One of the most mortifying moments in Jewish life was watching a clip on youtube of Anthony Weiner, who was making his post-scandal run for Mayor of NYC sitting with the Munkatcher Rebbe in Boro Park. The rebbe pleaded his case for metzitzah B’peh (MBP). “Only a few babies die, compared to thousands who live,” he told Weiner, who readily agreed to do what he could to roll back the NYC Health Department requirement for parental informed consent in brissim where mohelim won’t use pipettes.
This month a frum publication crowed that the religious community and others had won the first legal step, using the constitutional separation of church and state, to prevent parents from signing informed consent forms before allowing a mohel to do MBP.
In Judaism we are taught, from the time we are children, that the primary directive is U’vecharta Bachaim – choose life. It is so vital to us, that we have been ordered to break every halacha but three in order to save lives. Those three are idolatry, incest and murder. MBP is not among them, and we know of more than 10 tiny boy infants that have died or haven been severely affected – not just in frum communities in Brooklyn and Rockland, but also in New Jersey.
In Bergen County, we have, pardon the expression, enlightened rabbis and community leaders who fully understand the dangers and insist on the use of pipettes. But is it enough to say that’s not our way, while baby boys’ lives are at risk? Can we act?
Since the civil law decided to make a halachic decision on MBP by allowing it on constitutional grounds, perhaps we can argue, somewhere in a court room, that if you are going to make such decisions, you need to be aware of the basic principle of Pikuach Nefesh, which al-pi halacha trumps MBP every time.