Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Metzizah and the Rav Part II

In a post last week entitled Metzitzah and the Rav, I argued that Rabbi Meiselman, in insisting that "the mohel must suction the wound in a traditionally prescribed manner," was neglecting to mention the position of his alleged mentor, Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik, who was against metzitzah b'peh. Various defendants of R. Meiselman claimed in response that R. Meiselman was not referring to metzitzah b'peh, but just to metzitzah by any form, including using a tube as was often done in Lithuania.

Now, if this is true, it would provide another example of R. Meiselman being exceedingly disingenuous. If a person means to state that metzitzah must be done whether by mouth or by tube, there are plenty of ways to say this clearly, such as by saying that "the mohel must suction the wound by whatever means." Saying "in a traditionally prescribed manner" clearly leads people to believe that he is referring to metzitzah b'peh. After all, if he is referring to using a tube, then what is the non-traditionally prescribed manner?!

But it would not only be an example of disingenuous writing. It would also still be conflicting with the position of his alleged rebbe.

In a post at the Seforim Blog, Dr. Marc Shapiro noted that Rav Schachter wrote a footnote in the second edition recording the view of one of the Rav's talmidim that the Rav was not opposed to metzitzah per se, just to metzitzah b'peh. Someone sent me the following comment:
I spoke to Rav Schachter after I read Marc Shapiro's post and he insisted that Rav Soloveitchik did not require metzitzah at all (he mentioned the Sdei Chemed to me when I asked him how Rav Soloveitchik could say such a thing). When I mentioned Marc Shapiro's post to him, he said one or two of the Rav's talmidim in Israel insisted that the Rav never said metzizah is unnecessary, so Rav Schachter added a footnote to this effect in the next edition of Nefesh Harav. However, Rav Schachter in his conversation with me was insistent that the Rav, indeed, did not require metzitzah at all.

Another person wrote as follows:
I am not into writing reactions (Israelis call them "talkbacks") on blogs, since I have not become accustomed to the 21st Century. But I want to give you a bit of information that is relevant to your discussion of Metzitza. I attended Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's shiurim at Gruss for a number of years, and I clearly remember what he said on the subject during what the guys called "a press conference." He said very clearly that the Rav was against any Metzitza at all, and he expressed this view explicitly at the brit of one of Rav Aharon's sons. To me such a view makes lots of sense, if one understands that it is required in the gemara only because it was then thought that the lack of Metzitza was dangerous.(כי לא עביד סכנה הוא (שבת קלג,ב
And, following this comment, another person wrote to me (unfortunately, he will not let me quote him by name):
I was at the same shiur (= "press conference") of Rav Aharon and he explicitly said that "the Rov" held that no metzitza should be done at all. At the brith of one of Rav Aharon's sons, the Rov was watching "like a hawk" lest the mohel do it.

So, we have the emphatic testimony of two of the Rav's leading talmidim, one of whom is also his son-in-law, that the Rav was against any form of metzitzah, whether by the traditionally prescribed manner of oral suction, or the non-traditional manner of using a tube. (And they have much less incentive to fabricate this position than those claiming that the Rav did insist on metzitzah.) Thus, if Rabbi Meiselman was referring to metzitzah via a tube, he is not only being disingenuous in his writing; he is still demonstrating that his approach to Torah and science is fundamentally at odds with his alleged rebbe.

48 comments:

  1. Both Rabbis, Schachter and Lichtenstein are alive and well. Thank God. A phone call can verify this. No need to rely on unnamed sources who relate what they heard.

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  2. I don't have any doubts as to what Rav Schachter and Rav Lichtenstein said, due to multiple reports, some from people that I know personally. And thus I don't have any doubts as to what the Rav said; it would be absurd to think that Rav Schachter and Rav Lichtenstein would fabricate or be mistaken about such a thing.

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  3. Hi Rav Slifkin,

    There is a qualitative difference between "I heard from third parties that Rave Lichtenstein said..." and "Rav Lichtenstein said to me..."

