home / blog / podcasts / videos / notes / photos / about / more

Baby penises and Metzitzah

What is the Metzitzah?

Posted by Jeena

I was listening to Christopher Hitchens (audio-) book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and he was talking — among other things — about male circumcision (which of course is mild and gentle in comparison to the female genital cutting. I'll not get into this here but you should read the Wikipedia article!).

He was, as I found out after some research, talking about the Jewish "metzitzah".

What is Metzitzah?

The mohel brings the baby’s organ into his mouth immediately after the excision of the foreskin and sucks blood from it vigorously.

See Metzitzah B’peh Controversy: The View from Israel.

As far as I understand it: After cutting of the skin of a baby-boys penis the mohel — often a rabbi — takes the penis in to his mouth and sucks on it, so the bleeding stops.

I know, it sounds disturbing and like pedophile child abuse and that's how it is done today in America, Israel and other countries.

As you probably have already guessed, serious health problems are accompanied by this ritual. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene puts it like this:

… the Health Department has documented several cases of herpes infection in newborns after circumcisions that included metzitzah b'peh. Metzitzah b'pehis a religious practice performed by some mohelim (religious circumcisers) in the Jewish community. Some of these infants became seriously ill. One baby died, and another suffered brain damage.

… In metzitzah b'peh, the mohel places his mouth on the freshly circumcised penis to draw blood away from the cut. If the mohel is infected with oral herpes (as most adults are), metzitzah b'peh can expose the infant to the herpes virus.

… Because the immune system of newborns is not developed enough to fight serious infection, herpes infections pose grave risks to infants.

In this video a rabbi tries to explain why it is done and it undergirds my presumption that you only can do such a thing when you are religious disturbed:

[update] I found a good movie about this subject "Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision"

Have you written a response? Let me know the URL:

There's also indie comments (webmentions) support.