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"On the eighth day he shall be circumcised - on the day and not the night" (Torat Kohanim 12:3) 

The reason that  the circumcision of Bnei Yisroel in Egypt was at night (Shmot Rabbah 49:5, Shir haShirim Rabbah 1:12) - accordinng to Niglah and Pnimiyut  


1. On the verse:

“And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised”,

the Chazal expound in Torah Kohanim (Likewise in the Talmud): “by day, but not by night”.

According to this, it follows, that one does not circumcise a child at night, was only brought to light after Matan Torah. Which implies that before Matan Torah, one was allowed to circumcise the child during the night.

Even according to a secondary source for the law (In the tractate Shabbat) “he that is eight days old” Which is stated in Parshat Lech Lecha

(Specifically that Tosafot indeed holds that this verse is the primary source for the law) –

 is only regarding timely be circumcision, but in the case of circumcision not done on the proper day, and nevertheless must be don’t during daylight, that we learn from (The added letter Vo”v) “And on the eighth day”, in our Parsha (as Tosafot explains). Therefore, the revelation of the law was first revealed after Matan Torah.

2. To explain the above, we should first introduce what is said in the Midrash, that as the Jews were in Egypt: ”Many of them(Jews)this not accept on themselves circumcision, So  G-d commanded them to fulfill the Pesach Offering, and since Moshe fulfilled and completed the Pesach offering, G-d enacted in the four corners of the world…He went and attached it (Ed: The air of the Garden of Eden) to that Pesach….all the Jews gathered next to Moshe and said to him: “ please feed us meat from your offering”…He replied…If you are not circumcised you may not eat…Immediately they gave over themselves to be circumcised…”

From this Midrash it follows, that Jews circumcised themselves on the night of Passover. Furthermore, from the Midrash (Specifically, in Shir Hashirim Rabbah) it is implied, that Moshe our teacher was not the one to give over the law “but no uncircumcised male may partake of it” until (at night when...) the Jews came asking from Moshe “please feed us meat from your offering”.

It is not understood: It is true that one was allowed to circumcise at night, due to it being before Matan Torah, nevertheless, we need an explanation (at least from a more profound perspective). For many Jews (“Many of them”) circumcised themselves (not of their own volition, rather...) because “G-d enacted in the four corners of the world…”, and the aroma (Ed: of Eden) caused them to desire the offering of Moshe. But, G-d could have done the same thing (or similar) before dawn, and Moshe would have then said: “but no uncircumcised male may partake of it”, and that they should circumcise by-day?

3. The Yoffah Tohar make an effort to reply that indeed the above story was before twilight (and brings two proofs), for at-night which is Yom Tov, circumcision done not in its proper time- does not annul the laws of Yom Tov. Furthermore, there is no circumcision at-night.

We can indeed not reply so, for from the story the way it is written in Shir Hashirim Rabbah (on the verse “While the king was still at his table” (Song of Songs - Chapter 1-12)) it is clear that the story was at-night. Over there it is stated clearly, that it occurred “While the king was still at his table"-“while Moshe and the Israelites, were reclining and eating the Pesach offering in Egypt”, and the eating of the Pesach offering is “on this night” on the night of the 15th on Nissan (and not before twilight).

Regarding the two proofs that he brings A) that circumcision done not in its proper time- does not annul the laws of Yom Tov - there is no circumcision at-night – they are no proofs, for

As said before the law that one must not preform circumcision at-night (not in its proper time) was only revealed after Matan Torah.

Accordingly, we do not find and prohibitions of labor on the Yom Tov Passover that occurred in Egypt. Although the verse says: “And on the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation; no work may be performed on them etc.” is stated in Parshat Bo – we must nevertheless say, that the verse is not talking about Passover that occurred in Egypt, for Passover that occurred in Egypt was only implemented on day, and in that verse it says “and on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation etc.”.