    There is even a bigger qualitative advantage to being able to
    Rav Lichtenstein actually knowingly and willingly being quoted as saying the alleged quote.

    No-one is suggesting that they "fabricated" Rav Solevitchik's position. What is being asked is that you confirm the "reports" of Rav Schachter and Rav Lichtenstein.

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  4. Maybe 'the traditionally prescribed manner' means any manner which is as effective as b'fe "...one may trust the experts regarding which
    method is as effective as drawing with the lips...". Maybe someone could just ask R. Meiselman what he meant.

    Also, I agree that second hand reporting would be better than 3rd, 4th and maybe more that is being relied on here. Make a quick phone call! I think the whole thing is a bit improper in the first place. How do we know the Rav couldn't have had a period when he changed his mind?

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  5. @koillel nick,

    What a great suggestion. Perhaps you as an independent third party could make the phone calls to both men and lay out the scenario as stated in the article and get them to either confirm or deny what has been presented.

    You can then write back your findings here. In this way, an independent verification can be made.

    I look forward to your next comment

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  6. How much do you want to bet that the anonymous "student in Israel" was R' Mieselman himself? If you want more than one, I can probably name those as well.

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  7. @Yossi is correct.
    @a bit of seychel- Me calling and relating wouldn't make it better. Rabbi Slifkin should make the phone call and say Rabbi so and so said the following.

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  8. Rav Shachter also told me (about 8 or 9 years ago) that the Rav did not require ANY metzitzah at all.

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  9. I'm forced to agree that the evidence presented here is not compelling (to me). I can easily believe the Rav held both that Metzitzah no longer serves a purpose and that Metzitzah B'Peh is a negative that should be avoided. That would be a rather conventional position.

    I have a harder time believing that the Rav watched "like a hawk" that the Mohel not do Metzitzah with a tube. If this happened, it makes much more sense that was concerned that the Mohel would surreptitiously do Metzitzah B'Peh. What Mohel is so ideologically committed to Metzitzah with a tube and what harm are you preventing?

    This is an argument from theory (similar to that of Prof. Shapiro) and subject to disproof, but I'd like to see more proof. And I mean no insult to those providing the testimony; I'm just trying to look at this objectively.

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  10. @ "Rav Schachter wrote a footnote in the second edition"

    To nitpick, you mean, "Rav Schachter wrote a footnote in the second edition [OF NEFESH HARAV]"

    It was unclear.

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  11. Perhaps the author of the pitpitim blog who has a personal kosher with Rav Shechter and is not eith Rabbi Slifkin or Rabbi Meiselman can get him to confirm or deny

    Bottom line: Can someone who knows these Rabbonim contact them independently to eiither confirm or deny what has been stated

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  12. Gil Student already confirmed. And Marc Shapiro told me that he has a letter from Rav Schachter attesting to it.

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  13. Gil Student already confirmed. And Marc Shapiro told me that he has a letter from Rav Schachter attesting to it.

    There are 4 versions of "it" :).

    1) Don't do Metzitzah B'Peh. Well supported.

    2) No need to do Metzitzah in theory. Supported via R. Schechter via various channels including R. Student with some seeming to dispute it (or maybe they only disputed #3).

    3) No need to do Metzitzah in practice. Perhaps supported/opposed by the same testimony as #2. Did not seem to reach the point of being an open P'sak or public policy as the opposition to Metzitzah B'Peh did.

    4) Actively discourage Metzitzah/"Watch like a hawk" to ensure no Metzitzah at all is done. Some testimony to support and most odd from theoretical perspective.

    So you are really claiming support for #2 (or maybe #3) which is all you really need to show the inconsistency in the book.

    #4 is still, IMO, a bit out there with the evidence given so far.

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    Replies
    1. No, you are obfuscating. Rav Student already said it was confirmed to him personally that no metzitzah at all was required. Why should we disbelieve what they are saying?

