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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Tazria – The Rosh Yeshiva Responds – Using a Mohel Who is Not Shomer Shabbat

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on April 11, 2024)
Topics: Rosh Yeshiva Responds, Sefer Vayikra, Tazria, Torah

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וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי יִמּוֹל בְּשַׂר ערְלָתוֹ׃ (Vayikra 12:3)

וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו ואפילו בשבת

“‘On the eighth day you shall circumcise his flesh’ – and even on Shabbat” (Shabbat 132a).


In a small town without a traditional mohel nearby, would we be lenient on who the mohel is to avoid postponing a Shabbat brit milah? Would we allow a mohel who is not shomer Shabbat (i.e. a Jewish doctor who does circumcision in coordination with local shuls)? What if the mohel live close enough to walk (~1.5 hour) but will likely drive?


First, we should note that if necessary for halakhic reasons, the bris can be postponed. For example, a number of Israeli poskim rule that you need to do so if relatives will drive to the brit milah on Shabbat. Certainly if the person is not a valid mohel you would absolutely have to postpone until Sunday.

So, may a Shabbat violator be a mohel? The answer to this starts with looking at the ruling of Rema in Shulchan Arukh YD 264:1 that someone who rejects the entire Torah (a mumar) is invalid to serve as a mohel. However, this ruling rests on shaky ground. The Gemara only disqualifies someone who is not obligated in milah and even Or Zarua, who is the source of Rema’s ruling, only raises the possibility that such a person might be invalid. Many poskim thus argue on Rema’s ruling and state that a mumar is valid to serve as a mohel. (See, for example Birkei Yosef, 264:2, quoting Pri Chadash, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, on YD 264).

Even if one were to accept that a mumar is invalid, it is highly questionable that a Shabbat violator would fall in that category in this case. Although we normally equate the two, the invalidity here is based on rejecting milah, which is not relevant in our case. In addition, the general principle of tinok she’nishba, that we do not apply the disqualifications that come with non-Shabbat observance, should apply in this case.

It should be noted, however, that Rav Moshe Feinstein, who elsewhere is ready to apply the principle of tinok she’nishba, rules that one may not use a mohel who is not shomer Shabbat (Iggrot Moshe YD 2:118) even if this means delaying the milah.

Nevertheless, given the arguments above, I would say that if the mohel is secular, or is basically anything other than a principled rejecter of Shabbat, that he is kosher be’dieved, and in this case you can use him, since there is a pressing need.

What about the fact that the mohel will drive due to your invitation. This raises issues of lifnei iver, enabling someone to sin, and, according to Rav Moshe, such an invitation might even be considered a direct enticement to sin, since if he drives, he is doing it directly as a response to your invitation (Iggrot Moshe OC 1:99). Nevertheless, the practice in youth groups and kiruv organizations, and among the general community, is to invite guests and offer to put them up in your house. Here, however, it is different. The fact that he is getting in the car and driving to you because you are paying him, would tie you tightly to his chilul Shabbat. I would say, “I can’t ask you to do the milah if it would mean your driving here. I can either put you up in my home, a local B&B, etc., or you can take the bus. Would you agree to that?” If he says yes, you can’t be responsible if he drives in the end. If he says that he will likely drive, the you would need to push it off until Sunday.

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