Can A Woman Serve as a Sandek?
I was asked by the Halachic (Jewish Law) Committee of the Igud HaRabbonim/Rabbinical Alliance of America to confront the question of the appropriateness of action by a certain so-called Orthodox synagogue that has women serve as the sandek (holder of the baby) as the Mohel removes the foreskin. The answer is given directly by the Remah (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) 265:11:
“A woman cannot be designated as a sandek when it is possible to use a man because it will result in a lack of modesty (pritzus).”
As the Mohel is performing the actual bris he is bent over toward the sandek, and if the sandek was a woman it would not demonstrate the proper respect for her or the Mohel.
And, in general, no Jewish community nor individual has the right to nullify an ancient Jewish custom out of fear of an ill wind sweeping through the minds of “modernized” members of a synagogue who irresponsibly proclaim that a Jewish custom of three thousand years simply does not appeal to them.
Rabbi Yaakov Spivak
Member of Presidium
Igud HaRabbonim/Rabbinical Alliance of America