Parshas Lech Lecha: Circumcision Fixes the World


    Parshas Lech Lecha: Circumcision Fixes the World

    This week we read how Abraham founded the Jewish nation, received the Land of Israel and got the commandment of circumcision. At first glance it is not so clear what is going on here; The Bible is supposed to be a spiritual, religious book, why is it concerned with land and circumcision? Read the full Dvar Torah by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton Full Article

    By Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

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    This week we read how Abraham founded the Jewish nation, received the Land of Israel and got the commandment of circumcision.

    At first glance it is not so clear what is going on here; The Bible is supposed to be a spiritual, religious book, why is it concerned with land and circumcision?

    Religions are made of miracles, mysteries, heaven and hell, or even world conquest while Abraham did none of these things.

    Similarly, the Jewish people are the smallest of nations, apt to sin (Golden Calf etc.), are not very popular, and can’t themselves even get clear who exactly they are.

    Why is it important how they were founded?

    And finally, the covenant of circumcision (Brit Mila); although it is something that Jews still do, is certainly not unique to the Jews and is, after all, a pretty primitive and painful ritual. Why is it a biblical covenant?

    Here is a first-hand story I heard almost 20 years ago from the person it happened to; Rabbi Hertzel Borochov, that might help us understand.

    Rabbi Borochov runs an ‘Igrot Kodesh’ center in the Israeli city of Rechovot where he lives. People come to him with problems they would have asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe he directs them to open one of the twenty-five plus volumes of ‘Holy letters’ (Igrot Kodesh) that the Rebbe answered to people (the Rebbe received more mail than anyone in the world, including the president of the USA) and then he helps them to understand the answers.

    Rabbi Borochov also pays friendly visits to storeowners near his place of work to encourage their observance of Torah which is where this story begins.

    He told me that a few years earlier he visited an auto repair ‘body shop’ run by a one Mr. Tzion K’doshim and his wife. [Interestingly, she did all the heavy work; hammering and welding, while he did the fine painting and delicate final touches].

    Mr. K’doshim was glad to see that someone cared, put on Tefillin and a conversation began. But when the topic got around to children, Mr. K’doshim and his wife sadly looked at one another, their eyes filled with tears and she finally mumbled something about ‘not so good’.

    It took a bit of coaxing but the Rabbi finally got them to talk they said they had a problem with their fifteen-year-old son, he had not grown an inch since he was five years old.

    At first the doctors said that he was a late developer but when the years passed and nothing happened, they took more tests and prescribed various treatments and hormones but the boy remained four feet tall.

    Now, in a few months, he would be sixteen and he was becoming introverted and depressed. He had no friends, no self-confidence, no hope for the future and, as he put it, no reason to live.

    Rabbi Borochov suggested consulting Rebbe’s books of letters, convinced them to write a detailed letter about their problem and promised to do what he could.

    That evening when he arrived home the first thing he did was go the bookcase, randomly pick one of the 25 volumes, pray to G-d for success, and insert the letter between the pages.

    Then he opened it to that place and read what was written. It was a detailed explanation of different aspects of the commandment of …circumcision!

    Absolutely nothing to do with his problem! Maybe he should try again.

    But then he caught himself. If this is where the book opened then maybe this is the answer! So, the next day he returned to the body shop and showed them what the Rebbe had written.

    The Kedoshim’s faces went blank. Circumcision? They were hoping for some miracle from the Rebbe that would save them. What has circumcision got to do with being short? It’s ridiculous!! Not only that, but the boy had already been circumcised!

    “By a proper Mohel?” the Rabbi asked, grasping for straws. (The one cutting the foreskin must be a properly certified expert called a ‘Mohel’).

    Suddenly Mrs. K’doshim began to stammer. “Well, sort of. that is. it certainly. . err. what difference does it. .”

    Her husband interrupted and repeated, “It’s no big deal. What difference does it make!”

    After a few moments of pregnant silence and strange looks at one another they turned to the Rabbi and continued.

    “Well. You see, maybe there was a problem. When he was born our friends convinced us that it was primitive and crude to have a rabbi do it. So, we had the doctor at the hospital make the circumcision under anesthetic. But, we didn’t have to do it at all! At least we did the Bris! And in any case what does that have to do with his height?! Excuse me Rabbi. thanks for the help but I think maybe we should forget it.”

