To Continue to Continue
HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel, saying:
When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male…On the eighth day the
flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Vayikra 12:1-2)
On the eighth day the flesh of his skin shall be circumscribed:
It’s not written here that there should be any expense for the event
of the circumcision. Come and see how dear this Mitzvah is to Israel that
they go through great expense to guard and rejoice in it… (Midrash
It is a wondrous phenomenon that of all Mitzvos Bris Mila should remain as
a lasting symbol of Jewish loyalty. It is also no mistake that it is one
of only two “positive” or action-Mitzvos in the entire Torah that we are
warned that the failure to perform would result in “kores” –being “cut-
off”. (The other one is the Korban Pesach) The greater amazement is that
Jews for thousands of years celebrate in grand fashion what amounts to
minor surgery on a tender infant. Why when I left the dentist’s office the
other day no one was there to greet me with a piece of gefilte fish?
What’s so critical about these two Mitzvos that they persist while other
may tend to fade sooner for so many?
First of all, the punishment for failure to perform is not an arm twisting
technique to get people to conform or a cruel response from an unfeeling
deity, as some may crudely imagine hearing such words. No! It’s a cause
and effect caution. If a doctor tells his diabetic patient that if he
fails to comply with the dietary restrictions he can look forward to
blindness and amputations and the like, the doctor is not being unduly
harsh. He’s expressing his compassion. So it is here with circumcision and
with Pesach. When someone is packing to go on a long journey the first
things to go into the suitcase are the last items to be confronted. Once
removed the package is rendered empty. These two Mitzvos are really firsts
individually and nationally. Once one has discarded his connection to
these two firsts that join us to HASHEM as persons and as a people then
the description of the result is something with a severe sound to
it “kores”. This is installed in the psyche of Jews.
Years ago I heard in a speech from Rabbi Donner in England an account of
something that had occurred in the Soviet Union during the darker days of
pure communism. Even after seventy years of repression and oppression
under an iron blanket the irrepressible spirit of this Mitzvah as an
essential for Jewish living continually shined forth in many instances. In
this one particular episode a Jewish woman, not particularly religious,
was expecting a child. The doctor warned her harshly that if it was a male
child that she had better not dare perform any barbaric blood rituals.
When she gave birth to a baby boy she wanted very badly to give her child
a circumcision but it was determined that it was not politically safe.
Strangers were espied hovering nearby. The eighth day passed. A month
later the couple evaluated again the possibility of making a Bris but they
sensed a watchful eye and so again nothing was done.
Eleven months later the signal was given. The coast was clear. Friends and
family entered the apartment intermittently so as not to arouse suspicion
and they were joined by a Mohel. Quietly the child was entered into the
covenant of Avraham, an unbroken chain reaching back 3600 years to the
After the baby was given his Jewish name he was returned to the arms of
his mother and brought to a separate room. In the meantime, people were
sitting down to enjoy a festive meal, when they were interrupted by a
sudden thud and a cry. They ran into the room and discovered the baby was
crying and the mother had fainted out cold. As she was being revived
people were theorizing about what caused this to happen. Some said it was
the excitement while others figured it was the extra blood due to the
advanced age of the child. When the mother was revived she revealed the
She said, “I was afraid I would never make a circumcision for my boy so I
vowed never to kiss my child until the day he had a Bris Mila.” When
after the Bris she gave her child a first kiss all that motherly love that
she had stored up came rushing forward at once and that’s what made her
faint. That’s what causes us even still to continue to continue.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.