Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky Statement On Metzitzah B’Peh


rav-shmuel-kamenetsky-3Reposted: The following statement was issued by Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Philadelphia:

I wish to clarify remarks that were attributed to me on the subject of metzitzah b’peh.

The practice is indeed time honored and is followed by the majority of the Orthodox Jewish community today around the world, as it has been for thousands of years.

To my knowledge, it has not been proven that the practice leads to contraction of illness. The halacha is extremely sensitive to health concerns and it is wrong to insinuate that Jews, who are very particular in the care of their children, would be engaging for thousands of years in a practice that is inherently dangerous.

We have a sacred responsibility to protect our children from danger and that responsibility is paramount. However, in the absence of an inherent danger in performing mitzvos or following our traditions, we must follow them. In my view, there has been no demonstration of an inherent danger associated with metzitzah b’peh.

The statement, “I don’t think there is a response to them,” referred specifically to those who allegedly said that it would be invalid to use a tube where there are demonstrable health issues present regarding either the mohel or the child.

Similarly, my comment that in my community “as far as I know they do metzitzah with a tube” refers to a case where a health concern has been established. In no manner was it intended to suggest that I believe that it should be universally adopted.

In no way should what I said be misconstrued as supporting the curbing of, or outside interference with, metzitzah b’peh. In fact, we have very effectively self-regulated the practice over the past 3,500 years.

Jews have made tremendous sacrifices over the millennia to properly observe our religious obligations and traditions. It would be a shame to return to the days when parents and circumcisers feared performing the hallowed bris, which enters every Jewish male into a covenant with G-d.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. A Tzaddik!
    Pretty prolific command of the spoken language in America! How many others have such ability?
    Rav Hutner was quoted as having commented about the generation we’re raising! “Amei Ha’aretz in drey shprach!”

  2. the Jewish Week are such low lives that l’mann ha’emes, the rosh yeshiva has to go out of his way to make this statement

  3. The Gadol HaDor has spoken and revealed the true intent of his words. So, please all you haters of tradition and antagonists of our Mesorah, back off and leave Chareidi Judaism alone and let us continue the ways of our forefathers!

  4. pro·lif·ic/pr??lifik/
    (of a plant, animal, or person) Producing much fruit or foliage or many offspring.
    (of an artist, author, or composer) Producing many works.
    fertile – fruitful – fecund – productive – rich

  5. This series of cases presented a tremendous opportunity to do DNA fingerprinting to prove that there is a link between metzizah b’peh and Herpes simplex. There were two pairs of infants who had the same mohel. In one case, the brisos were five weeks apart. The authors give no reason as to why they did not pursue DNA fingerprinting to compare the Herpes simplex virus of the two infants to establish a common source. The other pair of infants associated with one Mohel developed infection ten years apart. Since the authors did not rely on the gold standard of establishing transmission, DNA fingerprinting, one would think that the epidemiologic evidence presented would be sufficiently convincing to prove their hypothesis. Surprisingly, this is not the case. There is no mention made of whether these physicians had observed cases of Herpes simplex infection on the male organ not associated with metzizah b’peh, or whether they had treated any female babies with Herpes simplex in the genital area. In the absence of this information, the observation that there were some babies who had both metzizah b’peh and Herpes simplex proves nothing.

  6. In the medical literature dealing with transmission of viral infections, DNA fingerprinting evidence is almost always presented as a way of proving that the transmission occurred from a suspected source. This involves matching the DNA found in the virus of the suspected source to that of the new case. For example, in 1990, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a study proving the transmission of HIV from a dentist to five of his patients in Florida. There was very careful DNA fingerprinting of the patients’ and the dentist’s HIV strains to determine that they were all one. A 1996 article discussed the transmission of hepatitis B virus to multiple patients from a single surgeon. Fingerprinting was used in that case as well to prove that the surgeon was indeed the source. Another study in 1999 proved transmission of HIV from an orthopedic surgeon to a patient in France. Once again, DNA fingerprinting was used.

