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According to this article the Talmud explicitly states that Brit milah without metzitzah is valid, and it isn’t an essential aspect of the mitzvah in either the Talmud or the views of major Poskim (read article for sources). Even the specific oral method used for blood removal isn’t mentioned in the Talmud. It also mentions how some people view it as an essential part of the mitzvah, a Halacha Lemoshe Misinai, and some have even gone so far as to INVALIDATE Brit milah against the Talmud’s ruling

I have spoken to several ultra-Orthodox individuals, mohels and non-mohels, who have told me that a number of their rabbis have issued rabbinic responsa indicating that if metzitzah b'peh is not performed, the berit milah is invalid!

Furthermore, quoting the Chatam Sofer

Even if the Talmud had stated that one must perform metzitzah with the mouth, metzitzah is not part of the mitzvah of milah, i.e. it is done to prevent danger to the child. According to the halakha, if one circumcises and does periah but neglects to perform metzitzah, he has completely fulfilled the mitzvah.

My question is, why isn’t this clearly Bal Tosif? This seems like adding on to a commandment a non essential feature, which is prohibited. One of the forms of Bal Tosif is adding on to how an existing mitzvah is performed, which this seems to fall under.

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    The author of the article states: "The basic understanding of the Talmud is that metzitzah is not part of the actual mitzvah of Berit Milah." however this is a naked conclusion which he does not demonstrate. It is just as viable to state that it is a part of the miswah, but that if it is lacking it is not me'aqebh. There are many miswoth like that. As for your question about bal tosif - if it is misinai - then it is and always was integral, and if it is midibhrehem - then it is a rabbinic enactment which is within their legislative authority. I don't see the problem. Jan 2 at 16:50
  • I made no claims. I said if this and if that. That aside, you are making claims (e.g. mesisa is not HLLM, mesisa is not an integral part of the miswah, mesisa is bal tosif) and you are not demonstrating the basis of your claims. Jan 2 at 17:04
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    How is this different from any other time there is a debate about something?
    – Double AA
    Jan 2 at 17:04
  • Please re-read my first comment. Though it claims to, the article does not prove that it isn't part of the miswah. It merely shows that when not done, the miswah is still fulfilled. Something can be an aspect of a miswah, but when absent the miswah is still fulfilled. For example, some hold that due to וראיתם אותו one ought grasp/look at their sisith during recitation of QS - that this detail is a din and detail in the miswah. Nevertheless, when not done, there is no claim that it is me'aqebh (preventative of the fulfilment of the miswah). There are many such examples that can be rallied. Jan 2 at 17:17

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According to this article the Talmud explicitly states that Brit milah without metzitzah is valid, and it isn’t an essential aspect of the mitzvah in either the Talmud or the views of major Poskim (read article for sources).

This article is written in an imprecise way that does not support its contentions and is intended to persuade a wider audience. It is not written with the precision that a poseq would approach this issue. It is written as a politician attempting to sway the masses.

Yes, the Gemara says that if a mohel FORGOT to perform mesisah, the milah is still valid. The most straightfoward understanding of that, is that bediebhed (ex post facto), if it was not done then there's no problem. That does not mean that lekhathilah it ought be absented. Indeed the Gemara teaches that a mohel that does not perform mesisah should be removed from his post. He is not to be appointed to perform this miswah. If this action was not something Hazal understood as necessary action they would not have insisted that a mohel be removed.

Even the specific oral method used for blood removal isn’t mentioned in the Talmud.

This is true. Though this was traditionally done with the mouth - the Hakhamim never explicitly specified through what method this mesisah (drawing of blood) is to be accomplished. Accordingly later decisors found room to permit drawing it via other methods (suctioning device, straw, sponge, etc.). Notably those that permit these alternative methods, are tacitly endorsing mesisah and confirming that it is lekhathilah mandatory. On the flip side of that position is the more stringent position, which would be that even though the text of the Talmud does not specify a method - we know via mesorah what method was is to be employed. That where mesisah is read, implicit is that it is oral, i.e. that the word mesisah always in and of itself means drawing orally. We can argue all we want on that, but either way - both agree that mesisah is lekhathilah mandatory.