      Delete
  14. Doesn't specifically address this question, but is certainly related, very short, and interesting.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/784054/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Following_in_the_Steps_of_Our_Forefathers#

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  15. Two weeks ago (as I was preparing for the brit of my son) I asked Rav Yair Kahn, a Ra"m at Yeshivat Har Etzion, to confirm with Rav Lichtenstein what the Rav's position was. He had another Ra"m at the yeshiva speak to Rav Lichtenstein, and the response was that the Rav was against metzitza at all.

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  16. Rabbi Slifkin,
    I love your books. I love your blog. But I think you've got to move on from Rabbi Meiselman. You've picked what is an increasingly nasty fight. Let it go. You made your point. Don't get personal. Please.

    People aren't reading your blog to hear about some running feud with Rabbi Meiselman. You have a lot of interesting things to say. Stay focused.

    I hope I haven't offended. I'm old, and I like to provide advice.

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    Replies
    1. Nothing about what Rabbi Slifkin is writing regarding Rabbi Meiselman strikes me as personal. Refuting someone's work, pointing out inconsistencies or errors in their published positions does NOT constitute a personal attack. In fact the burden of eliminating personal attacks and keeping the fueding out of it lies with the opponents of Slifkin. The ban was the quintessential personal attack and ad hominem approach. Meiselman could have instead come out with his sefer as the response if he thinks that refutes Slifkin's opinions or approach. He did now but he attacked first, years ago. Funny how when he publishes the book or critiques Slifkin's views (in those instances when it's done in a civil manner) you don't consider that a personal affront or fued with Slifkin, but if Slifkin refutes Meiselman's approach in a civil manner you call that personal. Why should meiselman's work be immune to criticism? You sound a little bit like one of his chassidim.

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  17. Rabbi,

    In your November 28 post you quoted R. Meiselman as stating that "the mohel must suction the wound in a traditionally prescribed manner." In your December 3 post you quote him as insisting that "the mohel must suction the wound in the traditionally prescribed manner." Please clarify whether it's "a" or "the" traditionally prescribed manner. There's a difference, as the indefinite article implies that there's more than one traditionally prescribed manner, whereas the definite article implies that there's only one.

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  18. Good observation. I just checked the book and it's "a," not "the." Apologies for error.
    But I still maintain that the phrase is designed to lead people to believe that he is referring to metzitzah b'peh. Again, what would suctioning the wound in a "non-traditionally prescribed manner" be?

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  19. Rabbi Slifkin,

    2 questions unrelated to this post, but that I would be interested in your addressing:

    1. What is your opinion of the gemara just learned in the daf on daf chaf which talks about sound traveling less in the day because of the Galgal Hachama?

    2. In your discussions on Metzizah, I believe your discussion is incomplete until you take a serious look at the kabbalistic aspect of MBP. I believe that this is the driving force behind the strong support of MBP - even more so than the gemara which discussed metziza.

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  20. 1. Not sure. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/sound-of-spheres.html

    2. It's not kabbalah that's the driving force. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/02/suckers-for-orthodoxy.html

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  21. Above The Belt said...
    Rabbi Slifkin,
    I love your books. I love your blog. But I think you've got to move on from Rabbi Meiselman. You've picked what is an increasingly nasty fight. Let it go. You made your point. Don't get personal. Please.

    People aren't reading your blog to hear about some running feud with Rabbi Meiselman. You have a lot of interesting things to say. Stay focused.


    You might not realize that R. Meiselman just came out with an 800+ page book in which he attempts to refute the approach take by R. Slifkin, R. Aryeh Kaplan and others on resolution of Judaism with modern science as well as to propose his own approach. It's going to take a lot of blog posts to analyze the book. This has nothing to do with personal animus, although there is some history here as well. See http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/ravmeiselman.html.

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  22. Yakov Kohl said...
    Two weeks ago (as I was preparing for the brit of my son) I asked Rav Yair Kahn, a Ra"m at Yeshivat Har Etzion, to confirm with Rav Lichtenstein what the Rav's position was. He had another Ra"m at the yeshiva speak to Rav Lichtenstein, and the response was that the Rav was against metzitza at all.


