The mellifluous sounds of "Mazal Tov" ring out amongst members of families, communities and friends when we hear of the birth of a baby. Our first question? That's an easy one. Is it a boy or a girl? Upon learning it's a boy, plans are enthusiastically made for the traditional Shabbos night Shalom Zachor and then on the eighth day, the bris milah.
A bris, of course, is a most joyous event, as we welcome a new male child into the traditions of our forbears and his Hebrew name is given to him. Yet and still, a bris can tragically descend into tragedy as has been evidenced over the years. The tradition that is often used by some mohelim (the person who performs the ritual circumcision) while performing the bris is called metzizah b'peh, or cleaning the circumcision wound through oral suction.
The problem that has emerged over the last several years has caused nothing short of a health crisis. It has been reported that babies have contracted the very dangerous herpes virus from mohelim who are carriers of this virus.
According to a report in the Daily News, there have been six cases of infant herpes that were reported and they are believed to be connected with a mohel who is a herpes carrier. Recently, a baby was rushed to the hospital only 15 days after being circumcised by a mohel who was infected with herpes.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg addressed this issue by sending out health alerts and making the possible negative effects of the oral suction practice more visible. He even asked parents to sign a consent form before their newborn boy underwent the procedure. That sensible protocol has all but been abandoned by the DeBlasio administration and now we are confronted with the horrifying results.
There is no doubt that rabbis of all affiliations would agree that mohelim who are infected with the herpes virus should cease and desist from performing metzizah b'peh as the health of the baby would be at great risk. Moreover, once it has been reported that a baby has been infected by herpes subsequent to the circumcision procedure, it should be both morally and legally incumbent upon the mohel to proffer his name and other forms of identification. Herpes is no laughing matter and because it so very contagious, it can spread like wild fire.
For the sake of the health and even the life of each baby boy born, we call upon rabbis, mohelim, parents and community to insist that better regulations be instituted amongst mohelim for the prevention of this often deadly virus.