Can A Woman Serve As Sandek? Apparently She Can

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BRYANSK, RUSSIA (VINnews) — The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch that a woman should preferably not serve as sandek at the bris (circumcision) of a baby if a man is available, due to it’s being considered immodest. In most cases this is not a practical question, as a quorum of at least ten men is present at most bris ceremonies. However the advent of coronavirus has led to unusual situations arising which call for unconventional solutions.

Mendy and Rivky Zaklas serve as Chabad shluchim (emissaries to the Jewish community) in the tiny Russian town of Bryansk. The Haredim10 site reports that Rivky Zaklas tries to call everyone on her contacts list on their birthday and wish them a happy birthday. A couple of months ago she called a young woman who had visited the Bryansk community a year or so beforehand but had never returned. When she called, the young woman told her that she is pregnant and would soon give birth to a baby boy.

Rivky offered to be available to help in whatever way she might need, especially in assisting preparations for the baby boy’s bris. This week the  woman called Rivky stating she had given birth to the baby and would like to make a bris for him. Her only stipulation was that because of the contagious nature of COVID-19, she wanted it to be very small with the only people present being the mohel Rabbi Zalkas and his wife Rivky.

This past Friday the bris took place and because Rabbi Zalkas was the mohel, and the father of the baby is not Jewish, Rivky Zalkas was appointed to be the sandek!

There are many new halachos being practised due to coronavirus such as porch minyanim and zoom brachos and condolence visits but a Chabad woman acting as sandek would have been unthinkable until now!

The story also underlines the power of one phone call. It is entirely possible that a young lady married to a gentile would not have considered circumcising her baby. Maybe she did not even know about the mitzvah. Rivky Zalkas simply called her up to say happy birthday and this led to one more Jewish child entering the covenant of Avraham.

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60 COMMENTS

  1. And no one but chabbad would have any contact with a woman who’s married to a goy. And that doesn’t make chabbad special. It makes them wrong. Klal Yisroel does things for a reason. And if collateral damage is that a Jewish boy doesn’t get a bris well that’s her fault too for the life she chose.

    • Are you a posek? I don’t know all the details here, but I can tell you I was at a bris here in New York a few months ago where the father wasn’t jewish and he came to the bris.

    • WOW!!! So the Mitzvah of Veahavta Leraicha Komeicha is only when they are frum????!!! Or only when they never make a mistake???!!! Here you have a HOLY NESHAMA that is 100% as Jewish as ur kids, that can be brought to Yiddishkeit, but YOU decided that they arent good enough!!!! Have your own perverted beliefs but dont put down “Klal Yisroel” You have what to work on this Elul…..

    • Anon21, you’re silly! The woman is Jewish, her baby son is Jewish. It is a mitzvah for her and her son that he get a bris milah.
      Giving him a bris and keeping her closer to yiddishkeit, rather than cut off from it, makes it more likely that he will eventually keep kol haTorah kkula.

    • I once asked a shaila if I could invite a coworker and her nonJewish husband to my simcha. I was asked if the woman “knew better” in other words, did she grow up frum and went OTD or, as is sadly common in many places, an assimilated woman. In this case, in some small corner of the former USSR, the woman probably did not know better than to marry a non-Jew. At least her child will always know he is a Jew and there is a chance he will grow up to be a fully Torah Observant Jew. If the rabbi would not have give him a bris, he would have been one more Jewish neshama lost to the klal.

    • You’re welcome to your opinion, of course, but it has NOTHING to do with Judaism, about which you seem to know nothing but evil foolish stupidity.
      Go learn chassidus. Oh, that’s right, you’re one of those Fake Chassidim that has no idea what it teaches about a Jew, a Mitzvah, or Toirah.
      You’re an ignoramus who doesn’t even begin to know why.

    • And the colateral damage for Freedom of Speech is having to put up with moronic comments on VIN.
      Also, Anon21, please just speak for yourself and don’t besmirch or sully “Klal Yisroel”.

