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GOOD MORNING! With tremendous gratitude to the Almighty and deep appreciation to my son Avraham and his wife, Esther, it is my pleasure to share with you the fabulous news of the birth of our first grandchild. It is my hope that he and all children grow to love G-d, fear G-d and to fulfill His commandments.
People are often surprised (or shocked) when they see or hear of big families. If you ask someone "What is your greatest pleasure?" Most often, if the person is a parent, he'll say "My kids!" Then you ask, "If your kids are your greatest pleasure, would you like a large family?" The answer is often, "Oh, no ... that's too difficult, too costly." Anything in life that is worthwhile has a price to be paid in pain, effort, time and/or money. If it's worthwhile, you pay the price ... and there is nothing more worthwhile than children. You are a partner in G-d's creation and hopefully your children will be partners in Tikun Olam, making the world a better place.
As I head to Jerusalem for my grandson's bris, I thought it might be an opportune time to share some thoughts on Bris Mila.
Q & A: WHAT IS BRIS MILA AND WHAT IS ITS SIGNIFICANCE?
The Almighty commanded Abraham, "... My covenant you shall keep -- you and your descendants after you for all generations. This is my covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you -- circumcise all males. And you shall circumcise the flesh of the foreskin and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And at eight days old every male shall be circumcised throughout all of your generations ... My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:9-13).
The words "Bris Mila" mean "The Covenant of Circumcision." The Covenant is bi-directional: the Jewish people undertake to fulfill G-d's laws and G-d watches over us. The circumcision is the sign of the Almighty's Covenant with Avraham to make his descendants a great nation and to give them the Land of Israel.
Removal of the foreskin is a religious act, not a medical act. It must be performed by a competent and G-d-fearing mohel (a professionally trained and certified expert). It makes sense that if one is bringing his son into the Covenant with the Almighty, that he would enlist the most competent person to perform the circumcision. The certified mohel is not only an expert's expert in the physical aspects, but he fully understands the spiritual implications and requirements necessary for fulfilling the mitzvah properly. If one uses a doctor, he should use one who is also a certified mohel.
The commandment is upon the father to bring his son into the Covenant of Abraham. If the father didn't do it, it falls upon the son to fulfill the mitzvah when he become a Bar Mitzvah, 13 years old.
In Hebrew, the word used for foreskin is orlah. Orlah means "a barrier." The foreskin is a barrier to holiness. On a mystical level, it is a block to spiritual growth and understanding. On a physical level, the removal of the orlah is a reminder to control passions for the higher calling of guaranteeing one's continuity -- rather than to be drawn by impassioned lusts which can degrade and cause the downfall of a man. The goal is to be like G-d -- by using the physical for higher goals. One cannot orgy by night and be a tzadik (righteous person) by day.
The Sefer HaChinuch elucidates a lesson from Bris Mila. Just like the Almighty gave us the ability to perfect the physical side, our bodies, through the removing of the foreskin, likewise we have the ability to perfect our spiritual side, our personality, our behavior.
Why has this mitzvah survived in strength while so many other mitzvot have fallen to the wayside by otherwise minimally observant Jews? Perhaps the answer is found in the 2,000 year old words of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, "Every mitzvah that they (the Jewish people) accepted upon themselves with joy ... they still perform with joy." (Talmud, Shabbos 130a). Deep in our collective psyche we know that the Jewish people is eternal, that we have a mission to be a "Light Unto the Nations" and to perfect the world, that the Almighty loves us and watches over us -- and that it is our great joy and privilege to be a part of that Covenant!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah continues this week with the command to make for use in the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary - oil for the Menorah and clothes for the Cohanim, the Priests. It then gives instruction for the consecration of the Cohanim and the Outer Altar. The portion concludes with instructions for constructing the Incense Altar.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother for honor and beauty. And you shall speak to the wise-hearted people in whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and they shall make the garments for Aharon to sanctify him to be a priest to me. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod (apron), a robe, a knitted tunic, a turban, and a belt. Make them as sacred garments for Aharon your brother and his sons so that they shall be priests to me"(Exodus 28:2-4).
This section begins with verse 2 saying that the purpose of the priestly garments was for honor and beauty, but Moshe was told to speak to the people who make the garments that they should have the intention that the garments were for sanctifying the priests and to serve the Almighty. Why didn't Moshe mention to them to make the garments beautiful?
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Bloch explained: The priestly garments had profound spiritual and mystical symbolism. They were to give the priests a special sanctity and relationship to the Almighty. For this reason they had to be made exactly as the Almighty commanded.
It was not necessary for this that they should be beautiful in the eyes of man. However, human nature demands that something which has great importance should also be externally beautiful. People's feelings towards things are greatly influenced by external appearances. Therefore, it was necessary that the priestly garments be beautiful. That is the reason behind the Almighty wanting the garments to be for "honor and beauty" and therefore commanding Moshe to make them that way.
Nevertheless, Moshe was told not to mention this to the wise men who would make the garments. They were just told to make the garments to sanctify and serve the Almighty. Those who do the actual sacred work should have an elevated mental attitude. If they were to have in mind that the garments were to be beautiful in the eyes of other people, it would have taken away from their more elevated thoughts.
This, said Rabbi Bloch, has practical ramifications for those who are involved with spiritual matters. Though it is necessary to do some things for physical beauty, the main focus for those who are running a Torah institution should be on sanctity and spirituality.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 5:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:49 Hong Kong 6:03 Honolulu 6:13
J'Burg 6:30 London 5:02 Los Angeles 5:21
Melbourne 7:57 Mexico City 6:19 Miami 5:59
New York 5:16 Singapore 7:03 Toronto 5:33
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another -- Walter Elliott