Seth Lipsky's Circumcision Lies
Seth Lipsky's Circumcision Lies
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The New York Sun is a small, largely inconsequential (and now online only) newspaper that was Seth Lipsky’s project after being booted out of the Forward years ago.
He helped found two other papers before that, The Asian Wall Street Journal and The Wall Street Journal Europe. Lipsky is also a former member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board and the paper's former foreign editor. And Lipsky also works as an adjuct professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism.
Lipsky is a genius at spotting and developing raw writing talent, and he’s a wonderful painter.
But Lipsky – who, to be clear, is not Orthodox – is also dishonest and is, quite often, a fool.
For example, in May he came out in support of haredi rabbis who want to decide which allegations of child sexual abuse in their communities should be reported to police or ACS, and which should be dealt with by the rabbis in house. He wrote this even though there is a long and documented history of these very same haredi rabbis covering up cases of child sexual abuse, protecting pedophiles and harassing victims and their families.
This complete disregard by Lipsky for the safety of children continued today with the Sun’s editorial against NYC’s proposed (and now passed) informed consent law for Jewish ritual circumcisions involving metzitzah b’peh (MBP), the direct mouth-to-bloody-penis sucking done by some mohels immediately after removing the baby's foreskin.
The purpose of MBP is, to paraphrase halakhic sources, “to draw blood from the furthest parts of the body.” And that was done to prevent an imbalance in the body’s system of “humors” and to prevent “stagnation” of the blood.
In his book The Healing Hand—Man and Wound in the Ancient World, Guido Majno explains what “humors” are and what the ancients thought their role was in health and illness. Here is the relevant excerpt as quoted by Shlomo Sprecher in Mezizah be-Peh–Therapeutic Touch or Hippocratic Vestige?, published in Hakira several years ago:
The Greek physicians studied disease primarily by giving it a lot of thought [as opposed to observation]. The result was an overall, synthetic, but wholly imaginary theory of disease, in which the basic disturbance, and therefore the treatment, was always of the same kind, even in the case of a wound. The reasoning went about as follows. In nature everything is balanced. “Too much” or “too little” causes an imbalance, which is disease. The actual components of the body that may go out of balance are the celebrated four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. In the normal body these humors are harmoniously mixed; disease ensues if they are mixed in the wrong proportions, or if they become unmixed…[A]ny pain or lump could be explained as a “distemper” or disharmony of the blend…[B]lood was regarded as the worst offender, because it was liable to spill out easily and therefore to “stagnate.” This was supposed to be dangerous, because one of the key propositions in Greek medicine maintained that stagnating blood will decay…and in decaying, it might even become pus…the parts around the wound will develop spasms, attract blood, become soaked with it, and decay. The beauty of this thought (corruption originates around the wound), however wrong it may sound today, is that it shows how the Greeks struggled to explain the mechanism of what we call infection—or in their terms, corruption. They could have no idea that the cause was something [micro-organisms] deposited on the surface of the wound. Therefore, using their principle that “stagnating blood decays,” they rationalized that the trouble had to arise all around the wound: blood was attracted there, and turned into pus. This thought is stated or hinted at may times in the Collection [Hippocratic Corpus]; for instance, “all wounds draw their inflammation and swelling from the surrounding parts, because of the blood flowing into them. In every recent wound…it is expedient to cause blood to flow from it abundantly, for thus will the wound and the adjacent parts be less attacked with inflammation…when the blood flows they become drier and less in size, as being thus dried up. Indeed what prevents the healing…is the decay of the blood.
The concept of bodily humors was originated by Hippocrates and his students. But it became the gold standard for medical care when it was adopted by the greatest physician of antiquity, Galen, who lived in Alexandria during the 2nd Century C.E. – exactly at the time the rabbinic authors of the Mishna lived.
In other words, Galen insisted that the blood had to be moved from the furthest reaches of the body to the point of the wound to prevent “blood stagnation,” which could lead to conversion of blood to pus – what we would call infection.
Because Galen was the leading physician of his era, the rabbis did what halakha later codified – they followed his medical opinion, even though he wasn’t Jewish and even though the Torah had not mentioned or required it. The rabbis mandated that metzitzah, suction or squeezing out of blood, be done after every circumcision. But while the rabbis mandated that metzitzah should be done, they did not specify how metzitzah should be done.
Eventually, the common practice became metzitzah b’peh (MBP), direct suction from the mohel’s mouth to the bleeding penis, and wine was added to the process to help numb the wound and ease the baby’s pain.
Which is how Seth Lipsky came to intentionally misrepresent MBP as “the oral application of wine, known as the metzitza bipeh” [sic].
To qualify as metziztah, metzitzah b’peh has to involve suction, squeezing or drawing out of blood. If it does not, it is not metzitzah. Spitting wine on the wound is not metzitzah, b'peh or otherwise.
In the same editorial Lipsky also lies about the dangers associated with metzitzah b’peh, which he claims “has been practiced safely for centuries.”
However, quite literally thousands of babies have died from it over those centuries, as FailedMessiah.com documented yesterday.
Lipsky would sacrifice the lives of Jewish babies to advocate for his political points and against politicians he dislikes.
He is a most dishonest and callous man.