This week, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel issued a letter of support for Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin. Rabbi Teichtal has been the center of controversy since he was charged for performing a circumcision on his infant son, including Metzitah B’Pe (wiping the blood from the surface of the glans with his mouth). In the official letter, the Chief Rabbinate declared their uncompromising stance that the traditional ceremony of ritual circumcision be allowed to remain unchanged, including those aspects for which Rabbi Teichtal was charged. This, they emphasized, has been the unanimous ruling of Jewish law for scores of generations.
Rabbi Moshe Morsiano, director of the division for circumcisions in the Chief Rabbinate, listed an impressive number of halachic responsa written by rabbis of the past several generations, all insisting that an integral part of ritual circumcision is Metzitza B’Pe. The only exceptions are when the person performing the circumcision is ill or has a sore in his mouth. Thus, the Chief Rabbinate joined the many other rabbis and rabbinical organizations expressing support for Rabbi Teichtal in light of the charges lodged against him by a German blogger.
In recent days, the media in Germany has publicized a declaration by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, which represents over 700 rabbis across the Continent. The Centre likewise expressed its full support for the accused rabbi and called for the government to ensure that Jews will be permitted to practice their religious traditions freely. “The Jews of Europe must have religious freedom. All Jewish leaders have the responsibility and obligation to stop any interference with any detail of Jewish practice”.
Last week, the Executive Committee of Rabbinical Centre of Europe held their annual conference in Paris. The issue of circumcision was brought up for discussion with the leading rabbinical judges of Europe. Their unanimous conclusion was that it must be made clear to the European governments that their Jewish constituents insist that Jewish community life be spared any outside interference. This is true regarding both ritual slaughter of kosher animals and circumcision. These rights should be guaranteed as part of the freedom of religion enjoyed throughout the Continent.
The debate over circumcision began several weeks ago when Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin, circumcised his son in the community’s synagogue. A German blogger accused the rabbi of performing Metzitza B’Pe after the circumcision was over, stating that it ran counter to medical standards and German law. He then filed charges against the rabbi to this effect, and the German justice system is now examining these charges.