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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