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    Oral suction at circumcision – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is it true that someone must suck the blood at a circumcision?

    babyA. Circumcision is a fundamental part of Jewish identity. Every Jewish boy – with rare exceptions – undergoes the operation on the eighth day after birth.

    Whilst circumcision is a religious requirement and will be maintained by Judaism regardless of fluctuations in medical opinion, there is ample evidence that circumcised males are protected from a number of diseases.

    The Mishnah Shabbat 19:2 requires suctioning a small amount of the blood; in the Gemara, Rav Papa says that the suctioning is for health reasons, to remove the possibility of a child becoming infected. A mohel (ritual circumciser) must not omit the suctioning; if he does omit it, he risks being removed from his post.

    For centuries the suctioning of the blood has been done by mouth, but this method is only maintained by a minority of mohalim. Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik reported that in his family instructions were given to mohalim not to use direct oral contact but to use a pipette.

    There have been odd cases where a mohel who did metzitzah b’peh (suctioning by mouth) transmitted a disease to the child, and of course this represents a grave danger.

    The removal of the blood does not have to be done by mouth and if it is (generally by more Chassidic mohalim), it takes only a second; the mohel does not drink the blood but generally spits it out.

    The Chatam Sofer and other g’dolim say that no particular method is required by Talmudic law and they permit suctioning by means of a sponge or tube; the blood is then discarded.

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