Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Metzitzah Article in the Jewish Week

In the heat of the Metzitzah Debate raging in New York City in the Summer of 2012, I wrote this opinion piece which was published by the Jewish Week. Here is the link to my article (text follows below)

http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/metzitzah-changes-require-rabbinic-leadership-0

The sources that needed to be left out of the article due to space limitations will follow the text of the article below.


Metzitzah Changes Require Rabbinic Leadership




Talmudic mention of Metzitzah - Shabbat 133a
Maimonides - Laws of Milah 2:6
Rabbi Yosef Cairo - Shulchan Arukh O"C 331:1 and YD 264:3
Milah and Priah as requirements - Shabbat 137b; and Shulchan Arukh Y"D 264:5
No Metzitzah = Bad operator - Shabbat 133b
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that metzitzah is not part of the mitzvah - YD I:223, last paragraph
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv saying tube is acceptable - Kuntres Shaarei Halachos 16, page 30, edited by Rabbi Menashe Klein, 1989 – which can be found here: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=4427&st=&pgnum=32

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Amazing Story

At a recent bris, the baby was named "Refael Pinchas Zev."

Giving a baby one or two names is common. Giving three names is far less common. When I expressed interest in "why 3 names?" I was told by the baby's father, that the baby was being named after his [the baby's] grandfather, a young grandfather who passed away a couple of years ago in his early 60s.

Refael Pinchas Zev's dad then told me his father's story.

"When my father was 44, he suffered a major [malady] which sent him to the hospital. I was a young kid. My sister and I were told "Go say goodbye to your father. He is either going to die; or, if he survives, he'll be a vegetable."

As you can imagine, this was a very difficult thing for young kids to hear.

The family's rabbi was there as well, and he suggested they add a name. This follows an ancient custom that essentially argues that if God has made a decree on "Shmuel," He has not made the decree on "Chaim Shmuel." The hope is that changing the person's name will help give the person a different chance in the workings of the heavens.

But the family did not want to add the word "Chaim" - meaning "Life" - because the doctors had said that if he lives, he'll be a vegetable. Instead, they chose to add the name "Refael" which means "God heals." If the name change "works" we pray that he is healed and gets better.

The catch to the story is that the sick man's mother was involved in saving some member[s?] of the Belzer Rebbe's family during the Holocaust. It was proposed to contact the Belzer Rebbe. Perhaps, in the merit of the deeds of the sick man's mother for the Belzer Rebbe's family, perhaps the Belzer Rebbe could participate in the prayers on behalf of her son.

Contact was made, and the Belzer Rebbe recited the prayer at the Western Wall, changing the name from Pinchas Zev to REFAEL PINCHAS ZEV.

"At the moment that the Belzer Rebbe changed my father's name," Baby RPZ's father says, "my father's vitals improved. He had a complete recovery and was out of the hospital in a fairly short amount of time. And he lived another 19 years."

In general, I am wary of stories like this that come from third party individuals, or from people who heard a story once... But this story is amazing because it comes from a person who witnessed and experienced it. AND it really makes you wonder "coincidence? or power of prayer?" My vote is on the latter.

Of course they gave the baby the grandfather's three-name name. Pinchas Zev no longer existed. It was Refael Pinchas Zev who had the new lease on life. And we certainly wish the new Refael Pinchas Zev to have a very long life, with good health!, bringing joy and nachas to his parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why I Disagree with the Agudah's Approach

If you are a no-matter-what supporter of the Agudah, there is a good chance you will disagree - that is your right. Should you choose to leave a comment, please take note of my comments policy. I am happy to have a debate. But I can only engage in conversations with people who have real names, who articulate a position without resorting to personal attacks. Thank you - AB

The Agudath Israel penned this letter (url below) to the Mayor of NYC.
If you are unfamiliar with what has been going on, they spell it out in their letter - from their perspective, of course.  

In simple terms, this is the fallout that has come down since the story that came out in the beginning of March 2012 (which can be read about in the Metzitzah page). The NY State Dept of Health is looking to require mohels to have parents sign a waiver that they understand the risks associated with Metzitzah B'Peh - metzitzah being the act of drawing blood from the open circumcision wound, while B'peh means (according to the definition being addressed) with direct oral contact of the mohel's mouth to the wound. If you don't understand why anyone would do this, read this post in its entirety.

I have not yet been able to determine what might be the consequence if this proposed law is not followed (would appreciate any insights! - email me).

But the letter linked to above is disturbing on many levels.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chubby Baby Syndrome

Thank God, most brisses I do look pretty nice after the bandage comes off. Even when there is some swelling and things don't look "amazing" immediately, time usually corrects things and within a week or two swelling goes down and the look "fills in" and "evens out."

In some cases, a few months down the road I'll get either a phone call, email, or chance encounter when the question of "why is his penis disappearing into the shaft?" comes up.

I've blogged about this before. Suffice it to say, my initial reaction is always, "Does your baby have a lot of baby fat?" 100% of the time the answer is, "Yes! His legs are nice big pulkies" (or some similar euphemism for 'quite large').

THIS is the reason behind the "look" which was not apparent when I finished with my care of the baby post bris. With the exception of some newborns who are born larger, most newborns are born between 6-8 pounds, perfectly apportioned with no significant baby fat.

But once they've been around for 2-6 months, and their bodies have discovered food, it deposits most of the baby fat quite significantly into the legs and groin area. Compound that with the constriction of the diaper, plus a lot of time on the back, and a chubby baby may very well have a tip of the penis (the glans) finding itself squashed with nowhere to go but to sink into the shaft, or, worse, to have the skin of the shaft climb up and adhere itself to the rim of the glans giving the penis a partially circumcised look. Parents will understandably be concerned.

This is why I try to remind everyone of what "may" happen in the event your baby becomes chubby.[Of course, some people never experience this at all.] Therefore - nip it in the bud! Be vigilant! Make sure the glans is always separate and distinct every time you open your baby's diaper. Sometimes the diaper is as much at fault as the baby fat. Neither of these are a "fault," per se, as both are really par for the course. But if parents are aware and know to keep the glans separate from the shaft, most of these "problems" will never come up.

Call if you have a question. I am always happy to come and take a look to tell you what you are seeing. And remember it is better to call earlier, when baby is 2-3 months old, than later, such as from 6-12 months old. In either case you can be shown what to do to train the skin the right direction. But the more it drags on, the more uncomfortable it can be for the baby.