Vol 3.36 - Tazria Spanish French Audio Video
The effect of Brit Mila that was delayed, retroactively - that it has also has the virtue of a Brit in its time. In Avodat HaAdam
Lesson: Bris Milah reveals the holy connection and our inherent potential
Circumcision - Always a Timely Act
The Rambam's exposition - "it is possible..." - indicates that he is providing two reasons:
"The threat to life sets everything else aside" means that even if the mitzvah of circumcision can never be performed because of "a threat to life," it is to be forever forfeited, since "a threat to life sets everything else aside."
The second reason - "it is possible to circumcise later on" - suggests that when milah is delayed because of ill-health, nothing is really lost. We thus understand that performing the mitzvah of milah at a later date affects the previous days as well, so much so that, retrospectively, it is equal to circumcision on the eighth day.
How can an action so affect the past?
We must also understand the following: At the conclusion of the second reason of "it is possible to circumcise later on" the Rambam adds: "but it is impossible to ever return a Jewish soul." Seemingly, these words are more closely related to the first reason of "A threat to life sets everything else aside"?
Chassidus explains3 that milah allows the drawing down of a Divine illumination far greater than man's service alone could accomplish; the illumination reflects an "arousal from Above." So long as a person is uncircumcised, his state acts as a barrier to this light. Milah removes this barrier.
The same is true regarding the "entry of the holy soul" accomplished through circumcision:4 The ritual draws down a level of soul that transcends intellect.5 This, too, cannot be realized through man's service alone - it forms an essential part of every male Jew, and is merely revealed through milah.
Since circumcision merely exposes a pre-existing spiritual state, it is able to affect the past as well. If milah is never performed, then the spiritual state remains concealed. But once milah is performed and the pre-existing state is revealed, it influences the past as well.
Accordingly, the Rambam states: "but it is impossible to ever return a Jewish soul" after both reasons, in order to explain how milah performed "later on" is considered as if it were done on time.
A Jew's connection with G-d transcends all bounds, and is always whole. "It is impossible to ever return a Jewish soul" thus means that the bond with G-d can never be "returned," i.e., severed.
This being so, all that is required is for this bond to be revealed. This is accomplished by milah even "later on" - even then, its effect is the same as that of milah performed in its proper time.
1. In this week’s Torah portion the commandment to circumcise a young infant is mentioned. The verse says “On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Chapter 12, Verse 3).
2. The Rebbe analyzes this:
The Torah tells us that we should circumcise our children and it should specifically be on the 8th day after their birth. Seemingly this means that if someone circumcises his son after the 8th day he would be missing out on the exact Mitzvah of circumcision (even if he was forced to postpone the circumcision because the child was not yet ready).
1) The circumcision would be missing the commandment of “the 8th day”, it would be missing the perfect time of the mitzvah.
2) The circumcision taking place now (after 8 days) would only be able to fix the child’s status of being non-circumcised from now on. It would not be able to fix the child’s status from the 8th day till whenever the circumcision was, for those few days the child was an uncircumcised child and that’s it.
3. The Rebbe now proves from the Rambam (an acronym for Reb Moshe Ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides) that in fact even if someone had to circumcise their child after 8 days they would not be missing out on the 2 above mentioned issues:
The Rambam gives 2 reasons why we are only allowed to circumcise a healthy baby at 8 days old:
1) “The possibility of endangering a Jewish life pushes away every law in the Torah” (therefore even though the Torah says to circumcise a baby at 8 days old, since the baby is sick you are not allowed to).
2) “We are able to circumcise the child a few days later and we are unable to go back on a Jewish life” (so since you can give the baby a circumcision a few days later- give it to him a few days later, because if you take the chance and the baby dies (heaven forbid) you will not be able to bring the baby back to life) (See Rambam, Hilchos Milah, Chaper 1, Law 18).
If you think about each of the Rambam’s reasons you will realize that he means to say:
First reason: “The possibility of endangering a Jewish life pushes away every law in the Torah”, meaning that even though you will be missing out on some of the commandment to circumcise your young child
(1: It is not being circumcised at the exact right time of 8 days, and
2: For the few days until it was circumcised it was a Jewish boy who was missing out on a circumcision), still you cannot circumcise the child because endangering a Jewish life precedes everything.
