A story was recently publicized about a Mohel who botched up a circumcision by cutting of more than he was supposed to, requiring six hours of surgery, numerous blood transfusions, a two month hospital stay for the unfortunate baby, and a long life of turmoil, embarassment and shame.

What would a biblical punishment be for such action?

  • You might want to also consider the liability of a mohel who had herpes, failed to inform the parents, and still drew blood using the metzitzah b'peh method, causing the virus to be transmitted to the child. There is controversy over proposed laws that would require parental consent before a mohel could do metzitzah b'peh on their baby. Even without the regulation, one might argue that there is civil liability to the mohel. The question is whether this is an assault under Jewish law, or whether parents accept the risk per se. Dec 31, 2013 at 18:31
  • Please edit in to the question what you're asking about instead of making readers click through to an external site (and one which may well be behind a paywall one day).
    – msh210
    Jan 1, 2014 at 6:48
  • 1
    @BruceJames your comment raises a few interesting questions. I suggest you post it as a separate question.
    – eramm
    Jan 1, 2014 at 14:59
  • @BruceJames How could the parents have accepted the risk if he didn't tell them he was a danger?
    – Double AA
    Jan 1, 2014 at 15:42
  • There is a diff if he was paid or not,see Choshen Mishpat 306:6 also depends if he was negligent
    – sam
    Jan 1, 2014 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


Someone who damages someone else in the body has to pay for 5 things:

1) נזק - monetary loss. This is evaluated by the loss of value of the person damaged as a slave in the market due to the deformity.

2) צער - pain. This is evaluated as what would a person pay to avoid this. So if a government decreed that this had to be done to him, and he could pay to get out of it, what amount of money would he pay to avoid this.

3) ריפוי - medical expenses. All related medical expenses to heal the injury e.g. doctor's fees and medical costs.

4) שבת - loss of work. This is more limited, in that it is the loss of work while he recovers for what he could do given his new injury, and never more than his current occupation. So this is not his loss of theoretical future income.

5) בושת - embarrassment. The amount is decided by Beis Din on a case by case basis.

All of this applies by accident or not (either derived from פצע תחת פצע - a wound for a wound, or is a logical derivation from the fact that a person is liable for the damage caused by his property, which is always accidental).

However, #5 does not apply to accidents.

Applying this practically to this case has some complications, but at least at first glance it seems that #1, #2 and #3 apply. According to the story #1 is undetermined as of yet, #2 would be astronomical, and #3 is very large.

Some open questions in this case specifically - I don't know if damage (such as #4) applies to the parents having to care for the child as well as what to do with #3 if the parent's medical insurance covered the medical costs involved.

  • For #3 and insurance, the mohel's insurance (if he has any) will have to pay Jan 1, 2014 at 14:22
  • @ClintEastwood, a Mohel's medical insurance policy would cover surgery on a third party? I don't think so. Liability coverage would cover what it covers and not really care about the biblical details. To clarify - the question is if the parent's medical insurance covered the medical costs, would the Mohel be biblically required to pay for it anyway? What about for the insurance loss implications in the future?
    – Yishai
    Jan 1, 2014 at 14:23
  • I meant to say liability insurance. If the mohel is liable for damages (and this is enforcable), his insurance will front him the money. Jan 1, 2014 at 14:26
  • @ClintEastwood, ok, but that doesn't apply to #3 any more than any of the others.
    – Yishai
    Jan 1, 2014 at 14:30
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    @Yishai as the obligation to circumcise the child is placed on the father by the torah, does the fact that the Mohel acts as a shaliach (messenger) for the father make any difference ? after all as opposed to where someone hit another, here the father has asked the Mohel to take a knife to his son.
    – eramm
    Jan 1, 2014 at 14:55

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