    First, Mazal Tov.

    I have to say that this post is both intriguing and frustrating :).

    1) This is effectively 5th hand information. The Rav->R. Lichtenstein->Anonymous Ra"m->R. Kahn->Yakov Kohl->Blog Post. I know that everyone is acting in good faith, but the subtleties are just going to get lost here.

    2) My curiousity: Is it a common practice in your community to have no Metzitzah at all done for the Bris? What was the Mohel's reaction when you asked him not to do Metzitzah at all?

    3) My curiousity: was there a reason given to be "against" Metzitzah at all? Was it just that there is no point to it?

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  23. Student V said...
    No, you are obfuscating. Rav Student already said it was confirmed to him personally that no metzitzah at all was required. Why should we disbelieve what they are saying?


    Don't know if you were referring to me, but here is what bothers me:

    1) I don't disbelieve anyone in that chain. But I know that 3rd hand information is not always 100% accurate, especially on possibly subtle details.

    2) "Metzitzah is not needed" is open to a number of interpretations (detailed above).

    3) "Metzitzah is not needed" does not imply "watch like a hawk" to prevent any possible Metzitzah with a tube. Again, I don't want to discredit those reporting this story or imply that they are in some way deficient.

    4) There seems to be a dearth of Poskim (someone who is more knowledgeable, please correct me) who actually takes this active prevent-all-metzitzah position, despite the fact that there are plenty who believe that the reason for Metzitzah is medical and doesn't actually provide a benefit today.

    What I think makes no difference as I have no authority or expertise, but I do personally agree that "Metzitzah is not needed". However, I asked for the tube (and advised relatives to do so) because I didn't see poskim that said to just eliminate it and I saw no harm in the tube Metzitzah. I'm happy to accept that the Rav held whatever he held, and it would be quite interesting to me if he was "actively against all Metzitzah", but it still seems a bit ambiguous.

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  24. "How do we know the Rav couldn't have had a period when he changed his mind?"

    How do we know he didn't change his mind after he changed his mind?

    Ahh... the old "changed his mind" chestnut. Anytime there's a quotation from a Gadol that we're uncomfortable with, the reaction is one of the following:

    * He didn't say/write it. It's a forgery.
    * He did say it, but changed his mind before he died
    * He said it על דרך דרוש
    * He said it for kiruv purposes
    * He said it משום איבה
    * He was allowed to say it, but we're not allowed to say it.

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  25. David Ohsie: I suppose a reason to be against it, period, is because it's based on faulty medicine (the four humors theory, which says that infection comes from an excess of blood), and even if it's not harmful, we want to make a statement that we don't rely on outdated medical theories.

    That said, you have a good point: There are many confusable terms here, including metzitza, metzitza b'feh, direct metzitza b'feh, etc., which are not identical but are sometimes treated as such. A direct statement like "The Rav [or Rav X] held that only milah and preiah are required, not metzitah" would help.

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  26. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzDecember 4, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    "2) My curiousity: Is it a common practice in your community to have no Metzitzah at all done for the Bris? What was the Mohel's reaction when you asked him not to do Metzitzah at all?"

    David - I have had front row seats to the britot of a few of my younger siblings, some nephews as well as my sons (for who I DIRECTLY appointed the mohel as my shaliach)
    I can say without a doubt that over 99% of the people in attendance do not even pay attention to what is going on and don't watch the mohel perform the circumcision.
    It is perhaps in Satmar and the hungarian sattelite communities in Brooklyn and upstate NY, who have substituted metzizah b'feh as the sine qua non of normative Judaism (probably at the expense of other normative practices and beliefs) who make a whole show of this. Most people don't really care.
    I would guess that by being appointed as agents most licensed mohelim would just do what the father wants them to do and no more - and if instructed by the father not to do metzizah at all would simply not do it.
    I want to say that for my britot (i.e. where I was the "baal mitzvah" ) I instructed the mohel to use a pipette and not do it b'feh. Had I been aware of the view of RYBS I would have instructed him not to do it at all! so thank you Natan Slifkin for bringing this view to wider attention. I will certainly tell people about it.

