GOOD MORNING! With tremendous gratitude to the Almighty and congratulations to my daughter Chana and son in law, Eli Lebovics, it is my pleasure to share with you the fabulous news of the birth of their first child, a boy. It is my hope that he and all children grow to love God, fear God 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 God's creation and hopefully your children will be partners in Tikun Olam, making the world a better place.
As I head to Chicago 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 God's laws and God 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 God-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 use 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 person. The goal is to be like God - 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!
For more on "Bris Mila" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Acharei Mot includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats - one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel after the Cohen Gadol - the High Priest -confesses the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a very popular epithet in Israel to instruct another person in the heat of an argument to "go to Azazel." (I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat.)
The goat sent to Azazel symbolically carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people -when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!
The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws - who you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and to be as much as possible like God, then he/she can appreciate that it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.
The Torah portion of Kedoshim invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and goals - a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Love your fellow man as yourself, I am the Almighty" (Leviticus 19:18).
Why is the commandment to love our fellow human being followed by the words "I am the Almighty"?
The great rabbi, the Chasam Sofer, clarifies that while the commandment to love our fellow man is a concept that anyone can relate to with his own intellect, the Torah tells us to love our fellow man because it is the Almighty's will.
If your love of other people is based only on your own feelings, there could easily be a lack of consistency. One day you might feel positive towards someone and on the next day your feelings can change. However, the Torah states that the Almighty commands us to love others. We need to develop positive attitudes towards others by focusing on their virtues whether it comes easily to us or whether it is difficult.
Everyone thinks that it is a good idea to love your neighbor, but how can the Almighty command us to love our neighbor? Some of us have neighbors who are awfully hard to appreciate! However, if the Almighty commands it, it must be possible. If you ask a pregnant woman if she will love her baby, she'll look at you like you're nuts and say "Of course!" Then you can ask her, "How do you know? Maybe he'll be like your neighbor!"
A pregnant mother knows she will love her baby because she will make it her business to love that baby. And what if the baby grows up to be an irresponsible teenager flunking out of school who doesn't make his bed? She'll still love him! How? She focuses on his good points! "He has a good heart! He's got a sweet personality! He helps when I ask him to." If we make a list of someone's positive traits and focus on them, we can generate a good feeling towards them.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 1
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 6:01 - Hong Kong 6:31 - Honolulu 6:38
J'Burg 5:19 - London 8:05 - Los Angeles 7:18
Melbourne 5:16 - Mexico City 7:41 - Miami 7:33
New York 7:33 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:01
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
In love, one and one are one.
-- Jean-Paul Sartre
With Deep Appreciation to
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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