(One cannot say that the verse is stating two separate laws, that are not hinged on each other –

(a) And on the first day there shall be a holy convocation, which was to be, which was applicable to Passover in Egypt,

(b)’ and on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation”, which is only applicable to Passover of later generations – for,

in the verse is states “no work may be performed on them” which means that the prohibition of labor of working on the first day and on the seventh day, are both included in the same command -on the statement” no work may be performed on them” it says in the Mechilta: “This only teaches me that on the last days of Yom Tov one is prohibited to do labor, but on the first days of Yom Tov from where do we know? Therefore it says” And on the first day there shall be a holy convocation”” it is evident from the words of the Mechilta, that the main prohibition is stated regarding “on the seventh day”, and only afterword’s we also learn it regarding “on the first day”, and because on Passover that occurred in Egypt, there was not the main prohibition (“on the seventh day”), it is self-understood that also the added prohibition (“on the first day”), is not talking about the Passover that occurred in Egypt. C) The Passover that occurred in Egypt there was completely no “on the first day”, rather “Day one”)

4. Even according to the opinion (of the RaN) that Passover that occurred in Egypt there was the prohibition of labor, we can answer the question on the Midrash (how did circumcision done not in its proper time- annul the laws of Yom Tov). To preface, analyzing the precise language of the Midrash (in Shir Hashirim)” They all hold the sword, skilled in warfare; each one with his sword on his thigh, for at the moment that Moshe said to them etc. , they all took his sword on his thigh, and circumcised themselves”, for we may ask A)what is the difference that the instrument used to circumcise themselves was a sword- the essential point is that they circumcised themselves immediately - what is the emphasis on “ his sword” – his own sword – what is the difference whether the sword is his or so from someone else?

Rather from this, it answers the aforementioned question: when is circumcision a prohibited labor on Yom Tov, when it is done in the normal fashion – scalpel, but circumcision done with a sword, is a labor done in an improper fashion, and such an action is permitted biblically, therefore the Midrash (and the verse that it brings) specifies that they used a sword for circumcision.

If it only stated that they used a sword, we may have thought that they used a ‘sword” which is normally used for circumcision, as it says in the verse “Make for yourself sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time” – therefore the verse is precise in saying “his sword” – their own sword: the sword which is used by those “skilled in warfare”, which is not the sword that one would use for circumcision.

According to this – that the Passover in Egypt, they circumcised themselves at night – we return to the original question: why did G-d not cause that they should circumcise themselves by day, before twilight?

5. we will understand only after prefacing another answer that is brought by Acharonim (on the question, how did the Jews circumcise themselves at night) – that the night when the Jews left Egypt was (as stated in the Zohar) in a manner of “The night shone like the day”, and therefore the night had the law as if it was day.

One may ask on this: if the night when they left Egypt had the law of being day, how did the Jews fulfill the commandments which are attached to the night (eating of the Pesach offering, Matzah, bitter herbs etc.)?

We must say, that the law that the night of leaving Egypt is considered as if it was day, was only regarding circumcision, and not to the above commandments, and the difference in understood simply: that the commandment was explicit “And on this night, they shall eat the flesh etc. your loins girded etc.”

6. An explanation on a deeper level of why circumcision is different, that only it the “night shone like the day” the manner of the way the Jews left Egypt, was completely in the manner of “Pesach” - Jumping over, higher then measurement and borders of nature. According to nature, the Jews were not capable of leaving Egypt (both physically - “no slave had been able to escape from Egypt” and spiritually, the Jews were soaked in the 49 gates of impurity)

How does the measurements of nature get nullified in this world, by nullifying the measurements and borders (Egypt “Mitzrayim” - Borders of the entire “order of development”, which is done by revealing a light completely higher then measurements and borders of the entire “order of development”.

Because all concepts must come through Torah, they must first be states in Torah – therefore the concept must (of revealing the light which is higher than the order of development in order to nullify the measurements and borders of the entire “order of development”) first stated in Torah: In Torah draws from a higher place, where Torah is in its quintessence, hyperbolically speaking, higher than the measurements of Torah.

