There is a lot of talk in the news, etc., about Metzitzah B'peh that employs direct oral contact being dangerous.

First: If it is dangerous, shouldn't pikuach nefesh push it off?

Second: How important is it to a Bris in the first place?

  • 2
    Hello Mendy, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thank you for this question! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. I hope to see you around!
    – HodofHod
    Jul 27, 2012 at 1:03
  • 2
    See this article in Yated, which claims that there is a vendetta against Metzitzah B'peh and that (at least some of) the cases of herpes related fatalities have nothing to do with Metzitzah B'peh: yated.com/content.asp?categoryid=0&contentid=686
    – Menachem
    Jul 27, 2012 at 2:04
  • 3
    @Menachem, given what everyone knows about germs nowadays, how could anyone possibly, in the name of health, introduce saliva into a cut on the infant's genitals? It doesn't take a vendetta to know that's a bad idea.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 27, 2012 at 2:56
  • 2
    The Avnei Neizer 1:338 discusses this issue at length and it seems like it should be done b'peh(the Maram Schick held like this as well,hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1345&st=&pgnum=369 . Rav Tzvi Frank (Har Tzvi 214) held one can use a glass tube and mentions the Chasam Sofer who held a sponge is good ,but said one needs to learn how to do it properly ,hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22460&st=&pgnum=217
    – sam
    Jul 27, 2012 at 20:04
  • 2
    @sam, why don't you write this up into an answer?
    – HodofHod
    Jul 27, 2012 at 20:49

2 Answers 2


The gemara strongly implies that metzitzah is done for health reasons. Nowadays, we can follow that tradition safely by doing it with a tube. It seems ironic to to follow the gemara's health-suggestions in a way (b'peh) that we know to cause health-risks. However, some groups feel that there are other reasons for doing Metzitzah and that it should still be done since the health risks are small. If so, they should make strong safeguards to lessen the risk of transmitting disease.

Hakirah has an article from 2006 available online about metzitzah b’peh (pdf), which I summarize below (from my previous summary).

In the article he explains the historical medical background to metzitzah. In ancient times, people didn't know that blood circulated or that pathoegns cause disease. The hellenic system of medicine thought blood was attracted to cuts and could decay and form pus, so it was necessary to get the blood to flow from a cut to prevent disease. (The author cites R’ Nachum Rabinovitch who compares the Rambam’s requirement for metzitzah to the Rambam’s suggestion to suck the blood out after a snake bite). He discusses some modern-day rationals for doing MBP, but then refutes them.

The next part shows that metzitzah b’peh is a danger and many cases are cited where it has unfortunately caused harm to infants. He also tells the the history of MBP, and quotes some of the discussions about it from the 19th century. He then discusses the p’sak of the chasam sofer who didn’t even consider metzitzah b’peh to be a minhag. He concludes that if most of the litvishe gedolim accepted that MBP was a danger, surely now, when we know much more about transmission of diseases, we should not risk it.

  • You seem to be addressing only question 1 of the two questions above, and doing so by quoting Hakirah as saying "It should". Right?
    – msh210
    Jul 31, 2012 at 21:51
  • also by mentioning that they should do it in a safer manner.
    – Ariel K
    Jul 31, 2012 at 23:24
  • 1
    and that the gemara implies its not so important for the bris itself, its just a safety measure.
    – Ariel K
    Jul 31, 2012 at 23:26
  • 1
    Frankly I don't see any other way of reading that Gemara.
    – Double AA
    Apr 11, 2013 at 18:26
  • According to the Chatam Sofer, shouldn't it be prohibited to do on Shabbat? We don't allow heating water on the third day after the Milah anymore (OC 331:9), even though in the days of the Gemara they thought that was Pikuach Nefesh. This is the same thing; it just took people longer to realize the science was bogus.
    – Double AA
    Aug 17, 2017 at 20:34

Back in September (2012) there was well written article by Rabbi Moshe Zuriel (from Bnei Brak) posted on the Parsha Blog about this topic. Much of the mareh makomos that are brought in the article have already been mentioned here. However I'd like to contribute the article as it answers the question and I find it to be well-written and posing very good points


  • I strongly disagree. The article is extremely one-sided and does not really cover both sides of the debate.
    – Shraga
    Dec 19, 2012 at 23:16
  • @Phil I said it's well-written and posing very good points. I didn't say anything about being fair. A One- sided article might not be fair but can still be well-written and pose good points (for his side at least.) He points out that there is no makor in Shas, Rambam, or Shulchan Aruch. Now I would certainly say there is a strong reason to do it with the mouth since seemingly that's how it was always done (I certainly don't plan on taking a mohel who doesn't do it this way.) Where is the makor then that it has to be done with the mouth davka?
    – Yehoshua
    Feb 3, 2013 at 11:11
  • Why the down vote?
    – Yehoshua
    Apr 11, 2013 at 18:14
  • @Shraga Don't know what you mean. It covers all sides.
    – Double AA
    Apr 29, 2015 at 15:42
  • @Shraga reading it again it's a brilliant, well-written article.
    – Yehoshua
    Mar 31, 2016 at 1:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .