In memory of Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron ZTZ’L
Something new is starting
Parsha in the everyday life - Parashat Tazriah- Metzora - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald – 5780
Our Parasha opens with one of the most exciting and powerful occurrences in the beginning of a new life:
…אִשָּׁה֙ כִּ֣י תַזְרִ֔יעַ וְיָלְדָ֖ה זָכָ֑ר… וּבַיּ֖וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִ֑י יִמּ֖וֹל בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ׃… וְאִם־נְקֵבָ֣ה תֵלֵ֔ד…
"…When a woman at childbirth bears a male…On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised… If she bears a female…" (Vayikra 12: 2-3).
The first Mitzva the newborn makes in his life, near his arrival into this world, is circumcision! Although it is his father who actually does the Mitzva, it is his Mitzva and his father does it for him: מצוות הבן על האב
"all mitzvot of a son with regard to his father" (Mishnah Kiddushin 29a). This is a special Positive Mitzva that takes place near the birth even before he commits to the mitzvot.
What can be learned from this about the essence of the Circumcision and its relation to the purpose and mission of life?
The importance of the Mitzva of "Brit Mila" within the 613 Mitzvot can be seen in the fact that it is a “Positive Mitzva" that when failed, the punishment is כרת, to be cut off:
וְעָרֵ֣ל זָכָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִמּוֹל֙ אֶת־בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלָת֔וֹ וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מֵעַמֶּ֑יהָ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֖י הֵפַֽר׃
“And if any male who is uncircumcised fails to circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his kin; he has broken My covenant.” (Bereshit 17:14)
And just like this one, there is one more Mitzva, the Passover Sacrifice. Many explanations were given to the Mitzva, but the real explanation is still hidden from man’s mind.
The Mitzva of circumcision, is a "pact" with G-d:
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹקים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם וְאַתָּ֖ה אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֑ר אַתָּ֛ה וְזַרְעֲךָ֥ אַֽחֲרֶ֖יךָ לְדֹרֹתָֽם׃ זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר׃ וּנְמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלַתְכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה֙ לְא֣וֹת בְּרִ֔ית בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵינֵיכֶֽם׃
"G-d further said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you". (Bereshit 17:9-11)
A 'pact' is usually an 'agreement' for cooperation and mutual commitment. The parties sign and testify to it on a document to commemorate and remember it.
In the "alliance" between man and G-d, "signed" near the birth, the "sign" that states the covenant is engraved in the body itself:
וְעַל בְּרִיתְךָ שֶׁחָתַמְתָּ בִּבְשָׂרֵנוּ
“as well as for thy covenant which thou hast sealed in our flesh”, (Birkat HaMazon)
וזה יהיה לכם לאות ולזכרון כמו מצות ציצית ותפילין והדומים להם לפי שהם לזכרון, אבל זה האות הוא חזק שבכולם שהוא בגוף האדם שלא יהיה זולתו,
לאות ברית, “as a mark of the covenant; although there are other symbolic acts which are signs of the covenant and the obligation to keep the laws of the Torah, such as the phylacteries, the fringes, the Sabbath, etc., this symbol is by far the most potent one, the only one to be performed on one's body. The other "signs" are only a reminder. This is the only such "sign" to be performed on one's body”. (Radak on Bereshit 17:11)
What can we learn from this?
As mentioned, birth is an exciting event, but most of the attention is given to the human being in the physical sense - to the encounter with new physical life that has emerged in the world, with the creation of a new living person.
The Brit Mila adds a significant layer to the birth. The new life that begins is, in fact, an embarkation, a realization of the potential one has in the world. So as soon as you are set on the way, it is important to answer the question: what is the purpose of life, in which direction and where are we going? Without these, man can ‘lose direction’ in his world. It is best to turn in the right direction from the first moment on.
This is how it was in the creation of the First man on Earth and the same in the birth of every man: "Therefore, near the Creation of the first man, the Almighty G-d said: וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן “placed him in the garden of Eden”(Bereshit 2:15) וַיְצַו֙ ה' אֱלֹקים עַל־הָֽאָדָ֖ם “And Hashem commanded the man", And here, too, he said:
וְיָלְדָ֖ה זָכָ֑ר… וּבַיּ֖וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִ֑י יִמּ֖וֹל …
“When a woman at childbirth bears a male…On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” … as he was born to do the commandments of G-d. And the first and most basic commandment is the Brit Mila, that if not circumcised he is not Jewish, and by being circumcised received עֹל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם -The Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is sealed and enrolled to receive and do all of Hashem’s commandments, and therefore annexed circumcision to the birth of the males" (Toldot Yitzchak, R’ Isaac Karo on Vayikra 12:2).
The purpose of observing Hashem’s commandments and accepting the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven is not reduced to the practical aspects - to the commandments that man is required to do, but to the deeper meaning of way and purpose. Acceptance of the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven is the acceptance of the spiritual path in life - a life of values and holiness which is directed by Hashem’s commandments and expresses His will.
Hence, the "covenant of man" with the Almighty at the beginning of his life is the outline of the direction of life and commitment to Hashem from the beginning. There are visible layers and layers that are transcendent from the human mind, so the "Mitzva of Brit Mila" also has a layer that is hidden from the human understanding, in the words of the Baal HaKeida: "It is certainly not one of the human purposes, which a man will do out of his free choice or will. He suggests that there are additional fringe benefits accruing to those who experience circumcision, (as he states before: health, refinement of the desires, etc.) but man will not arise and be drawn to do it where it not because it is a divine commandment as it is written to Abraham Avinu:
הִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ לְפָנַ֖י וֶהְיֵ֥ה תָמִֽים
“Walk in My ways and be blameless” (Akeidat Yitzchak, Bereshit 18:1).
The "signature" and "imprint" of this "pact" sign in the body expresses that this will guide the person all throughout his life without the intention of looking back. And also, that life in all its strata and all the deeds that man does in life, even the simplest ones, are aimed at this purpose:
ובשעה שנכנס דוד לבית המרחץ וראה עצמו עומד ערום אמר אוי לי שאעמוד ערום בלא מצוה וכיון שנזכר במילה שבבשרו נתיישבה דעתו לאחר שיצא אמר עליה שירה שנאמר (תהלים יב, א) למנצח על השמינית מזמור לדוד על מילה שניתנה בשמיני.
“And when David entered the bathhouse and saw himself standing naked, he said: Woe to me that that I stand naked without any mitzva. But once he remembered the mitzva of circumcision that was in his flesh his mind was put at ease, as he realized he was still accompanied by this mitzva. After he left the bathhouse, he recited a song about the mitzva of circumcision, as it is stated in the verse: “For the leader, on the Sheminith: A Psalm of David” (Psalms 12:1). This is interpreted as a psalm about circumcision, which was given to be performed on the eighth [bashemini] day of the baby’s life”. (Menachot 43b)
Even when David did something natural and necessary, and when he himself was uncovered from anything that goes beyond himself, the circumcision embedded in his body expresses his spiritual connection and commitment to Hashem and the Mitzvot. This means that everything he does in his life is directed to this goal and purpose.
In every person’s life, there are stages and stations where he faces a crossroads and embarks on a new path. Where the future will no longer be what it was. Upon departure, it is his duty to define where he is going and direct his life according to Hashem’s ways. The same applies when the nation and the world are at a crossroads.
Something new is starting!
It might seem that the global corona crisis that we are in the midst of, is of this kind.
'The day after' will not be the same as the day before.
Are we and the world prepared to direct 'the next day' in the right direction ?!