Sacrificing Children While Protecting Adults Via MBP

Circumcise meI have been asking around if those who practice Metzitzah B’Peh (MBP), oral-genital suction, during child circumcisions also do it for adult circumcision. I hear it is not practiced.

It seems to me, that those who insist it is religiously necessary would be especially concerned to do it when the circumcision is for conversion. After all, circumcision is considered a necessary requirement of conversion (for males).

Some insist it is not done because it would not seem decent. If so, and if it can be waived, isn’t it time to recognize that child MBP is also regarded as indecent in contemporary society with heightened concerns about child sexual abuse.

However, I am told that there is another and more important reason it is not done. The average mohel (ritual circumciser) is apparently fearful of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV which can lead to AIDS.

To the extent this is true, it is a scandal. We have circumcisers who think it is acceptable to expose infants to the risk of herpes infections which can be fatal, but they are not willing to accept the risk of getting infected.

Sadly, I have come to believe that this is another example of gross insensitivity to the safety of children, another instance of favoring the well-being of adults over children.


There is a also discussion  of this post on my FB page.  In addition there are other Frum Follies posts on MBP including:

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

Yes They Can: Orthodox Constitutional Lawyer Explains Why Agudah’s Anti MBP Lawsuit is A Very Bad Idea

Chasam Sofer: MBP is not required for Bris Milah- Reliable Medical Recommendation Should Determine Best Approach


13 thoughts on “Sacrificing Children While Protecting Adults Via MBP

    • Pardon me, ‘Sally’, but for some reason I doubt your opinion is based on first hand experience.

    • I cannot find anyone who says it is practiced. I polled a number of mohelim including ones who do MBP with infants. I also had others with connections ask around. Sorry Sally. See if you can find me a mohel who will state he has done MBP with an adult? Feel free to come back when you have such a name.

  1. This comment appeared on FaceBook:

    Chaim Saperstein: I asked about it. Apparently, there is a difference, though it might not satisfy you.
    Doing MBP on an adult is a “Hezek Matzui”, a common danger. It would not – at the least – be considered unusual for an adult to contract a disease by doing MBP on an adult.
    Conversely, while one can definitely take issue with the Aguda’s claim that it is a “safe procedure”, however, considering the thousands of MBP’s that take place per year, and the relatively miniscule cases of infants contracting a disease from MBP, you have to admit that those cases are somewhat unusual.
    So, while you might not consider it “safe”, it is a stretch to call it a “Hezek Matzui”

  2. Yerachmiel,

    It is Chaim’s use of halachic parameters that turn us all off to these Torah discussions. He found another halachic loophole to justify the unjustifiable.

    And, I’m suspect of the halachic rationale as well. He’s saying that STD’s and AIDS are Hezek Matzui, requiring precautions for the mohel. Yet, he’s saying that the bacteria-laden mouth is not a Hezek Matzui, thus requiring no protections for 8 day old infants.

    Such rationale precisely makes the point of the post.

  3. To be truthful about why we find this difference, it is not for any of the reasons given here. They might be good to give support after the fact, but the real reason why this is the custom is as follows.

    Traditionally, the Mesorah is that at a Bris of a Baby the Metzitza required by Halacha, has been done B’peh. Jews who follow the Mesorah, are very very reluctant to change the traditional way of doing things. This is not out of malice Chas v’sholom, but out of Hisbatlus to the Mesorah, and out of a strongly instilled belief that we know less than our predecessors or are not qualified to change any customary practice.

    By Milah of adults, perhaps by being an relatively uncommon event, or perhaps for other reasons, has no such established custom.

    As I have mentioned several times in my comments, you should not be seeing Yidden in the worst light, as you have done here once again, to accuse, or even suggest, that there is some malice here, as you say “Sadly, I have come to believe that this is another example of gross insensitivity to the safety of children, another instance of favoring the well-being of adults over children.” I know of some Chassidishe Mohalim who have changed to doing metzitza without direct oral contact, but what brought this about was not being attacked, but rather respectful Halachic discussion. If you are trying to bring about awareness and change, then by attacking people, you will only be Merachek them and make them not want to go along with what you say. But if you treat people with respect, then your words will be considered in a respectful way too – Aizehu Mechubad Hamechabed Es Habrios.

