Sunday, April 21, 1996

posted April 21, 2005

This is the full text of the email I received last Tuesday:

I have been told that the piece below appeared in the American Yated Neeman.
A Kinus Hisorerus Concerning Bris Mila

This past Sunday evening, hundreds of people gathered at a Kinus Hisorerus concerning Bris Mila, organized by the Vaad L'Mishmeres Bris Kodesh. It took place in the Khal Bnei Ashkenaz Shul in the heart of Monsey, and was graced by Monsey's leading Rabbonim.

The evening opened with a recitation of Tehillim led by Rabbi Mordechai Berg, Menahel of Yeshiva Shaarei Arazim. The Moroh D'Asra, Rav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, introduced the featured speaker as a leading Rosh Yeshiva and Posek in the Unites States, and as a Mohel Mumcheh, and called upon Rav Yisroel Belsky to deliver a shiur.

Rav Belsky opened with an erudite discussion of whether Metzitza B'Peh is an integral part of Mila or was instituted by Chazal to prevent sakona. He also discussed its ramifications al pi sod. He invoked the teshuva of Rav Dovid of Karlin, that regardless, the Gemara states that it is prohibited to change the Mesora of Klal Yisroel for no reason.

Rav Belsky highlighted this opinion with two vignettes.

He related that Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky informed his talmidim that the two Mohelim in Vilna who didn't do metzitza B'Peh, died from a dreaded disease of the mouth.

He recounted that when the AIDS virus was discovered, many Mohelim were scared to do Metzitza B'Peh. They asked Rav Moshe Feinstein what to do. Rav Moshe answered, "Chas V'Sholom to be mevatel it," and proclaimed "Shomer Mitzva Lo Yeidah Dovor Ra", that one doing a mitzvah will be protected. Rav Reuven Feinstein, who was present, asked his father, "Isn't it your opinion that metzitza isn't part of the Mitzvas Mila? How then can it be a source of protection?" Rav Moshe answered, "A holy Minhag is also part of a Mitzva that merits protection, even though it isn't a chiyuv." This was, and is, the approach of Poskim, regardless of the source of Metzitza.

Rav Belsky noted that a Rabbinic organization representing one thousand Rabbonim, recently proclaimed that Metzitza B'Peh is not necessary. They said that Mohelim should be persuaded to stop this antiquated and primitive practice. Their strident language was subsequently toned down in a public press release. They based their opinion on a study conducted in Israel associating Metzitza B'Peh with the deaths of infants. Their conclusion is that antibodies for herpes, found in ninety percent of the population, is the cause. This study was also cited by the Health Commissioner of NY, with the addition that of the ninety percent of people with antibodies, nine percent shed viruses in their saliva.

Rav Belsky stated that the Israeli medical profession is known for its inaccuracy and its anti-religious bias. Furthermore, the study doesn't present any proofs, only associations. One of the Mohelim even tested negative for antibodies. In a presentation to the city health commissioners, a famed pediatric urologist asserted that after examining two hundred thousand cases of Metzitza B'Peh, not even one infection was found. Rav Belsky calculated that if the statistics presented were correct, there should be five thousand cases a year, and there is not even one. When Rav Belsky presented this to the health commissioner, he replied, "Based on the statistics, transmission is inevitable."

In other words, my mind is made up; don't confuse me with the facts.

Rav Belsky countered, "We are the modern ones, basing our positions on scientific proofs and supplying statistical evidence. It is clear by the light of logic that there is no connection between Mila and infection. It is others that aren't showing cause and effect, engaging in speculation, using kindergarten-level reasoning. Their position is based on primitive emotions and antiquated superstitions." He observed that it is always Mohelim that are more cautious than doctors, delaying Brisos even when the latter say it's okay.

Rav Belsky declared that it is unprecedented for Jews to ask the government to interfere in religious practice. Even those who don't practice Metzitza B'Peh are shocked and nauseated by this. Furthermore, this approach to the government was concluded long before the unfortunate incident of the death of a child, and wasn't based on concern for this incident, but rather to further an agenda.

