The Matzav Shmoooze: The True Rabble-Rousers and the Anti-Metzitzah B’Peh “Rabbis”

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brisDear Editor,

Anti-bris milah fervor is back in the news. What else is new?

The “antis” are going at it full force, with the help, of course, of so-called “Jewish” and “frum” websites.

So what else is new?

But before I get to my main point, allow me to share something that has bothered me for a while. It is a point that was actually made superbly by Dr. Berman in his article on the topic of metzitzah b’peh, and I take the liberty of quoting him:

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).

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.

For more on this and other important points on the metzizah b’peh issue, read Dr. Berman’s excellent treatment of the topic.

Make no mistake: The people who were behind the anti-metzizah b’peh issue last time, some seven years ago, are behind it now. They were ruthless in their tactics then and they are not restrained any more now, using the secular media and any health department willing to listen as their allies.

And sometimes, in their eagerness, they make a mockery of themselves and the medical community.

Yesterday, the Jewish Week reported that The New York City Department of Health “received a report within the last week of an infant with symptoms of neonatal herpes and the case is currently under investigation… While the health department could not confirm where the report came from or whether it involved the circumcision ritual metzitzah b’peh, a source in the medical community told The Jewish Week that a suspected case of neonatal herpes related to metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction, has been treated at Maimonides Hospital within the past week.

Eileen Tynion, a spokeswoman for Maimonides, told The Jewish Week, ‘We are bound by federal law (HIPAA) and can neither confirm nor deny the presence of any patient in our hospital.’ This case comes on the heels of revelations that four other infants who had undergone the controversial circumcision rite of metzitzah b’peh were treated for neonatal herpes, two in Rockland County in 2009 and two more recently in New Jersey.”

The secular Jewish media can always be counted upon to be at the forefront of the anti-bris milah effort. They never miss a chance to paint our customs and rituals as archaic, dangerous and law-breaking. They love it. They relish it.

But yesterday, a three-week-old baby – seemingly the baby that was claimed to have supposedly contracted neonatal herpes at Maimonides Hospital through metzitzah b’peh – tested negative for herpes.

I’ve been searching the internet for the secular Jewish media’s updated report on this story. Nothing doing. Strange how quick some people were to report what seemed to be something that fit their agenda, but they were asleep at the wheel when it emerged that the baby’s rash, which first appeared to be a herpes infection, produced a negative result for herpes after a battery of tests, including spinal, blood and urine. Physicians say that baby might just have a severe rash or some form of infection.


But don’t worry. The “rabbis” who instigated the tumult seven years ago and are back at it now won’t allow this “inconvenient revelation” to slow them down. They are walking lockstep with the secular media and their cohorts in the “health” community to go after bris milah as it has been practiced for centuries.

As Dr. Berman pointed out in his treatise, there is a strong feeling in the Jewish community that this government attack on metzitzah b’peh is a disguised attack on bris milah and more generally on Jewish ritual. For those who say, “That is ridiculous,” look no further then the  ballot in San Francisco this year which had an item for the citizens of San Francisco to vote on whether to outlaw bris milah altogether.

We can sit back, as almost everyone did – with one or two exceptions – last time, and allow some “rabbis” and others to play Russian Roulette with our sacred practices, or we can awaken from our slumber and, instead of being on the defensive, go on the offensive to protect our religious practices.

The time is now.

Y. S.


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to [email protected]

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  1. “Protect our religious practices” – that’s extreme and over the top.

    NEWSFLASH: a bris is still kosher without metzitzah bpeh
    Don’t put this on par with banning shabbos or the like.

  2. To the letter writer, don’t be nispoel from the commenters who miss the boat. Your letter has already been linked on a number of more left-wing Jewish sites, which will send their anti-bris/metzitzah people to tell you that you are old-fashioned and nuts.

    But you are right on the money. The same people are at it again. and yes, bris milah is in danger as it ever was.

    And we can thanks RMDT for his part in all of this when bris milah is outlawed in the United States

  3. Chaveirim,

    I wonder aloud why so many articles and comments are written with such hateful tones. Since when do we put the word “rabbis” in quotes when we disagree with their viewpoints?

    I cannot understand why so many of my coreligionists are so severely close-minded and childish in their views and their manner of self-expression.

    The Internet and sites such as Matzav have brought great benefit to the frum public. They provide an outlet for Orthodox news stories and other information. Yet, their value is so greatly marginalized by editorials and pieces, like the above, written with so much hate and vitriol.

    I am not one to advocate censorship, but is it truly too much to ask people to write in a manner that is respectful? I certainly hope not.


    Long-time reader

  4. This editorial MISSES THE POINT
    1) Lets all agree that herpes **can** (give it whatever statistical probability you want, but its a real possibility) be transmitted from a mohel with herpes to the recent flesh wound on a new born baby boy
    2) Now lets do something about that within the guidelines of halacha rather than burying our heads in the sand and quoting something tangential (i.e., no one tested so it must not be true) to the medical reality as proof against that medical reality
    a) straw (for most everyone besides Hungarians this is great)
    b) TEST mohelim for herpes (annually, biannually, whenever)
    just like you wouldn’t want a dentist with AIDS sticking their hands into your mouth, I would hope that EVERY parent on the planet would not want a mohel with herpes **potentially*** transmitting it to your little boy (would the author take the risk, lets put your money where your mouth is – perhaps a bad choice of words)
    C) take proper medical precautions nonetheless
    D) wash rinse repeat

    tada! the problem is solved

    Now lets get on with our lives and move away from this victim mentality

  5. To #2 There are greater Rabbi’s that disagree with YOU. They don’t consider it part and parcel of the mitzvah.

  6. No mohel suspected of virus transmission has allowed investigators to obtain DNA under standard forensic protocols (cheek swab in the presence of investigators.)