Second reason: “We are able to circumcise the child a few days later”, in other words- don’t worry about pushing off the circumcision because you can always do it later. Now the Rambam cannot be saying that “just because you can do a circumcision later you should push off the circumcision now” because obviously this reason wouldn’t be good enough to push off a Mitzvah!
You will be missing out on some of the commandment
(1: It is not being circumcised at the exact right time of 8 days, and
2: For the few days until it was circumcised it was a Jewish boy who was missing out on a circumcision)!
So obviously we must say that in the second reason the Rambam comes to tell us something new: When the Rambam says “We are able to circumcise the child a few days later” he means that the commandment is not being pushed off because you can circumcise the child later.
The Rambam is telling us that even though you will be circumcising your child after the exact time, after the 8th day, you will not be missing out on anything- the circumcision will still have the greatness of being done in the exact right time and your child will not have missed out for those few days till it was circumcised.
4. The Rebbe now asks a question on the Rambam in order to explain the Rambam to us:
Question 1: How can the Rambam say that something which you do later changes the previous status?
How can the Rambam say that even though you will be circumcising the child after 8 days, the child will not be considered uncircumcised for those few days that it was not circumcised?!
And furthermore how can the Rambam say that even though you are circumcising the child after 8 days the commandment will still have the greatness of being performed in its exact time?!
5. The Rebbe now explains the Rambam:
The Alter Rebbe (the first Chabad Rebbe, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi) tells us that when a child has a circumcision a very high “light” from Hashem is brought down into the world. This light is from a place in G-dliness which creations cannot reach/attain, Hashem sends it to us as a gift. However before the child has a circumcision this light was not able to come into the world because the foreskin was blocking it. (Just like for example if you had a cup with a lid on it and you were trying to pour liquid into it, obviously no liquid would go in. So-too with regards to this great light from Hashem: It is totally a gift from Hashem, we cannot bring it down through our work because it is so high, but the thing is until the foreskin was removed the light could not come into the world. Once the foreskin is removed this great light automatically flows to the world from Hashem as a gift). (See Likkutei Torah on Parshat Tazria).
The Alter Rebbe (in his Code of Jewish Law) also tells us that when a Jewish child has a circumcision the Holy Soul of the child begins to enter (and finishes entering the child when he is Bar Mitzvah). (See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Second Edition, Chapter 4, Law 2). The same understanding that we have with regards to the very high light which comes into the world when a child has a circumcision we will apply here: The Holy Soul of the Jewish child was always there, from the second a Jewish child is born it has a Holy Soul, the only thing is that the Holy Soul could not enter the Jewish child as long as the foreskin was there. But once the foreskin is removed (once the lid is taken off the cup) the Holy Soul can enter (the liquid can go into the cup).
With the above explanation we can now understand the Rambam:
We have just explained that circumcision does not create something new, it only reveals what was already there (the very high light which comes into the world and the Holy Soul). Therefore the Rambam can say that even though the circumcision is taking place after 8 days, the fulfillment of the Mitzvah (commandment) is not missing out on anything (the child did not lose out on the few days of being uncircumcised and did not miss the exact time), just like the Talmud says “anything which is about to be cut is as if it is already cut” (see Tractate Chulin, Page 72, Side 2).
6. The Rebbe now explains the Rambam’s last words “we are unable to go back on a Jewish life””:
The eternal bond between the Jewish people and Hashem their father is higher than reason or logic, like the Talmud tells us, “Hashem says ‘Whatever happens they (the Jewish people) are my children and it would be impossible to switch them with another nation’ ” (see Tractate Kiddushin, Page 36, Side 1). And this is what the Rambam is hinting at when he says “it is impossible to go back on a Jewish life”- whatever situation a Jew might find himself in does not break the eternal bond between Hashem and the Jewish people. As the Bal Shem Tov was known to say “Every single Jew is precious to Hashem like an only child born to parents in their old age, and (truly) even more precious”.
7. The Rebbe now ends off by telling us what the lesson is for us:
A Jew must act. We cannot sit on the side “sleeping” because we know that we have an everlasting bond with Hashem no matter what we do and when Moshiach comes he will take us all out of Exile (like it says in Shmuel Beis, Chapter 14, Verse 14). Our purpose in this world is to reveal the everlasting bond, to reveal Hashem, and this is done through work. And on the other hand if we do our work we will receive “much more then we bargained for”.
Translated and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos Chelek Gimmel.
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