Monday, April 26, 2010

Rabbi Moshe Sofer's responsum on metzitzah.

Here's the famous responsum of the talmudischen Autoritat Chasam Sofer on meziza as it appeared in the first volume of the journal Kochbe Jizchak (1845):

Dr. Shlomo Sprecher describes the publication of this responsum in his excellent article Mezizah be-Peh - Therapeutic Touch or Hippocratic Vestige? in Hakirah v. 3 as follows:
In fact, the Ḥatam Sofer’s original Responsum appeared in print only once―in early 1845―in the pages of the first issue of a Hebrew literary periodical issued in Vienna, entitled Kokhavei Yiẓḥak. Its editor, Mendel Stern, was a native of Pressburg and had served as a tutor in the Ḥatam Sofer’s household, instructing his children. This publication was not the usual kind of reading material favored by the disciples of the Ḥatam Sofer, and so it is not surprising that many 19th Century authorities could seriously doubt the veracity of this attribution. However, to continue to maintain these doubts or posit qualifications such as “hora’at sha’ah” given the state of information available today is simply wrong.
Here is a picture of the recipient of the responsum, Rabbi Lazar Horowitz:



  1. whoops. wrong post. obviously i was referring to the chinese-jewish intermarriage post

  2. From wikipedia:


    On the other hand, Rabbi Moshe Schick, the Maharam Shik, one of the most prominent students of the Chasam Sofer, states in his book of Responsa, She’eilos U’teshuvos Maharam Shik (Orach Chaim 152,) that the Chasam Sofer gave the ruling in that specific instance only and that it may not be applied elsewhere. He also states (Yoreh Deah 244) that the practice is possibly a Sinaitic tradition, i.e., Halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai (law of Moses from Sinai), and one is required to have Mesiras nefesh for the practice.

    In addition, Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya HaLevi Medini, the Sdei Chemed, printed a 50 page section called Ma'areches Hametzitzah, also claiming the practice to be Halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai, quoting R' Yehudah Assad and others. He also elaborates more on what prompted the Chasam Sofer to give the above ruling He tells the story that a student of the Chasam Sofer - Rabbi Lazar Horowitz, The author of responsa Yad Elazer and Chief Rabbi of Vienna at the time, (The incident is mentioned in responsa 55)- needed the ruling in defense of a governmental attempt to ban bris milah completely if it included Metztitzah b'peh, because of the concern of spreading disease to the baby. He therefore asked the Chasam Sofer to give him permission to do Brit milah without metzitzah b’peh. When he presented the defense in court, they erroneously recorded his testimony to mean that the Chasam Sofer stated it as a general ruling. He then adds, "Nevertheless it is my opinion that the Chasam Sofer never even wrote this letter. It is a forgery, in my opinion, and even if the letter was written by the Chasam Sofer, he certainly didn’t state it as a general ruling, given that it was not printed in his book of halachic responsa, as was the custom with all halachic rulings intended for the public."



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