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  27. someone who read the bookDecember 4, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    To Rabbi Slifkin:
    "Again, what would suctioning the wound in a "non-traditionally prescribed manner" be?"

    Through a gauze. Or as the Tifferes Yisroel precribed: doing it less forcefully on Shabbos.
    And yes, "a traditionally prescribed manner" is worlds apart from "the traditionally precribed manner".

    Rabbi Slifkin, the desperation here is palpable.

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  28. And what makes a tube more traditional than a gauze or a technique suggested by Tiferes Yisrael?

    And again, if he wanted to be clear, he could have written "metzitzah by any means" or, even better, "metzitzvah via mouth or tube." Writing "traditionally prescribed manner" is designed to lead people to think that he means "via mouth."

    In any case, I'm not desperate, because either way, he's contradicting the Rav, who didn't require metitzah at all.

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  29. Brooklyn Refugee Sheygitz said...
    "2) My curiousity: Is it a common practice in your community to have no Metzitzah at all done for the Bris? What was the Mohel's reaction when you asked him not to do Metzitzah at all?"

    David - I have had front row seats to the britot of a few of my younger siblings, some nephews as well as my sons (for who I DIRECTLY appointed the mohel as my shaliach)
    I can say without a doubt that over 99% of the people in attendance do not even pay attention to what is going on and don't watch the mohel perform the circumcision.

    I won't argue that :). But the Mohel does pay attention!

    It is perhaps in Satmar and the hungarian sattelite communities in Brooklyn and upstate NY, who have substituted metzizah b'feh as the sine qua non of normative Judaism (probably at the expense of other normative practices and beliefs) who make a whole show of this. Most people don't really care.

    Yes, but there is a tradition of doing Metzitzah via tube or other means. I don't believe there is a tradition of "No Metzitzah".

    I would guess that by being appointed as agents most licensed mohelim would just do what the father wants them to do and no more - and if instructed by the father not to do metzizah at all would simply not do it.

    I highly doubt that of many or most Mohel's (Mohelim?). A Mohel is not going to just go along with a father's wishes if he doesn't think that this is a Shita based on Poskim to support the practie and you simply don't find Poskim that say this. I am ready to be proved wrong, because I am not that knowledgeable. I'm relying on articles like the one in Hakira surveying the Poskim. If you look at the RCA statement, for example, it doesn't bring up the position "Don't do Metzitzah at all". http://www.rabbis.org/news/article.cfm?id=100605

    I want to say that for my britot (i.e. where I was the "baal mitzvah" ) I instructed the mohel to use a pipette and not do it b'feh. Had I been aware of the view of RYBS I would have instructed him not to do it at all! so thank you Natan Slifkin for bringing this view to wider attention. I will certainly tell people about it.

    I certainly am not going to criticize anyone's practice. But wouldn't it make more sense to call up R. Schachter (or some other Talmid of the Rav how you trust as a Posek) and ask "I'm having a Bris, should I tell the Mohel to dispense with the Metzitzah entirely?". That seems like a more reliable method than "A told B told C that Metzitzah is not needed". Even if A, B and C are reliable people.

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  30. R' Natan,
    Here's something about RYDS' position I'd like to see clarified.
    All the reports that state he was against any form of Metzitzah -- do they mean jut Metzitzah via a tube in addition to traditional MBP, or did RYDS feel that even Metzitzah with a guaze /s'fug was not necessary?
    Can someone please clarify?
    Thanks.

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  31. At the end of the day there is a difference between "a" and "the". And in any case, honesty is important. So please change the actual post.

    yitzi7

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  32. David Ohsie, what don't you understand about "no metzitza at all" ? The key words are at all, which make the meaning very clear. Rabbi Student says he was told this directly by Rabbi Shachter who was expressing the Rav's view as he heard it. One can easily check with Rav S to "make sure" Student heard it right, but I see no reason to doubt him and several others here have confirmed this view through Rav Aharon L. I think what you are really saying is, you can't fathom that a gadol like the rav could have not required it at all, so therefore Rabbi Shachter either heard it wrong, misunderstood, or...
    That sound about right?