    Within the body of literature dealing with the transmission of Herpes simplex, DNA fingerprinting seems to be a basic requirement of any study whose purpose is to demonstrate transmission. There is a case report of a father transmitting Herpes simplex to his son. The case report demonstrated DNA matching of the Herpes simplex lesion that the father later developed with the Herpes simplex virus that infected the baby. There is another published article reporting on an outbreak of Herpes simplex in an intensive-care nursery.

    There was an index case of a baby with Herpes simplex, and ten days later, three more infants developed Herpes simplex. The four cases had DNA fingerprints of Herpes simplex which matched, indicating that they were all infected with the same virus. Although the original source was not determined, the authors felt that there was a strong possibility that person-to-person transmission to the secondary cases occurred through healthcare workers.

    In the literature dealing with possible transmission of Herpes simplex through metzizah b’peh, there is not a single case in which DNA fingerprinting is presented as a way of proving transmission. By contrast, it appears that in all the other literature dealing with transmission of a virus, it is difficult to find one that does not report DNA fingerprinting. Of all the literature claiming that metzizah b’peh has transmitted Herpes simplex infection to babies, the most publicized article is the one that appeared in the journal Pediatrics in 2004. This article was authored by ten physicians and two non-physicians with Ph.D.’s. It reported on the collective experience of these physicians covering seven medical centers in Israel and one in Toronto, Canada, over a six-year period from 1997 to 2003. They collected eight cases from “personal communication and experience of the authors.” In these cases, the infants developed Herpes simplex on the male organ following a bris. There were six mohelim involved. Two mohelim had two cases each. Only four of the six mohelim were tested for Herpes simplex antibody, which would be only a starting point to even consider a mohel as the possible source. All four mohelim tested had antibodies to Herpes simplex. This is not surprising, as 90% of the adult population has antibodies to Herpes simplex. The article does not mention whether it was antibody to Herpes simplex or Herpes simplex 2, which can be measured separately. The authors concede that mouth cultures obtained from the mohelim were all negative for Herpes simplex virus, although they did not state how many cultures were obtained. (A culture shows the actual presence of virus, in contrast to antibody, which is a protein produced by the body in response to the presence of the virus).

  7. keep standing up for the truth matzav

    youre the only ones left to count on

    everyone else has sold out, as we saw with the Fidler debacle. Vehameivin yovin.

  8. When MDT started the whole deal seven years ago, MDT shamelessly claimed that that RAv Elyashiv and Rav Vosner say to use a tube. Of course this was blatantly false, and Rav Vosner and Rav Elyashiv penned a letter to that effect (they didn’t pen it as a direct response, but they very very strongly wrote in support of MB”P).

    MDT then wrote a letters claiming that he never contacted the health department in this regard. Then, transcripts of one of his (many many) shiurim where he clearly and boastfully tells his audience about how he DID contact the health department were published. On the transcripts, he clearly states how he initiated contact, had the health department visit him several times in his office and how he’ll get the press involved.

    Misquoting Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky is consistent to the way he does things.

    “Talmid chacham she’ein bo daas (midos tovos), neveila tova heimenu”. As the Midrash continues, “a carcass emits a bad smell and people know to distance themselves from it, a TCSB”D appears to be good….

  9. The Chassam Sofer, in a series of T’shuvos to his talmid, Rav Horowitz, Chief Rabbi of Vienna, was lenient about MBP.
    Several children had fallen sick after their Bris & the Chassam Sofer ruled that Metzitza be’Matlis would be sufficient.

  10. The anti-Jewish mouthpieces, such as the Anti-Jewish Week routinely seek to blaspheme anything they gat their hands on, and Metzitzah b’Peh is one of those issues.

  11. #3 – Rav Shmuel was born and brought up in North America (Canada and the US). Ir ahould be remembered that when a shailah was asked of his father zatzal about whether American children should learn Torah in Yiddish or English, he replied that children should learn in the language in which they think, in this case, English. It is be expected that he would make sure that his own children would be fluent in English, as that is the majority language of Jews here, most children would be learning in English, and most shailos would be posed in English.

  12. People should send email to the jewish weeks editor. I just did from their web site. Their misrepresentation and sly ways of collecting statements for their papers should not be used on our gedolim