Rabbi Nissim Lagziel: Bris Mila and Preparing for The Coming of Moshiach



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    Rabbi Nissim Lagziel: Bris Mila and Preparing for The Coming of Moshiach

    From the desk of Rabbi Nissim Lagziel, mashpia in Oholei Torah: Bris mila is one of the fundamental mitzvos in the Torah. It is also likely the most observed mitzva. Many Jews (who, as of now, are not religiously observant) circumcise their sons. In our parsha, Nitzavim, we find a special reference to circumcision in a different context, the Jewish heart! • Full Article

    BEGIN WITH A GRIN

    A rabbi was talking to a close friend of his, “Yesterday I married off three couples. It was an amazing feeling to bring such joy to seven people.”

    His friend asked, “Don’t you mean six people?”

    “No, I said what I meant. Do you think I work for free?”

    A BLOCKED HEART

    Bris mila is one of the fundamental mitzvos in the Torah. It is also likely the most observed mitzva. Many Jews (who, as of now, are not religiously observant) circumcise their sons. In our parsha, Nitzavim, we find a special reference to circumcision in a different context, the Jewish heart!

    It says (30:6), “And the Lord, your G-d, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, to love the Lord, your G-d, with all your hearts and all your soul.” In parshas Eikev, which we read a few weeks ago, there is a similar verse about the heart of the Jewish people but there it says (10:16), “And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart …”

    The difference between the two verses is quite obvious. In Eikev, the obligation to circumcise the heart lies upon us, man. In this week’s parsha, it says G-d is the one doing the circumcising, an act from Above. G-d will remove the foreskin of the heart and replace it with a pure heart that loves G-d.

    Ramban, in his commentary on this verse, says this prophecy will take place in Yemos HaMoshiach. At the time of the Geula, G-d will circumcise the foreskin of the heart of every Jew and remove cravings and desires for worldly matters from us until love for G-d will become our default nature from birth.

    Nitzavim is always read before Rosh Hashana. This connection is not happenstance, G-d forbid, but directed from Above. At the beginning of the parsha, Moshe informs the Jewish people, “You are all standing today before the Lord, your G-d … so that you enter the covenant …” G-d makes a covenant with the Jewish people about fulfilling Torah and mitzvos. When? Today!

    The Alter Rebbe (Likutei Torah) explains that the word “today” refers to Rosh Hashana. This is the day when we and G-d enter a new, strong covenant that we will not leave nor neglect G-d, His Torah and mitzvos, and G-d, in exchange, will not abandon us. The day on which every Jew accepts G-d’s absolute reign and obedience to His commands. This means that the covenant we are talking about in our parsha was not a one-time event that occurred three thousand years ago, but a current, ongoing covenant, a covenant which we made last year and which we will renew in a few days.

    Making a covenant means infinite loyalty, loyalty which is above reason. This loyalty is sourced in unlimited, essential love, the place within the soul where love and connection to G-d become our core essence. Therefore, we make this covenant specifically on Rosh Hashana since on Rosh Hashana the essential love that G-d has for the Jewish people is revealed.

    Ramban connects the circumcision of the heart of the Jewish people in the future Geula with the famous prophecy of Yirmiyahu (31:30), “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, and I will form a covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, a new covenant.” He says that the circumcising of the heart of the Jewish people is the most significant manifestation of the new covenant between us and G-d, because then, in the Geula, we will have a new heart, a soft heart, one that is sensitive to G-d, which is why the covenant made then will be a “new covenant,” a covenant that will never be broken!

    If we would sum up the history of the covenants between us and G-d, we could say it thus: In Nitzavim we made a covenant with G-d which we broke. Therefore, every Rosh Hashana, we need to renew it. But in the future we will have a new heart and a new covenant, a covenant that will never be broken!

    A FEELING HEART

    But what does it mean to circumcise the heart? And what is meant by a new heart? Will G-d be a surgeon? A cardiac surgeon? And why, in the Geula, will we need a heart transplant?

    The Tzemach Tzedek (in Ohr HaTorah) explains a distinct and deep difference between the two verses about circumcising the heart. While the verse in Eikev talks about circumcising the foreskin of the heart, the verse in our parsha is about circumcising the heart itself! What’s the difference between the two and what does it come to teach us?

    The foreskin of the heart means the foolishness of the heart, the part that stuffs up the heart and blocks it from seeing and feeling G-dly things. The Yetzer Hara uses every form of blockage of the heart valves so that instead of a sensitive, feeling heart a person has a closed, cold heart, a “heart of stone” which he is required to remove himself!

    The circumcising of the heart in our parsha is something else entirely. It’s not about removing the Yetzer Hara but about revealing the innermost part of the heart, that which is most sensitive to G-dliness, that level of the soul known in Chassidus as the pintele Yid and the essence of the soul. In Yemos HaMoshiach, that inner point, that essence of the soul, will be revealed, and it will be revealed here, in this world. Therefore, man won’t have any desire to sin. The bond with G-d will be so open and deep that there won’t even be a thought of doing something contrary to G-d’s will.

    However, a heart transplant doesn’t happen on its own. We need to want it and pursue it. We need to do all we can (and beyond) to attain it. The same is true spiritually, especially now when we are on the threshold of the Geula. Surely we need to expend every effort to achieve this.

    How? (Tehillim 27:8) “On Your behalf, my heart says, ‘Seek My face.’ Your face, O Lord, I will seek.”

    When a Jew seeks Hashem’s “panim/face” referring to the innermost (pnimiyus) aspect of G-d, i.e. he doesn’t seek to connect with G-d as He manifests through His external levels but as He is on the inside, he merits that his own “panim/face” referring to the innermost (pnimiyus) point of his heart also connects to G-d.

    The way to connect with the pnimiyus of Hashem is through learning the inner part of Torah, Chassidus. When a person learns Nigleh of Torah, he connects with the external aspect of the divine. With the study of Chassidus, we learn about G-d Himself, the sefiros up Above, His holy middos, the creation of the world, tzimtzumim, and more. Through this, we connect to His pnimiyus along with the highest levels and sefiros.

    So, this year, before Rosh Hashana, let us commit to try and transplant our heart with a “new heart,” a G-dly heart, by seeking out the inner aspect of G-dliness, by adding in learning Chassidus, its directives and ways. Along with this, we need to remove the foreskin of the heart, the undesirable part of our animal soul. The Rebbe revealed to R’ Leibel Raskin in his first yechidus after going on shlichus to Casablanca, Morocco in 5721, one of the potent ways of doing this. In this yechidus, the Rebbe told him that stories of tzaddikim and stories of Chassidim have a special power to open and reveal a Jew’s heart.

    TO CONCLUDE WITH A STORY

    We will end with the famous story about how controlling the heart saved a life. During Napoleon’s war in Russia, there was a Chassid, R’ Moshe Meizlich, who spied among the French on behalf of the Russians. He did this as an emissary of the Alter Rebbe who wanted Russia to win since he was afraid of the French spirit of liberalism and what this would do to Russian Jews.

    R’ Moshe served as a translator for the French army since he knew several languages. One time, as he was in the room with the French generals as they planned their strategy for war against Vilna, Napoleon suddenly walked in. He went over to R’ Moshe and said to him in French, “You’re a spy for Russia!” and he immediately placed his hand on R’ Moshe’s heart to see whether it reacted as someone would when being caught. But the “mind rules the heart” of Chassidus, the “alef-beis” that he learned from the Alter Rebbe, stood by R’ Moshe and he remained calm. He coolly replied that he was merely a translator and his life was saved.

    Good Shabbos and a Kesiva V’chasima Tova!

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