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Parshat Tazria-Metzora Dvar Torah By Ms. Laura Csillag

At the beginning of this week’s parasha, we learn that a woman who gives birth to a baby boy is impure for seven days following childbirth. After a period of 33 days, however, a woman is considered pure again. In the pasuk in between, we learn that on the eighth day of his life, a baby boy is given a brit milah. Is there a reason, other than chronologically, as to why the mitzvah of brit milah is stuck right in the middle (between the laws of childbirth and purity)?

In discussing the mitzvah of brit milah, Rabbi Rosensweig quotes the Sefer HaChinuch, which states the shoresh (reason) for this mitzvah:

It is from the roots of this commandment [that it is] because God wanted to establish in His nation, that He separated to be called by His name, a permanent sign on their body; to separate them from the other nations in the form of their bodies just like they are separated from them in the form of their souls… besides being a completion of the physical body as we mentioned. God wanted to complete His plan with the chosen nation. He wanted men to complete the creation of his body, as He did not create him complete from the womb; [so as] to hint to him that just like the completion of the form of his body is through him, so [too] is it in his hand to complete the form of his soul, by refining his actions.

HaShem wants the Jewish people to have a permanent sign showing the world that not only are we spiritually different, but also physically different. In that case, why didn’t HaShem just save us the trouble and create us circumcised? The Sefer HaChinuch tells us that the message of brit milah is to teach the concept of self perfection to the human being. Just like we have the power to perfect our physical bodies, so too do we have the power to perfect our spiritual selves. After creating us, HaShem steps aside and we take center stage. HaShem does His part in creation, and it’s up to us to do the rest.

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (The Guide for the Perplexed) has a very different perspective on the mitzvah. He believes the message of brit milah is one of self sacrifice, not self perfection. To say that HaShem created us imperfectly, is to go against HaShem! When a baby boy has a brit milah, there’s no permanent physical injury, yet it is symbolic of the fact that HaShem is in charge. HaShem is asking us to do an act of self sacrifice that physically acknowledges His role in our lives.

The views of the Rambam and the Sefer HaChinuch are contradictory. Rabbi Rosensweig suggests that perhaps this is why the mitzvah of brit milah is mentioned in between childbirth and purity. According to the Gemara, there are three partners in creation: the baby boy’s mother and father, and HaShem. Once the baby is born, the parents need to ritually separate from one another, and let HaShem be in charge, as He is the ultimate creator.

May we continue to strive towards our spiritual goals and know that HaShem is guiding us and cheering us on!

Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!

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