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  33. If we accept that the Rav did not require any Metzitza at all, there may have been a specific reason why he "watched like a hawk" to prevent it in one instance but not necessarily against those who want to continue the tradition in a medically acceptable safe way more generally.

    That is to serve as an example and testimony that he was there, and very clearly witnessed its omission at the Brit of his own grandson and stayed quiet. That doesn't mean he would specifically instruct someone else to omit it. Perhaps he just wanted to let the olam know there's absolutely no need for it, no preference for it, and it's not something that we only accept after the fact b'di'avod.

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  34. "Ahh... the old 'changed his mind' chestnut. Anytime there's a quotation from a Gadol that we're uncomfortable with, the reaction is one of the following: ... He did say it, but changed his mind before he died."

    There are teshuvot to the general effect that regardless of a person's personal integrity, he is not believed to claim private knowledge that a deceased posek repudiated an halachic position that he previously made public and never publicly retracted. See Shu"t Noda BiYehuda, Mahadura Tinyana, Yoreh Deah, Siman 29; Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim, Siman 39, Os 15; Yabia Omer, vol. 10, Orach Chayim, Siman 55, Os 2. In this instance, the issue is whether RJBS ever publicized his position on metzitza (whatever it may be). If not, a bona fide claim that he changed his mind could not be dismissed out-of-hand.

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  35. Nachum said...
    David Ohsie: I suppose a reason to be against it, period, is because it's based on faulty medicine (the four humors theory, which says that infection comes from an excess of blood), and even if it's not harmful, we want to make a statement that we don't rely on outdated medical theories.


    I agree 100%. But there is a difference between having a theory and changing a practice. And there is a difference between saying, "this minhag no longer has value" to "this minhag should be uprooted". So the question is, how do the Poskim who believe in the theory that you mentioned actually Pasken. We don't see them saying "simply dispense with the Metzitzah" or at least I don't think we see it. Which is why Prof. Shapiro expressed some surprise in his blog post.

    That said, you have a good point: There are many confusable terms here, including metzitza, metzitza b'feh, direct metzitza b'feh, etc., which are not identical but are sometimes treated as such. A direct statement like "The Rav [or Rav X] held that only milah and preiah are required, not metzitah" would help.

    Or better yet: "As a Talmid of the Rav, I pasken that it better not to do Metzitzah at all". Or even, "The Rav paskened on many occasions for his Talmidim that they should not do Metzitzah at all".

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  36. Yes, but there is a tradition of doing Metzitzah via tube or other means. I don't believe there is a tradition of "No Metzitzah".

    Are you saying that you believe Rav Solevitchik's position as reported by multiple witnesses to be completely innovative with no mesorah behind it?

    Say for the sake of argument that Rav Solevitchik did indeed hold against metzitzah. Rabbi Meiselman claims that his mesorah is from the Rav, but goes against it.

    In addition, as Rabbi Slifkin demonstrated in his post When Is A Mesorah Not A Mesorah? Rabbi Meiselman has problems not just with his personal Rebbe's mesorah, but with Chazal and Rishonim. This is in contrast to his public stance of defending Chazal.

    The typical approach for innovators in traditional societies of all kinds is to claim that their innovation, and in some cases even their antinomialism and heresy, is actually the true tradition.

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  37. Friends of ours from Haifa (secular) took their baby to Tel Aviv for his brit. The reason was that a prominent mohel in Haifa, when told not to do metzitza b'feh, says "Yeah, sure" and then does it anyway.

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  38. Rav Schachter on Rav Soloveitchik on MPB:

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/729692/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Bris_Mila

    Discussion of metzitzah 27:40

    At 29:06, he says explicitly that Rav Soloveitchik did not require metzitzah at all.

