and say, “It is well known!”

          Really. I defy you to offer a shred of evidence that there was any such threat. This was Vienna, the capital of one of Europe’s great powers. We are not dealing with some backwater Russian shtetl. Like Prussia, Austria was a place with a bureaucracy and records which are well preserved. If there was a threat of government action some trace would have been left which you can point to. But as the Sprecher article points out, this issue came from reports of physicians at a Jewish hospital and was totally an internal affair. And by the way, these infections and illnesses stopped once they switched to gauze. Sorry, EL, but no dice!

          I could go on at length but I am no match for Sprecher whose excellent article I pointed out to you in my previous comment and is available just by clicking a link. Come back to argue after you have digested his article and specifically SHOW you understand his presentation and start the argument by trying to refute Sprecher and the Chasam Sofer.

          • Your hatred towards Rabbi Belsky is blinding you from the truth. Remove the hatred from your heart so you can admit the truth, as is clearly stated in my first post.

            Please, for your own sake, admit right away that you were wrong and apologize to Rabbi Belsky publicly, because the longer you delay, the harder it will be to admit your mistake.

            This will not only be a kapparah for you, but also a zchus for you, because once people see you admitted and apologized, others will follow your example.

            • EL, thank you for confirming that you are a Belsky defender and your spurious arguments abut the chasam sofer were red herrings (not worthy of an OU hechsher even if you accept Belsky’s rulings on worms).

              It is because of the truth that I attacked Belsky. If he were a real erlich man he would beg mechilah from Rabbi S. He confirms the theory of yeridas hadoros because earlier rabbonim did issue apologies when they were wrong. Has he ever in his life ever apologized to anyone. Are you one of his cultish followers who think he is perfect? Or are you someone in the OU defending your rent-a-heter posek?

              PS. I suggest you use another pseudonym. the one you chose was a Canaanite deity whose worship was decried by our prophets while also attacking those who oppressed the weak.

  6. EL,
    HALLAlLUYAH, SOF KOL S0F, THE EMES, CHAIM MEDINI, KNOWN TO KULAM CLAIMED THE PRACTICE IS halacha m’moshe l’sinai, by chaim medini, known for here t0 there, well thank you for posting for all the ultimae truth per medini or wth his name is, now we all now the emes, so many thanks, and thank yu wikil
    I davka read that it was in fact from moshe al har sinai, but by yushka ben maria.
    but he lost the ipad so no one is really sure, is this torah sh’b’al peh, or from the written, medini, name sounds a bit familiar, can you give us his background and smicha? from whom did he get smicha? this chaim medini fellow. but fabulous input, keep it coming…..


    Talking about being an honest person, if you were honest, the minute you saw my first post you would have right away admitted that you weren’t aware of the information and you would’ve humbly apologized for accusing Rabbi Belsky of not respecting what the Chasam Sofer said. Instead, you went on a path of sheker and rambled and rambled, citing things not relevant to this at all.

    For the Record: I do not know Rabbi Belsky and have no relation to him at all.

    • I never accused Belsky of disparaging the Chasam Sofer. I accused the OU publication of erring in ignoring the psak of the Chasam Sofer.

      I have accused Belsky of other things. I did that in good conscience together with Daas Torah’s, blogger, Rabbi Eidensohn who did so on the authority of the Av Beis Din of the Eidah Chareidis, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Shlita.

      By the way if you know Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, shlitah, or the Novominsker Rebbe, shlitah (R. Yaakov Perlow, head of the Moetzes of Agudah) ask them if they think R. Belsky was wrong to slander Rabbi S. You might be surprised by their answer. I will bet anything that they will not defend him.

      You might also want to contact R. Dovid Epstein of Lakewood who issued a public request for mechilah (forgiveness) to the family of Rabbi S. That is how an erlich yirei shomayim behaves.

      Unless you will bring in new information or at least new and different insults, I consider this line of argument closed. At my discretion I will block comments I consider trolling.

      • Thank you for correcting yourself and saying that you did not mean Rabbi Belsky, and thereby clarifying that Rabbi Belsky did not make any mistake about the Chasam Sofer. I thank you for posting it so your readers know clearly what is going on here.

        In the future, of course, you will think many times over before rushing to write comments.
        It makes no difference whether you post this comment or not. The purpose of my comment is to clarify the truth to you.

        Thank you very much for having the courage to post all the comments. I know it was hard for you, especially the last comment, in which you clarified the truth completely.

        • Your obtuseness is astounding! You are repeating points I already refuted them and misrepresenting my statements. At least do the poskim a favor and don’t do that to them.

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