Rav Belsky further noted that the government is focusing on a certain Mohel. In his professional opinion, "this Mohel is the best of the best, the superstar Mohel", both in talent and in cleanliness. He has already tested negative in all blood tests. If he can be banned, then everyone else is next. Rav Belsky relayed that these forms of unfounded suspicions are a much larger disease, which will claim many more victims, and is far more contagious than any virus. Rav Belsky concluded that all gezeiros are products of our weakening in Shmiras haMitzvos. "If we will strengthen our adherence to Metzitza B'Peh, the decrees will disappear on their own."

The final speaker was Rav Zimmerman. He quoted the Gemara that states that Mitzvos such as Mila, which were done by our forefathers with Mesiras Nefesh, will always continue. That is the secret of its practice in trying circumstances, such as Communist Russia and during World War II. Even those distant from Shemiras Hamitzvos are attached to Mila, because through Mesiras Nefesh, it has become an integral part of the Jewish Soul. When someone causes the Mitzvah and traditions of Mila to be an object of scorn and mockery in the media, it is an attack on the Jewish soul. The outrage expressed by the masses and the strong and sharp speeches of their Rabbonim, are the primal scream of the Jewish soul in pain.

Rav Zimmerman asked "If there was a question, why weren't the Gedolei Yisroel, such as Rav Elyashiv, Rav Wosner and other manhigim consulted? What allows people to meet with the government and the media, with the express intent to regulate Mitzvah observance? What permits destroying the parnossa and reputation of a renowned Mohel, one that has performed seven thousand Brisos in Russia, at great personal danger and no charge? How can one take a Shliach Tzibbur and turn him into a Korban Tzibbur? How can one heap scorn on Shomrei Mitzvos and their Manhigim? How can one mock Mitzvos and Torah Sheba'al Peh?"

He answered that it comes from the hashkafa pesula of 'enlightened' individuals who consider everyone else primitive barbarians, cavemen dwelling in the dark.

Rav Zimmerman declared, "It is this hashkafa pesula and its ramifications that we are protesting tonight and proclaim 'Lo Yaaseh Kein Bimkomeinu'. It is simply not acceptable."

Rav Zimmerman quoted the commentary of Rav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch on Parshas Pinchas that peace - shalom - isn't quiet or appeasement, but rather the restoration of rights, human and divine, and the creation of harmony between Hashem and His creation. He announced, "We are here tonight to create Shalom. Shalom means; restoring the right of Kehillos to follow their Mesorah and Manhigim restoring Kvod Hatorah and Kvod Shomayim - thus creating harmony between Yisroel, Oraysa and Kudsha Brich Hu".

Rav Zimmerman related a story about the Brisker Rov and Rav Chaikin, the Rosh Yeshiva of Aix Les Ban, France. They were walking together in Switzerland, when an impressive looking figure passed by and greeted them. The Brisker Rav warmly returned the greeting. When he was later informed that this individual had caused great harm to Torah institutions, the Brisker Rav said, "Had I known, I never would have greeted him", and proceeded to communicate this individual's faults at length. Rav Chaikin, who was a noted talmid of the Chofetz Chaim asked "Isn't this loshon hora?" The Brisker Rav asked him, "If you see someone in the midst of pick pocketing, may you scream 'thief'?" Rav Chaikin answered, "Of course, if it is a to'eles, to warn the victim." The Brisker Rav concluded, "And if you see someone pick pocketing all of Klal Yisroel, isn't it also a to'eles to warn them?" So too, if people are trying to pickpocket the Mitzva of Mila and its minhagim from Klal Yisroel, it is our responsibility to warn them."

Rav Zimmerman concluded that it is our duty to increase our Emunah. He noted that external appearance and practice can be deceiving. Two Jews can wear the same Tefillin, eat the same Matzohs, and learn the same daf of Gemara, and nevertheless be different internally. "There are those who believe in the divinity of Torah Sh'Baal Peh and those who don't. There are those that believe in Mesorah and those who don't. There are those who believe in Emunas Chachomim and those who don't." Our obligation is to increase our Emunah which will hasten the Geulah. An appeal was made by the Vaad L'Mishmeres Bris Kodesh to contribute to the expensive legal fees involved in this case, by donating to "Friends of Bris Mila", PO Box 642, Brooklyn, NY 11219. Booklets documenting the facts of the case and letters from Gedolei Yisroel were distributed.