    • I am obviously not attacking mohelim who have changed from doing MBP as they came to understand the risks. I have no trouble in understanding why there is a wish, as much as possible to keep up old traditions. But the fact is that mohelim who do MBP have a double standard, one for protecting themselves and another for protecting infants. More disturbing than what I reported in the post is how they deal with adopted infants (which often involves conversion as well). Most mohelim who do MBP will not do it in these cases as well, again because of the risks to the mohel based on their suspicion of possibly higher rates of HIV and Hepatitis. This last phenomenon argues against your explanation re adults.

      Truthfully, I am more upset with Agudah for fighting MBP when most of the Rabbonim on the Moetzes don’t allow MBP in their own community because of the health risk. This is well known. Let them at least be honest about the fact that most of the Moetzes believes there is a serious risk with MBP. Instead they support the propaganda from Agudah that the risk is not proven. If they were honest they would at least say, we know there is a risk, albeit infrequent, and we are willing to accept it.

      BTW, I am not aware of any halachic distinctions between the requirements of milah on an adult and a child apart from the fact that once the eigth day has passed, we don’t ordinarily do milah on shabbat.

      As for changes under pressure: if your theory is right the haredi world would have solved the problem of child molesting on their own because their rabbonim, dayonim, and therapists knew about it well before the media got the story. Sadly, external pressure does wonders for getting change. This should not be seen as all bad. mitoch shelo lishmah, bah lishmah.

      • Why be so quick to say it is a double standard? I know a Chassidishe Mohel who does MBP but when he has a cold or anything like that, he either brings along someone else or asks the father to do it. My point is that an Ehrlicher Mohel can assess(or honestly think that he can assess) whether there is danger through his doing MBP, because he (thinks he) knows if he has been exposed to a germ, but there is no way of knowing what the child might carry, especially if the child’s backgroung is… Is there anything wrong with being worried more about a child who is born to non Jewish parents. How many cases of AIDS have you heard in the Chassidishe community? B”H I haven’t ever heard of a case. But by Goyim? If he is making a mistake in his thinking, that might be, but It is not a double standard and there is no malice. I know a Mohel(in England) who does Goyim. He uses gloves because in case he has any cuts on his hands etc, he doesn’t want to expose himself to the blood contact, but he does not protect himself this way when he does Bris Kodesh, so it’s a double standard on his own expense? No, it’s just the way he, in his mind, assesses the risks.

        • So what’s the incidence of HIV among converts to Judaism? Is it 1%? 5%? 0.00001%? All you’ve accomplished is to illustrate your own foolishness as well as that of the Mohels you attempt to defend.

  4. Food for thought – Are there any other differences between milah for a newborn and milah for a ger tzedek?

    • The requirements for kosher milah are themselves the same. however, for a ger, the milah’s validity is essential for the conversion. BTW, conversion milah and adult milah are not opposites. There is also adult milah is for people who were halachic Jews but were never circumcised and now choose to be circumcised. Additionally, infants can be circumcised for conversion. In that case there is according to some, a provisional quality where the conversion is either confirmed at bar mitzvah or alternatively can be rejected retroactively at reaching age of bar mitzvah. But the circumcision is again, itself, similar in the procedure. I am not sure how the blessing is handled in contrast to the situation of a biological father who is obligated himself to circumcise or delegate an agent (i.e., the mohel). But those are issues seperate from the question of whether the procedure is completed by MBP, suction through a pipette, or use of a gauze pad to squeeze out a few drops of blood.

      • Thank you. Yes. I also learned that while geirus milah has to have a beit din as witnesses it does not have to be the same one as the one doing the conversion. In fact shomer shabbos lay people acceptable for other eidus are acceptable for this purpose. It is common to have the mohel be one of the eidim in those cases where it is not practical to have the beit din doing the conversion be present for the bris. This is often the case with adult milah because the bris is often done by an orthodox doctor who is also trained in milah & with adult milah, if it is a previously uncircumcised man, there is usually a need for recovery time before being ready for beit din.

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