Thoughts from Parsha Lech Lecha
This is My covenant, which you shall observe between Me and between you and between your seed after you, that every male among you be circumcised.Chapter 17:10 Genesis
Circumcision is the bais of future righteousness. Fortunate is Israel! ZoharYou know there are things I do that I understand and then there are things that I do that I don’t understand. In the infinite complexity of life the mechanisms and chain reactions that lead me to walk and think, to be thirsty, to prefer roses that carnations. Why I enjoy the sunset or the fresh freeze.
Perhaps the thing that I have trouble understanding is the reason why so many Jews continue to circumcise their boys, even when they are ignorant of or ignore every other single mitzvah they can. They live a life totally rejected by tradition and Torah, and then their little boy is born, and CHOP! off comes the foreskin.
And especially since the bris is a “sign” of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, a completely spiritual act that can only be accomplished in a purely physical act, it would seem that natural thing to give up first! However, that is not how it happens.
The following powerful story appears in “Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust” by Yaffa Eliach:
One of the forced laborers in the camps related that one day he heard frightening cries of anguish the likes of which he had never heard before. Later he learned that on that very day a selection had been made — of infants to be sent to the ovens. We continued working, tears rolling down our faces, and suddenly I heard the voice of a Jewish woman: “Give me a knife.”
I thought she wanted to take her own life. I said to her, “Why are you hurrying so quickly to the world of truth…” All of a sudden the German soldier called out, “Dog, what did you say to the woman?”
“She requested a pocketknife and I explained to her that it was prohibited to commit suicide.”
The woman looked at the German with inflamed eyes, and stared spellbound at his coat pocket where she saw the shape of his pocketknife. “Give it to me,” she requested. She bent down and picked up a package of old rags. Hidden among them, on a pillow as white as snow, lay a tender infant. The woman took the pocketknife, pronounced the blessing — and circumcised the child. “Master of the Universe,” she cried, “You gave me a healthy child, I return him to You a worthy Jew.”
I just had the honor and privilege of being able to make a bris for our third son, Naftali. Every time the experience is moving and transformative in such a deep way that I have trouble speaking. I literally can barely get a word out. And for those who know, this is highly unusual. But at the bris of my sons, no word. Incomprehensible sense of joy. Overwhelming responsibility. Sadness —that my father OBM is not there. Feeling of great accomplishment, coupled with a sense of total humility. Deep, so deep. A sense of being humbled and awed by the power of creation, amazement at my own act in the continuation of this eternal covenant.
I could give a whole lecture—I have— on all the intricacies of all the symbols and meanings of the bris. It takes me an hour and a half just to get started. But ultimately, it is something that I find nearly impossible to explain, why it is so important to so man,y that they have risked their lives for this.
May God grant the Jewish people a quick and speedy redemption based on the merit of their faithful adherence to the Bris.