In reference to “Two babies contract herpes from brit mila” (June 3), the practice of metzitza ba’peh – the oral contact between the mohel’s mouth and the circumcision wound – does not “suction blood off the penis,” as your article states. It is done to draw more blood out of the wound.
In the Gemara (Mesechet Shabbat, page 133B), Rav Papa explicitly states that metzitza must be done – it’s a matter of life and death, and not doing it would leave the child in a life-threatening situation. Hazal were influenced by Greek medicine, which believed that if blood were to coagulate and remain stagnant, it would cause what we call an infection.
The most important thing to note here is that there is no explicit reference in the Gemara to doing metzitza orally (as your article states). It just says to draw forth the blood. The practice later developed to do it by mouth.
There is a great deal of push against this, and the controversy has been raging for a few centuries, not just the past few years. The most common solution is to use a sterile pipette, thus avoiding direct contact. No one in the halachic conversation is proposing eliminating metzitza altogether; the debate centers around how to do it.
Some form of metzitza is done in all religious circles, not just the ultra-Orthodox, and I must say it is good to hear the Chief Rabbinate state that if mohelim are asked to use a pipette, they must comply. The sad part is, I’m pretty sure that on the ground, there is probably more convincing from the mohel to do it orally (as I’ve seen myself) or, even worse, the parents have no clue what we’re even talking about.
Parents must know about this issue and demand that their mohelim use a sterile tube.