    • Hahahahaha! Oy! You’re hilarious! Lang zolst du leben. Although it might not be okay to give laughs during the nine days. May the zechus of your attempt to bring joy to another Yid be the final Mitzvah that brings us the Geula THIS WEEK. Before Tisha B’Av. Amen

      • Its the nine days so I won’t say what I think about you. Even if you were correct. Which you are not. The baby still needs a bris mila. He is jewish by all standards.

      • You can try reading the “Just me” (and other) posts here. I would add that sitting shiva is not a response found in the Talmud. It was a social response in order to shock the wayward back to Judaism (and to prevent them from influencing others). And in its technical sense had more to do with conversion to another faith at the time of such marriage. As those concerns are now reversed under the conditions found in Russia, so is the response reversed.

      • First of all, where do you get that this means that you shouldn’t try to bring them back to Yiddishkeit?

        Second, you know that we don’t pasken halachah according to Fiddler on the Roof, right? The precedent in halachah that you’re referring to isn’t about intermarriage, but of a Jew who converted to another religion and then died without doing teshuvah; this happened with Rabbeinu Gershom’s son, and so he sat shiva twice for him. Here, the woman is alive and well, B”H, and hasn’t converted to another religion – indeed, she’s in the process of returning to Yiddishkeit.

    • A mohel in Antwerp had a Bris on an Erev Shabbos in a small town in Holland, for a baby of a non-Jewish father. He was concerned about not getting back home in time for Shabbos, so asked Rav Wosner זצ”ל about delaying it a couple days.
      Rav Wosner responded that in the absence of a Jewish father, the chiyuv of Bris is on Beis Din; in this case the mohel having been asked to do it. Better spend Shabbos alone, than push off the bris of a Ben Avraham, Yitzchok Veyaakov.
      When Am hoaratzus is used as a mechanism to bash Chabad, you just look silly

  2. Mr Anon,
    You must be mistaken in your harsh words. I’m no Chabadnik, but this pure innocent neshama is 100% a yid k’halacha, is the very definition of a Tinuk Sh’neshbua, and he should be welcomed with open arms to the Briso Shel Avraham avenu. As Yidden we believe that every neshama that is brought into this world, was handpicked by the Bashefer for a reason. This little yingle may be brought up in a non-frum home, our perhaps one day he will he inspired to be chozer btshuva, and he is already A Mahul. If given that opportunity Mr. Anon, if Hakudosh Boruch Hu sent you this opportunity, what right do you have to turn him down?
    On a separate note, do you know anything what so ever about this mother that you judge her so harshly?

  3. Oh and the question is misplaced too. A kosher bris can be done by a woman too, the baby doesnt have to be on anyones lap, a table is kosher too.

    There is no need for any sandek!

    • That’s before Matan Torah. It’s a machlokes haposkim whether she can do so nowadays, although you do have examples in extreme circumstances (such as during the Holocaust) where they did so.

  4. BSD
    Kudos to the Chavadnik coupke for mai taing the Kesher and for oerforming the Bris.
    Kudos to the Mother for making sure her Jewish son has a Bris.
    My only question is wether or not the non jewish father should have been invited to the Bris?

  5. Why does all people setring in religious city have to comment on what they dont dven know?
    Why does the web site need to publicize this things toward those kikd of publics…
    Chabad is following strong and know rabbonims so dont take you self as if you are the posseik hadoir… Do you life and avoide lashon haro on other

  6. Of course it happened in a Chabad shul. A young boy, a Russian immigrant, became shomer mitzvos. His older sister, married to a non-Jew had a baby boy. Her younger brother was determined to make sure the baby had a proper bris. With the help of the local shluchim it was all arranged. The father was present and during the subsequent meal, everyone praised the father for allowing the bris to take place. With plenty of vodka in him, he replied, “it’s no big deal to me, my grandmother was jewish!” After a bit of questioning, it turns out that it was his maternal grandmother, which makes him, the father a Yid as well. The father eventually had a bris, the family is shomer mitzvos, and the baby had a day school education and spent a year learning in Eretz Yisroel!