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  39. Yes, but there is a tradition of doing Metzitzah via tube or other means. I don't believe there is a tradition of "No Metzitzah".

    Are you saying that you believe Rav Solevitchik's position as reported by multiple witnesses to be completely innovative with no mesorah behind it?

    First, when I wrote "tradition", I wrote imprecisely. I was not referring to "masorah from sinai". I meant there is no extant Minhag in any Orthodox groups to do Milah without any Metzitzah at all. (I could be simply ignorant of such groups).

    Getting to your question, as I mentioned, the notion that Metzitzah is there purely for health purposes is the plain meaning of the Gemara, since the Gemara indicates that Metzitzah would not be done on Shabbos if not for Sakanah.

    So if the Rav's position is that Metzitzah is there only for health purposes (and I don't doubt this), then this is very well supported in the "Masorah".

    Getting to the practical implications, if you hold that Metzitzah is there for health only and you believe that there is a risk of disease transmission with Metzitzah B'Peh, then the Metzitzah B'Peh should be actively discouraged. This is one "Minhag" that you will find today.

    However if the Rav held that either 1) paskened that Metzitzah need no longer be done and be considered completely optional in practice or 2) paskened that Metzitzah should be actively discouraged, then I believe that this would be innovating a new practice, which, given his greatness, was well within his purview. But I don't see the evidence that he either felt the need to do such a thing or actually did such a thing. The RCA statement doesn't mention it at all. Especially surprising would be actively discouraging any Metzitzah. It seems to my limited mind that this would be of limited benefit and high costs.

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  40. Joseph said...
    Rav Schachter on Rav Soloveitchik on MPB:

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/729692/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Bris_Mila

    Discussion of metzitzah 27:40

    At 29:06, he says explicitly that Rav Soloveitchik did not require metzitzah at all.


    Thank you for the reference. I listened to that. He is saying that the Rav endorsed the Gemara's plain meaning that Metzitzah is due to Sakanah, and if it provides no health benefits today, it would not be required, unlike others like Chatam Sofer who implied that there was a "Mitzvah" component, in order to combat the Reform movement in creating innovations in Halacha.

    That still leaves the question open as to whether he endorsed changing the practice to either make Metzitzah optional or to actively remove it from practice. There is a step from the underlying theory to the practice. Perhaps he also held that this would be too radical a change in practice for little benefit. There is no way to know from the short reference that you gave.

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  41. Student V said...
    David Ohsie, what don't you understand about "no metzitza at all" ? The key words are at all, which make the meaning very clear. Rabbi Student says he was told this directly by Rabbi Shachter who was expressing the Rav's view as he heard it. One can easily check with Rav S to "make sure" Student heard it right, but I see no reason to doubt him and several others here have confirmed this view through Rav Aharon L. I think what you are really saying is, you can't fathom that a gadol like the rav could have not required it at all, so therefore Rabbi Shachter either heard it wrong, misunderstood, or...
    That sound about right?


    Not really. Since you don't know me, you've put me in a box far to the right of the actual box that I'm trapped in.

    To answer you directly, it makes perfect sense to me in theory that Metzitzah can be entirely dispensed with and I believe the Rav was great enough to innovate such a change in practice.

    I am doubting the evidence presented that he actually did such a thing, especially the evidence that he *actively* discouraged any Metzitzah rather than simply finding it unnecessary.

    The statement from R. Schachter that I heard on the recording, the one recorded in the book, and the one quoted by R. Student don't distinguish between theory and practice. Also, R. Schachter himself added that others disagreed with his assessment of the Rav's Shita (although I don't understand the nature of their disagreement). We don't see communities that follow the Rav's minhagim not doing any Metzitzah. The stories quoted in the name of the Rav about interactions with others on a practical level relate to Metzitzah B'Peh, not Metzitzah as a whole. The RCA statement doesn't even consider eliminating Metzitzah.

    And, yes, even with reliable people, I think that such a subtlety between theory and practice can get lost in a train of oral communication. It is the way of the world.