It also mentions how some people view it as an essential part of the mitzvah, a Halacha Lemoshe Misinai

Correct, there are some who maintain that this action is HLMM. Most notably R. Ya'aqobh Etlinger, though this is widely understood to be a reactionary statement in defense of Orthodoxy against the Reform movement in the 19th c. During that time people such as the Hatham Sofer often overstated the severity or significance of a practice in order to defend it against those members of the Reform that sought to eliminate it altogether. Thus famous statements such as the Hatham Sofer stating "hadash asur min ha-Torah" that that which is new/deviates from the traditional way is prohibited by the Torah (in its original context hadash refers to the prohibition of eating new grain). Shu"T Mahari Asad also records a letter from the Hatham Sofer to R. Sebhi Hirsch Hayeth in which he advocates for "elevating a prohibition" in order to defend against Reform oversteps. So while we may argue about whether mesisah is/was intentionally being overstated as HLMM (and whether that's a good tact) - either way it is and has been widely understood as lekhathilah mandatory.

some have even gone so far as to INVALIDATE Brit milah against the Talmud’s ruling

Those that do so are invalidating it where mesisah has INTENTIONALLY been absented from the process. This position need not be interpreted as being in variance with the Gemara which permits it after the fact where it has been forgotten. The Gemara does not endorse consciously and willfully neglecting mesisah.

Furthermore, quoting the Chatam Sofer

See the teshubha in its entirety. It is clear that he maintains that mesisah must be performed. It is not elective (even if the milah is valid ex-post facto where not performed). The aspect that he permits variation on is whether it must be done orally. He maintains that the insistence on it being done orally is primarily a preoccupation based on sod (mysticism), which as an Oberlander is not so much a part of their halakhic methodology. Since the Gemara does not explicitly specify that it be done orally, he therefore permits mesisah via other methods that doctors agree can accomplish the same effect.

My question is, why isn’t this clearly Bal Tosif? This seems like adding on to a commandment a non essential feature, which is prohibited. One of the forms of Bal Tosif is adding on to how an existing mitzvah is performed, which this seems to fall under.

It is clear that mesisah is widely understood as mandatory. There are debates about whether the obligation stems from the miswah of milah itself or whether it was solely instituted due to sakkanah.

If you hold that it is an aspect of the miswah itself, then it goes without saying it ought be done. This does not mean that if it is absent the miswah was not accomplished - rather that it was accomplished in a sub-optimal manner and is still valid after the fact.

If you hold that it is due to sakkanah, then you can still maintain that it is part of the miswah - and that sakkanah is the reason why it is an aspect of the structure of the miswah. Alternatively, you can hold that it is not part of the miswah itself but is nevertheless obligatory as it is a function of rabbinic legislation.

Again, whether it is an actual aspect of the miswah or it was a rabbinic enactment - we've seen mesisah treated as obligatory. Now, as for how it ought be performed. Some argue that mesisah must be performed orally, as this is definitionally what mesisah always was - that mesisah IS mesisah b'peh. For this position nothing is being "added" - the claim is that this method was always a part of the miswah and that we know that based on mesorah. Others have argued, that even though that is how it was traditionally performed through centuries prior, the oral method of mesisah was never formally intended to be construed as obligatory. Mesisah according to this, is a description of what is accomplished - and it may be accomplished through any medically condoned means. Again, nothing is being added here.

So bal tosif shouldn’t apply here

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  • no one claims that it is a latter day invention. Everyone agrees that it is how it was historically done (and in many communities continues to be done). So those that are claiming it is still required in this way are saying that the definition of mesisah is mesisah b'peh. That in this context, there is no such thing as mesisah via any other method. When the Gemara says mesisah, it implicitly means mesisa b'peh. According to this view, there is no new legislation to speak of here - it is a simple matter of definitions. How do they claim to know that definition? Tradition. Jan 3 at 20:01

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