Vayeira (Genesis 18-22 )
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GOOD MORNING! In last week's Torah portion the Almighty commands 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" (or "Brit Mila" in Sephardic pronunciation) 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). When one brings his son into the Covenant with the Almighty, he should get the most competent and righteous person to perform the circumcision. A 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.
The commandment is upon the father to bring his son into the Covenant of Abraham. If the father didn't do it, then it falls upon the son to fulfill the mitzvah when he become a Bar Mitzvah at 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 man. The goal in life is to be like God. One must utilize and elevate the physical aspects in the spiritual quest. One cannot orgy by night and be a tzaddik (righteous person) by day.
The Sefer HaChinuch elucidates a lesson from Bris Mila. Just as 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, our beliefs.
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 are 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
Avraham, on the third day after his brit mila, sits outside his tent looking for guests to extend his hospitality. While talking with the Almighty, he sees three visitors (actually angels of the Almighty). Avraham interrupts his conversation with the Almighty to invite them to a meal. One angel informs him that in a year's time, Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son, Yitzhak (Isaac).
God tells Avraham that He is going to destroy Sodom because of its absolute evil (the city is the source of the word sodomy). Avraham argues with God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people in Sodom. Avraham loses for the lack of a quorum. Lot (Avraham's nephew) escapes the destruction with his two daughters.
Other incidents: Avimelech, King of the Philistines, wants to marry Sarah (Avraham's wife); the birth of Yitzhak; the eviction of Hagar (Avraham's concubine) and Ishmael; Avimelech and Avraham make a treaty at Beersheva; Avraham is commanded to take up his son, Isaac, as an offering "on one of the mountains" (Akeidat Yitzhak); lastly, the announcement of the birth of Rivka (Rebecca), the future wife of Yitzhak.
Want to know the reward for listening to the command of the Almighty? This is what the Almighty told Avraham:
"... I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
On the third day following Avraham's Bris Mila, the Torah states:
"And the Almighty appeared (to Avraham) in the grove of Mamre." (Genesis 18:1)
Why does the Torah specify where the Almighty appeared to Avraham?
The great commentator, Rashi, cites the Midrash that the Almighty appeared in Mamre's grove because Mamre gave Avraham the advice to enter into the covenant with the Almighty and to perform the circumcision.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz comments that from here we see the great merit of giving people good advice. Avraham would have listened to the Almighty's command to be circumcised. However, others advised Avraham not to circumcise himself. When Mamre heard about the matter, he advised Avraham to do it. For this Mamre was greatly rewarded.
How does one give good advice? First and foremost, you must have the best interest of the person in mind. All advice must be solely for the benefit of the person asking your opinion.
CANDLE LIGHTING - November 14:
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Where nothing is sacred,
sacred is nothing.
-- Dr. Mardy Grothe
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