Mar 1, 2005
The Rabbinical Council of America, the largest group of Orthodox rabbis in the world, has today issued a statement regarding Brit Milah (circumcision) and Metzitza (Oral Suction).
The statement reads as follows:
Bris Milah and Metzitza be'Peh
(Ritual Circumcision and Oral Suction)
A Policy Statement by the
Rabbinical Council of America
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Bris Milah (ritual circumcision of Jewish males, performed on the 8th day after birth unless there are health contraindications) is a fundamental cornerstone of Jewish life and Biblical law. An important element of every Bris Milah is Metzitzah be'Peh, the extracting of blood from the wound and/or surrounding tissue using the mouth as the source of suction. This practice has been prevalent in all Jewish communities worldwide for thousands of years.
There has been a longstanding debate in the halachic responsa literature of the past several hundred years regarding the optimal way to fulfill the precept of suctioning. There are halachic authorities who mandate that only suction created via direct contact of the mouth to the wound adequately satisfies this requirement. Other halachic authorities, however, fully permit performing oral suctioning through a tube even as an ideal method of implementation of this precept.
A well-trained mohel, adhering to the scientific principles of sterile technique and antisepsis, essentially reduces the infectious risk of circumcision to the point where it is close to zero. Performing oral suction via a sterile tube does not pose any increased risk.
For those authorities who follow the view that suction via a sterile tube is completely permitted as a matter of Jewish law, this is clearly the optimal method to fulfill the requirement of Metzitzah be'Peh. In this manner, one absolutely fulfills the precept whilst placing the infant and mohel at no additional risk.
Based upon a careful study of the available halachic and scientific literature, as well as a review of sanctioned practice by numerous reliable Torah authorities past and present, it is the position of the RCA that the requirement of Metzitzah is fulfilled completely and unambiguously by the use of oral suctioning through a tube, as practiced by many mohelim in our communities. Therefore, according to this viewpoint, the use of such a tube is not only permissible, but is preferred (instead of direct oral contact) to eliminate any unintentional communication of infectious diseases. This protects both the mohel and the newly circumcised child.
An additional reason to encourage the use of a tube to fulfill the requirements of Metzitzah is that we not discourage less committed Jewish men and women from observing ritual circumcision (and possibly other Jewish rituals). Indeed, even some authorities who otherwise require Metzitzah be’Peh via direct oral contact, sanction a tube if that is the only way that the parents of a child would observe the mitzvah of Bris Milah.
In light of the above, the RCA urges its member rabbis, their congregants, synagogues and institutions, as well as the larger Jewish community, to encourage and where possible necessitate, that Metzitzah be’Peh be fulfilled via a tube.
About the RCA:
The Rabbinical Council of America, with national headquarters in New York City, is a professional organization serving over 1000 Orthodox Rabbis in the United States of America, Canada, Israel, and around the world. Membership is comprised of duly ordained Orthodox Rabbis who serve in positions of the congregational Rabbinate, Jewish education, chaplaincies, and other allied fields of Jewish communal work.
For further information contact:
Rabbi Dr. Basil Herring
Executive Vice President
The Rabbinical Council of America