Yet another baby has received herpes after an unchaste and unclean mohel practiced circumcision with a centuries-old superstitious tradition.
In ultra-orthodox Judaism, a practice known as metzitzah b’peh goes back to the 4th Century Babylonian Talmud, and is not a tradition taken from the Holy Bible. Metzitzah b’peh (meaning “oral suckage”) is a practice in which the mohel (or mohelim, plural) who practice Jewish circumcision uses his mouth to stop the bleeding of the infant. It is not believed to be sexual in nature but was, at one time, thought somehow medicinal.
A German professor published a handbook for mohelim, claiming there was no medical evidence that using the mouth to clean the baby’s parts and stop the bleeding was healthy, and could, in fact, cause infection. Nonetheless, because of extra-biblical tradition, some Mohelim to this day continue the practice (although provoked by the AIDS crisis in the 1990s, some use a straw instead of directly to their mouth).
According to the New York Times, 19 infants have received herpes by this manner since 2006, and two have died. And according to this site, which quotes the New York Department of Health, another baby has contracted herpes.
A child diagnosed with neonatal herpes following ritual Jewish circumcision was reported to the Health Department in early September 2019. This is the first case of neonatal herpes related to DOS during ritual Jewish circumcision reported to the Health Department since March 2017. The infant was circumcised on the eighth day of life by a mohel who performed DOS. Ten days later, the infant developed a rash on his genitals, groin, and buttocks…
Circumcision was a ritual given in the Old Testament to the Jewish people in the Abrahamic Covenant. Circumcision was part of the Ceremonial Laws given to the nation of Israel to make them distinct from Gentiles (with whom they were instructed not to intermarry, lest they lose their distinct religion). Most scholars believe that this was so that if a Gentile lied to a Jewish girl about his ancestry or religion so as to marry her, his uncircumcised flesh would give away his lie before the marriage would be consummated.
However, when Jesus came, he abolished the Ceremonial Laws involving such things as diet, clothing, feasts, and circumcision, because God’s Covenant had been expanded by faith to all believing people—Jew and Gentile—who would be made distinct by faith rather than outward appearance or eating habits.
While many Christians circumcise their male children, it is for presumed health and cultural reasons, rather than religious ones. For ultra-orthodox Jews, on the other hand, there is a religious component that makes the practice (in their view) necessary. But nothing excuses the practice of Metzitzah b’peh.
At times like this we remember the words of Paul to the Galatians, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation...”