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Old May 4th, 2008, 10:48 AM   #7
L4CX
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Metzitzah
Less commonly practised, and more controversial, is metzitzah b'peh, (alt. mezizah), or oral suction,[2][3] where the mohel sucks blood from the circumcision wound. The traditional reason for this procedure is to promote healing,[4][5] although the practice has been implicated in the spreading of herpes to the infant.[6]

Metzitzah b'peh ("suction by mouth") is a practice in certain Haredi and Hasidic circles in which, after removing the foreskin, the mohel sucks out the blood from the wound to clean it. The mohel spits the blood into a receptacle provided. Afterwards the circumcised penis is bandaged, and the brit is considered complete. Because the practice may spread diseases to the babies from the mohel's mouth (such as herpes), most mohelim ensure that their mouths are sanitized and washed out by rinsing with alcohol to disinfect the mouth.[7] However, because alcohol may not kill a virus such as herpes, washing the mouth with alcohol alone is not regarded as a sufficient protective measure. Today, if it is performed, the mohel generally uses a sterilized glass tube.[8][9] However, the practice has become a controversy in both secular and Jewish medical ethics.

The foundation for the ritual of metzitzah is found in Mishnah Shabbat 19:2, which lists metzitzah as one of the four steps involved in the circumcision rite. Rabbi Moses Sofer (known as the "Chasam Sofer") 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. As a result of these texts, the Chasam Sofer contended that Jewish tradition instituted metzitzeh solely to prevent danger to the infant and stated that metzitzah was not required to be applied orally, but nevertheless made the leniency conditional upon doctors testifying that the metzitzah with a sponge would accomplish the same purpose as oral suction. His letter was published in Kochvei Yitzchok. [4]

On the other hand, Rabbi Moshe Schick, the Maharam Shik, one of the most prominent students of the Chasam Sofer, states in his book of Responsa, She’eilos U’teshuvos Maharam Shik (Orach Chaim 152,) that the Chasam 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, and one is required to have Mesiras nefesh for the practice. In addition, Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya HaLevi Medini the Sdei Chemed printed a 50 page section called Ma'areches Hametzitzah [5], also claiming the practice to be Halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai, quoting R' Yehudah Assad and others. He also elaborates more on what prompted the Chasam Sofer to give the above ruling:[10] He tells the story, that a student of the Chasam Sofer - Rabbi Elazer Hurvitz, The author of responsa Yad Elazer and Chief Rabbi of Vienna at the time, (The incident is mentioned in responsa 54)- needed the ruling in defense of a governmental attempt to ban bris milah completely if it included Metztitzah b'peh, because of the concern of spreading disease to the baby. He therefore asked the Chasam Sofer to give him permission to do Brit milah without metzitzah b’peh and when he presented the defense in court they erroneously recorded his testimony to mean that the Chasam Sofer stated it as a general ruling. He then adds, "Nevertheless it is my opinion that the Chasam Sofer never even wrote this letter. It is a forgery, in my opinion, and even if the letter was written by the Chasam Sofer he certainly didn’t state it as a general ruling, given that it was not printed in his book of halachic responsa, as was the custom with all halachic rulings intended for the public." Included in Ma'areches Hametzitah is a pronouncement by several hundred noted Hungarian and Russian Rabbis not to change the procedure.
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