    But Rabbi Borochov stood firm. “After all”, he explained to them, “it probably wouldn’t require any more than a pin-sized cut to make one drop of blood. and maybe it might help. It has to be done anyway according to the Torah. It won’t cost money. A lot of older people are doing it etc. etc.”

    After a half hour he convinced them. They agreed, the Rabbi set up an appointment with Rabbi Yaron Amit who ran ‘Brit Yosef Yitzchak Center’ in Jerusalem; a large, modern medical facility dedicated to circumcising older people (originally established for the thousands of Russian Jews returning to Judaism.)

    But they forgot one detail; their son had to agree. And he didn’t. In fact, when he heard what they had done he looked at them in disbelief and announced that, in his opinion, they all were insane.

    He wasn’t religious, he didn’t care what the Lubavitcher Rebbe said, he wasn’t going to be directed by a randomly opened book, he had suffered enough already, he wanted them to leave him alone and he certainly had no desire to have another ‘brit’!

    So they dropped the idea.

    But a few months later he suddenly changed his mind and agreed. Even after the Rabbi examined him and told him that it would be necessary to perform almost a complete circumcision anew, nevertheless he didn’t change his mind, the date for the circumcision was set for a few weeks later and Rabbi Borochov, happy that he had succeeded, got involved in other things.

    Four years later while walking in a shopping center he heard someone call his name.

    “Rabbi Borochov! Helloo there!!” He turned around and there was Mr. K’doshim.

    “Rabbi, don’t you remember me? You were at my garage several years ago, you convinced me to buy Tefillin. Do you remember now? My wife does the welding? Remember?” he said as he shook the Rabbi’s hand. “How are you? Good to see you, Rabbi!”

    “Of course! Hello! Kedoshim, right?” Rabbi Borochov answered. “How are you and your wife? Hey! Tell me, what is with your son? Did he make the Brit Mila? What about his hight?”

    “Ahhh! Of course!!” Mr. Kedoshim lifted his open hands to heaven and exclaimed. “Ah! Thank G-d! Oy! Right! It was you!! Rabbi, you won’t believe it. He made the Brit and . well a few months after that….. he started to grow.

    “Now he is huge! Taller than you Rabbi! He is in the engineering corps in the army.. a real fighter! He’s religious now also. You should see him. Sorry we didn’t call you but we simply forgot.”

    Rabbi Borochov told me that afterwards he attended their son’s graduation party and what they said was true, the ‘boy’ was fifty pounds heavier and a full head higher than he. Somehow the ‘Brit’ solved his problem.

    This answers our question about why the circumcision is a covenant between G-d and the Jews.

    The uniqueness of the Jewish people is not that they are superior, more spiritual or more powerful than the other nations and religions. The Torah even calls us the smallest of nations.

    Rather, the uniqueness of the Jews is that they are the representatives of the Infinite Creator in this finite CREATION.

    That is how the Torah, the Jewish people and the Commandments have withstood the trials and tribulations of persecutions, expulsions and perfidies for almost 4,000 years; since Abraham: Because Jews in showing that it is possible to bring the Creator into His Creation, are eternal.

    This was accomplished by Abraham because he was the first human being to risk his life for the sake of advertising G-d in the world, and that the Creator has a plan, a Torah, for His creation.

    And G-d repaid him by promising that this trait of self-sacrifice would be inherent in, first, the souls of his offspring (through Yitzchak) and then, with the ‘Brit Mila’, in their PHYICAL BODIES (i.e. in the WORLD) as well.

    That is the Jewish people.

    That is what happened in our story. The Brit Mila actually affected the boy’s physical body and made it grow!

    And it will happen in a big way in the coming of Moshiach.

    Then, and only then, will we see the fulfillment of all G-d’s promises to Abraham; the Jews will be the ‘Fathers of all Mankind’ (see Rashi 17:5). G-d will circumcise our hearts (Deut. 30:1) and, like the boy in our story, it will affect the world PHYSICALLY.

    As Maimonides writes in the end of his ‘Yad HaChazaka’, “At that time there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or strife. The world will only want to know G-d, therefore the Jews. will be filled with the wisdom of G-d.”

    And the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s showed the way. From the writings of Chassidut we can learn how we can ‘circumcise our hearts” (Deut. 10:16) and do everything possible to fulfill the goal of the Jewish people; And now not much is lacking. After thousands of years of Jewish self-sacrifice and suffering it could be that just one more good deed, word or even good thought can bring….

    Moshiach NOW!

    Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
    Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
    Kfar Chabad, Israel

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