    So I'm simply suggesting that if it is a question of practice, then a P'sak be requested. The worst that can happen is the R. Schachter answers "Of course you should not do any Metzitzah. What a foolish question. Why are you reading blog posts (and even ignorant blog comments) instead of just consulting what I wrote openly in Nefesh Harav?" :).

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  42. David Ohsie,

    All that Rabbi Student said was "Rav Shachter also told me (about 8 or 9 years ago) that the Rav did not require ANY metzitzah at all."

    Yet you are doubting this as "third hand" information. Rabbi Student didn't say "actively prevented it" or anything like that, yet you are doubting also what he claims.

    Aside from that, I don't comprehend the nitpick you are making. If a Rav held that it's "not necessary at all" that means you don't have to do it according to that rav. That means the person can either do it, or not do it. Because it's not necessary to do it. If it was necessary, then people would have to do it and have no choice. Whether this Rav went around with picket signs and pointed lasers at mohelim while they performed their procedures is really not relevant. I don't know what you are getting at with the 'actively against it' bit. You want to hold a mohel responsible if he does it? You want him to get an avera? It really has nothing to do with the decision on what the parent wants , does it?

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  43. Student V, I explained in some detail in the two threads what I thought the uncertainties are. If you think that there is something wrong with my reasoning, then I'm happy to discuss. I explained the possible distinction between "not necessary" in theory vs. changing practice as well as the possible confusion between Metztitzah B'Peh/Feh and the recent non-Peh Metzitzah methods.

    When I wrote "actively against it" I was referring to the "watch like a hawk" suggestions, not pickets. I don't want to hold anyone responsible for anything, especially given the fact that I agree that in theory Metzitzah is no longer needed. But my opinion is of no consequence.

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  44. Ok, possibly this "standing like a hawk" thing was on Shabbos. Even Rav Shlomo Zalman was bothered by Metzitzah nowadays on Shabbos (שולחן שלמה שבת סי' של"א) bit.ly/1f2Atwk.

    And, David Ohsie, here's the link I promised to שמירת הגוף והנפש on fish and meat: bit.ly/18j3Vz7 (one possible answer to the Rav Elyashiv question would be he follows Rav Hirsch's Teshuvah where he posits that the danger is not immediate and can't be rule out. Now I thought this is far-fetched, but then nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/a-cure-for-the-allergy-epidemic.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&adxnnlx=1384090711-IW0NSXXxfTnjbt2Q1h250A
    claims exposure to germs during childhood is a powerful prevention for allergies and "nine people die daily from asthma attacks." (While I'm no Slifkinite, I still agree there is sufficient reason to believe Chazal were following the physicians of their time as shown in Sprecher's Hakira article.)

    (I've inadvertently commented in the last Metzitza post's thread about posting the above source, under the former name of a relative of mine - luckily a very common name.)

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  45. gh500 has left a new comment on the post "Metzizah and the Rav Part II":

    Ok, possibly this "standing like a hawk" thing was on Shabbos. Even Rav Shlomo Zalman was bothered by Metzitzah nowadays on Shabbos (שולחן שלמה שבת סי' של"א) bit.ly/1f2Atwk.


    This is an excellent point. Although it cuts both ways. If it was really "Assur" on Shabbos (practically, not hypothetically), then the statement would be more like "it is unnecessary on weekdays, but Assur on Shabbos." But we don't see either of those and no one yet claims this in the Rav (Rav Schachter doesn't mention it on the tape). To give credit where it is due, R. Meiselman shows that we are very conservative on some of these Sakanah things: e.g. pushing off the Milah of a "jaundiced" baby is just as questionable if you consider it medically. Same goes for a woman after childbirth.

    I still tend to believe that the hawk's eye, it if was really open, was watching for Metzitza B'Peh. But what do I know?

    And, David Ohsie, here's the link I promised to שמירת הגוף והנפש on fish and meat: bit.ly/18j3Vz7

    Thank you, I plan to look at both sources when time permits...

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