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The Damage of the Clamp
By / Source: Rabbi Yaron Amit

The benefits to health of circumcision are so widely known that in l998 the U.S. Department of Health decided to recommend circumcision in order to reduce urinary infections and the incidence of cancer. However, there is a common misconception concerning circumcision that needs to be publicized in order to prevent a breach of Halacha as well as to protect us from unnecessary suffering and damage.

This misconception involves the use of the Bornstein tool, commonly known as “the Mogen Clamp.” About 40 years ago, a Mohel by the name of Mr. Bornstein, invented a clamp device for usage in hospitals during circumcision operations. This device, when attached during the circumcision (Brit,) prevents blood from flowing from the place of the incision. There are three different places on the clamp which are closed progressively tighter, causing excruciating pain.

Those who use this tool, many of them doctors, claim that it insures that the circumcision will be painless for the child and bloodless. The first assertion has clearly no basis in fact: it is obviously very cruel and painful when it is closed. This is one of the reasons that it is prohibited by Halacha. The proof that it is indeed painful are the prolonged and heart-rending screams of the babies who are circumcised by this method.

It is true that using the clamp is a bloodless procedure, but the presence of blood is exactly what heals the incision. In a bloodless procedure, it takes ten times more days to heal. In a circumcision performed by a trained Mohel, the Mohel is required to go to the infant the day afterwards to check up on him and to change the bandage.

With the clamp, the doctor or the Mohalim who use the prohibited and cruel clamp, can avoid this extra visit and this is one of the reasons so many of them make use of it. Gangrene is also one of the possible side effects of using the clamp, and children must undergo surgery under general anesthesia to repair the damage done when this occurs. Too often, the damage is irreparable and the results are horrendous.

There is another clamp which is even more dangerous than the Mogen Clamp. It’s called the “Gomco Clamp.” In a letter written by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America, dated August 28, 2000, they wrote that “although research suggests that circumcision is generally a safe procedure, we are concerned that some device-related complications have occurred. We received 105 reports of injuries involving circumcision clamps between July 1996 and January 2000.

These have included laceration, hemorrhage, penile amputation, and urethral damage.” Brit Yosef Yitzchak is an organization that provides Britsim in Israel and 49 other countries and 203 cities. It has a network of Mohalim and urologists and surgeons all over the world who have been responsible for 30,000 circumcisions during the past 15 years for both babies and individuals who wish to be circumcised whatever their age.

With the clamp, the doctor or the Mohalim who use the prohibited and cruel clamp, can avoid this extra visit and this is one of the reasons so many of them make use of it.

The age of those undergoing a Brit has ranged from 8 days old to 80 years old, and many of the older children and adults are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Founder and director of Brit Yosef Yitzchak, Rabbi Yaron Amit never sees complications arising from infections or other problems when circumcisions are performed properly, according to Jewish Law.

On the other hand, Rabbi Amit is quite familiar with the serious repercussions when the clamp is used. In addition to the 105 reports of injuries reported in the FDA letter, he knows of many, many more serious injuries resulting from the usage of the clamp. In one case which was recorded on video by Channel 2 in Israel, the circumciser was an Israeli doctor who positioned the clamp backwards by mistake and then turned it around before he made the incision.

If Limor Farajun from Bat Yam will hear that her son’s circumciser writes articles and continues to perform circumcisions, she will be shocked. The trauma of the circumcision of her firstborn son five months ago continues to haunt her. The baby screamed throughout the ceremony, and the incision, itself, was a painful medical failure. Limor’s son will soon undergo surgery like other babies who have required surgical correction because of the mistakes made by this “specialist” doctor, who continues to work in Israel.

A television reporter wanted to ask this doctor, who continues to tell the parents that the operation will be painless, why so many babies scream so much more than those who don’t have the clamps, and why such a high percentage of them have problems requiring special operations after the circumcisions.

But he refused to answer. Videotapes of his circumcisions clearly demonstrate the truth. Rabbi Amit tells over the story of Rabbi Azagvi in Florida. During a conference of circumcisers and Rabbis from throughout Florida, which was organized by Rabbi Amit, Rabbi Azagvi told of the story of his own son. He was circumcised, and the prohibited clamp was used.

In his early years, the child was strange in his behavior, often sick, and fell down frequently. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe was consulted, he advised that they should correct the circumcision which was affecting the boy’s entire spiritual character. As soon as the problem was corrected, through the taking of a drop of blood, according to Halacha, (hatafa dam Brit) the boy began improving, and his entire behavior changed completely.

In another instance, a boy aged l5 had the stature and appearance of a six year-old, meaning he was about half of what is considered normal height for his age. One of the Sages of our generation advised that the problem lay in his circumcision. When the boy was examined, it was found that he was improperly circumcised. It was clear that a corrective circumcision with a blessing was necessary.

Today, there are tens of thousands of Jewish boys who were not circumcised according to Jewish Law because of the use of the clamp. It is also a device which has been proven to be highly dangerous.

The boy was l5 years old when the correction was performed in a surgery room, according to Halacha. Five years later, when the father was asked about his son, he replied that his son was even taller than himself, and he had been accepted in a Combat Engineering unit. This was nothing short of a miracle considering the boy’s original prognosis.

Today, there are tens of thousands of Jewish boys who were not circumcised according to Jewish Law because of the use of the clamp. It is also a device which has been proven to be highly dangerous. At the Rabbis and Circumcisers Conference organized by Brit Yosef Yitzchak, an appeal was signed by everyone present to prohibit the use of the clamp.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has publicized a letter with the signatures of all the great Rabbis in the Holy Land, all of whom prohibit the use of the clamp. In a special letter signed by Rabbi Ovadia Yossef and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef writes: “I also agree completely with the prohibition of the use of clamps for several reasons, and every circumciser who uses this tool is disqualified from circumcising.

We must stay clear of him and not let him do any circumcision, and he must be publicly exposed and condemned.” The Orthodox Rabbis of the Beit Din of the Aida HaChareidit in Jerusalem have issued their own statement: “We hereby present our opinion that users of this tool for circumcision not only don’t fulfill the commandment, without incision and drawing of blood, without tearing and sucking, as if cutting into dead flesh, but circumcisers who use this tool on Sabbath also desecrate the Holy Sabbath and endanger the child for several reasons.

Never employ a circumciser who uses this tool in any place, and anyone seeing a circumsciser using this mutilating tool must inform the Rabbinical Court about him, and anyone who can protest against these mutilating people is required to protest, and circumcisers may only use the knives as specified in the customs of old, as defined by the Rambam’s Circumcision regulations, and in Shulchan Aruch, in the hope that we will soon see the coming of the angel of circumcision and the coming of the Just Redeemer in our times, Amen".

How are parents, who are not experts, able to know which clamp is permitted, and which is forbidden and dangerous? The forbidden one has an axis which allows it to open and close. That is the main sign. The permitted clamp has no axis. It is one piece which does not open and close. The width of the opening must be uniform, at least one millimeter wide, not wide on top and narrow on the bottom. This will ensure that the circumcision will be kosher and with the least amount of pain.