  7. Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch once wrote that anyone whose critiques arrive under the guise of anonymity ( such as the OP, “Anon21”) is a coward and deserves no response.

  8. a mohel can be a sandak at the same time – i heard from some that it is actually easier that way – i have seen with my own eyes both Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter shlit”a and the Skverrer Rebbe shlit”a serve as both sandak and mohel simultaneously – not saying this is wrong, maybe this rabbi has a had time doing it this way, but it is a practice among some tzaddikim who are mohalim

  9. Guys guys ppl ppl. Calm down. I never said that the boy shouldn’t have a bris. Obviously when we hear about such a boy we move mountains to get him a bris. I’m talking about the contact that the shliach maintained with the mother who’s married to a goy.
    And to the one who said the boy is a koshere yid just like everyone else happens to be wrong but that’s not the point. It’s about the mother not about the kid.
    Now if you guys disagree with me that’s fine. But as far as I know the only group of orthodox people that actively court Jews that have married goyim are chabbad. You can explain that however you want

    • Really? You “move mountains to get him a bris”? Because in your first post you said, “And if collateral damage is that a Jewish boy doesn’t get a bris well that’s her fault too.” So the “mountains” you’d move seem to be awfully small ones.

      Now, when Chabad keeps up a connection with a Jew who’s intermarried, it can (and often has) led to them divorcing their non-Jewish spouse. Without that connection, they’d stay married. Is that the outcome you’d prefer?

      And finally, “to the one who said the boy is a koshere yid just like everyone else happens to be wrong” – no, they are correct, and you are nearly 100% wrong. If the child is a girl, it does say in Shulchan Aruch that she shouldn’t marry a kohen, but even then it’s not an outright issur: if a kohen does marry such a woman, they don’t need to divorce (Even Ha’Ezer 7:17 with Chelkas Mechokek and Beis Shmuel). Here it’s a boy, and as in the story with R’ Wosner that a previous poster brought, his bris is even docheh Shabbos.

    • “And to the one who said the boy is a koshere yid just like everyone else happens to be wrong ”
      “And no one but chabbad would have any contact with a woman who’s married to a goy. And that doesn’t make chabbad special. It makes them wrong.”
      ” Klal Yisroel does things for a reason. And if collateral damage is that a Jewish boy doesn’t get a bris well that’s her fault too for the life she chose.”

      Anon21, given that you’re such an amazing talmid chacham (otherwise how could you be so certain of your position), would you be so kind as to share the relevant citations for us, from classical sources, to support your statements?

      Thanks!!

    • And precisely how is the baby boy going to get a bris if the rabbi and rebbitzen talk to the mother?

      You should have quit while you were, well, not ahead, but not quite so far behind. When in a hole, stop digging.

  10. I’m afraid to say anything as everyone here are such great Talmidim Chochamim. The only thing not said is Keruv Rachokim is a Mitzvah DeOrytah. See Rambam sefer HaMitzvos, positive #3.
    See Sifri Devorim 6:5
    Beurey HaGra on Avos 1:12
    Misilas Yesharim 19
    All the above tell us it is a Mitvah to bring back HaShems children under the Wings of the Shechenah. That would include one who married a goy. Todays Tenukai Shenishba are not only a subject discussed in Halacha they are flesh and blood. Those who feel they are exempt by learning Torah are mistaken. How can one love HaShem with all their hearts when so many Jewish people are lost to HaShem? The Shechenah crys out for her children? Isnt that what we say on Tisha Be Av? It doesn’t make a difference today whether one is a Lutvak a Chasid Satmer or Chabad we MUST BELIEVE WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.
    Also go purchase a copy of Reb Aryeh Kaplan’s book Reaching Out. We all need to read it. May we All stay and safe in these uncertain times.

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