    This is why it has not been possible to compare their DNA fingerprints to that of the infants’ viruses.

  7. To # 1: The Halachic obligation to pray 3 times daily, is considered fulfilled, by praying privately, at home. There is no obligation to form a quorum of 10 to pray publicly.

    Would you be okay with NYS outlawing public prayer for Jews, on the grounds that there supposedly seems to be a slightly increased rate of infectious disease amongst Orthodox Jews who congregate in Shule?

    OSID ATO LITEN DI AL ZEH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. The first sentence of the rant tells all:
    “Anti-bris milah fervor is back in the news.”
    These people are not anti-bris. They are anti-metzitzah b’peh.
    Yes, they are vocal. But they have what to be vocal about.
    Baruch Hashem, you have the liberty to follow the p’sak of your Rov, and to do as he says.
    Stop accusing people of being against bris. In their minds, and well-intentioned hearts, they are saving lives.

  10. Klal Yisroel, and those who keep our people an Am Hanivchar, will forever uphold all our traditions. Doing so in the past has made us who we are as a nation today.

    We will never change an iota. We will even sacrifice ourselves for God’s will.

    This challange against a foundation point of our commitment to the one above is not something new, and has been done throughout history.

    We will react as all good Jews thorughout history have.

    Fear not, the strong authentic Jews will not deviate.

    For those who would like to change the religion, there are places already all set up for you.

    Refor, Conservative, Reconstructonists, etc.

    Orthodoxy will not be moved.

  11. read the article from rabbi dr berman where he explains that a small risk doesn’t mean we don’t do certain mitzvos. Read the article. It addresses all your questions

  12. kol hakavod! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    at least someone can see the truth between the obfuscation!
    it is anti-bris! make no mistake! metzitzah is just an easy way to go after it!

  13. Again it looks like Matzav is the only website willing to publish anything that stands up for Torah and mesorah. No one else is around to stand up for the Chassidish and Yeshiva world. No one. Only Matzav. Why is that?

  14. “Strange how quick some people were to report what seemed to be something that fit their agenda,”
    I assume then that if you are proved wrong you will publish an editorial noting that you misunderstood the science?

  15. Quote from Mr. Five:
    a) straw (for most everyone besides Hungarians this is great.”
    As you seem to be a genius in solving problems, I hereby nominate you to solve all problems of Klal Yisroel.
    But please don’t forget, before the Hungarians arrived on these shores Yiddishkeit was going down & down, even after…….
    so beter let’s not belittle anybody.

  16. I have an opinion but the Matzav Forum is not the place to spew all my thoughts. I actually have a rov & a rebbi & I discuss all my dilemmas & issues with them now it can very well be that he will issue a psak & or an aitza that you’re rov or rebbi(assuming you have one bec if not then you really shouldn’t be posting every ludicrous thought on public forums)will totally disagree with but does that mean he’s wrong? Absolutely NOT…. So let’s all relax speak to daas torah & do as they say….

  17. dear mixed breed.
    someone seems to have a chip on their shoulder regarding their heritage. there was no negative implication intended…. the “genius” of my statement relates to the fact that according to Hungarian tradition as reflected in the Chasam Sofer and subsequent talmidim and talmidei talmidim, all reflecting the long lineage of Hungarian halachic psak, (as distinct from litvish ect…) a glass straw ain’t good enough.
    now, that we’ve solved that mixup, if you need a therapist to help you deal with your compulsions to put chandeliers in all of your bathrooms, i may know someone.

  18. #23 The chasam sofer is not the correct source for this minhag. It is his talmid the Maharam Shick. Either way there are many gedolim over the centuries who held strongly that metzitza b’peh is an integral part of the mitzva.We don’t want self stytled rabbis deciding that what they think is correct and then getting the health departmant to enforce their “psak”.

  19. # 23:
    Is the ??? ????? ????? also Hungarian?
    His opinion is the same. Check it out for yourself in the beginning of ???? ?????.
    And by the way metzitza through a straw has nothing to do with this. Apparently you’re not the illuy you think you are.
    As for chandeliers, I can’t afford one even in my so called dining room.

  20. Dear Thinking Out Loud,
    I just read your informative and scholarly inputs, which help me very much in my pursuit of inteligence.
    However, you missed a point about Yiddishkeit (with or without chandeliers) brought up by the guy of mixed ancestry.

  21. As far as I see this whole thing…..

    Medically, if they would want to prove ‘the truth’, DNA tests would be done.


    That leaves many of us wondering why they don’t do it……????

    (…and I mean the Health Department, NOT the Mohalim. Mohalim would HAVE to agree to such a test, if they were court ordered. Nobody orders…)

  22. 11. Comment from FORMER DEM
    Time March 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM


    You are doing quite a bit of unnecessary yelling yourself. Please do not SHOUT: it is both rude and disrespectful of others.


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