‘Met­z­itza ba’peh’

The Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT & FEATURES - HAYIM LEITER Jerusalem The writer is a mo­hel, or rit­ual cir­cum­ciser.

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.

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