Therefore, G-d caused Moshe our teacher to give over the commandment of “no uncircumcised male may partake of it” not before twilight, rather precisely during the night, so that the circumcision of the Jews will be at night (not how it is done after – after Matan Torah – it come down in the measurements of Torah)  - for the revelation of light that shone that night , was in a manner that was higher than the “order of development” until- higher then hyperbolically the measurements of Torah. Therefore, through this, it nullified the order of development – there was a revelation of light in the manner of jumping; there was a drawing down of godliness in Egypt in the state “full of idols” (for in the “order of development” there is no place for it) and through that, it nullified to measurements of nature in the physical universe. There occurred a “Pesach”, a jump – and there was a going-out of Egypt, contrary to nature.

7. Precisely in the way that it was necessary for there to be a “Jump” in Torah, for the going-out of Egypt to occur. There also had to be in the service of the Jews a “jump”, higher than the “order of development” of man.

Therefore, the preparation to going out of Egypt was the blood of the sacrifice of Pesach, and the blood of circumcision. For these two commandments of blood of the sacrifice of Pesach, and the blood of circumcision, are services that are higher than the “order of development”. “Pesach” for the etymology of jumping, and circumcision is the concept of “everlasting convent” with G-d – everlasting convent without and boundaries.

Now we can understand the uniqueness that we find by the sacrifice of Pesach, circumcision that is not found by other positive commandments – by them there is a supernatural punishment for transgressing. When we talk about concepts that are higher than the order of development and levels, there can be no in-between levels. It is one or the other: either you connect to G-d with an everlasting convent, higher than change and time – infinite: and if not – it will be “you shall be cut of etc.” is g-d forbid he has completely no connection with godliness.

(Like leaving Egypt, as explained above, we must remove all metrics, even the metric of Torah so to speak, if not – we are stuck in Egypt, a land full of idols.)

Therefore, the revelation of “the night shone like the day” when they left Egypt, had to be fundamentally connected with the commandment of circumcision, for the concept of “the night shone like the day” in the revelation from above, is connected with the “the night shone like the day” in the service of the Jews which is the service of “the blood of circumcision”

8. According to all that we said above, it explains the difference of circumcision before Matan Torah and after Matan Torah:

The true sense of jumping was in the commandments of circumcision, is precisely the commandment of circumcision before Matan Torah, for then there occurred a jumping even more then from one end to another: it took the Jews out of the territory of impurity, and ushered them into the territory of holiness.  Specifically in impurity, in the 49th gate of impurity – to the revelation of G-d in his honor and in his essence, this is completely without parallel, which in that case caused there to be no metrics, and – not difference between night and day.

In contrast to after Matan Torah – the Jews were already in the form and in the order of holiness, and the “everlasting convent” of the commandment of circumcision  is also in the order of holiness: and it became a service is metrics and boundaries, and a difference between day and night.

9. The lesson to be learned in practical service is:

The service of leaving Egypt is and must be in every single generation and every single day, for every level is Mitzrayim (from the etymology of “Borders and boundaries”)   in contrast to a level higher then it. So when one needs to leave his boundary, one must realize that there are not metrics and borders, not even the metric of Torah, so to speak.

Like it is explained in Tanya, then when we discuss the occurrence of one who transgresses –G-d forbid (The concept of exile Egypt) - the will of G-d, there is no difference between the people most trivial, and people most serious, from the perspective of the will of G-d, which is higher than reason or analysis (even the reason and analysis of above) all commandments are equal. For this is shown even by those who are most lax, that he will give up his life, even for an insignificant minute detail of a rabbinical law , and without weighing it in his mind –

And of course when there is not the distinction of day or night. To him there is not difference if by him it is light, or G-d forbid darkness: it does not affect him when he is tired, that he has different desires and volitions etc. he takes out – with full strength (higher than analysis and reason) his sword and immediately circumcises himself, connecting himself with the almighty through fulfilling G-d’s will, by way of a building a foundation, and deep connection, and everlasting convent with G-d.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NpGQx1Y1UQ  (Video)


 Date Delivered:   4/15/2010 Reviewer:       AD
Date Modified:    Date Reviewed:  
Contributor:  AD