web analytics
July 7, 2015 / 20 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

A Leopard Can’t Change Its Spots, But A Man Can…


The-Shmuz

“And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” – Vayikra 12:3

The Sefer HaChinuch explains that Hashem separated the Jewish people from all the nations. We were given a distinct role in this world. Our lives and everything we do must be different from other people.

To remind us of this, Hashem gave us a permanent reminder of our uniqueness – the mitzvah of milah. By all rights, the Jewish baby boy should have been born already circumcised, as this would have more clearly shown the Jew is unique among the peoples. However, there is a second lesson Hashem wanted to impart to us. Just like a person can take his body and permanently change it, so too a person can change his very essence – his neshamah. Therefore, rather than creating the Jew circumcised at birth, Hashem gave us this mitzvah to perform.

This explanation of the Sefer HaChinuch is difficult to understand. Since Hashem wanted us to know we are a nation apart from any other nation, then surely the Jew should have been born circumcised. Wouldn’t that difference have shown that the very genetic material of the Jewish person was different?

Had the Jew been born without a foreskin, the entire world would have known that this people is set apart. Now, any human can be circumcised; in fact, many non-Jews are. Wouldn’t it have been a far more powerful lesson for us as a nation to know we are different because we were born that way?

The answer to this question is based on one of the greatest shortcomings of man – self-limiting beliefs. Often a person will find himself thinking, “I am what I am. This is my nature, and there is nothing that I can do about it. Granted, I may not be happy with the way that I act, granted I may wish that I were different, but what can I do? This is who I am.”

Such thoughts become self-fulfilling. If I sincerely believe I can’t change, then in fact I will not be able to. I won’t seek out the methods of change, I won’t find the necessary motivation, and the reality will be that I cannot change.

This single concept can be the most damaging idea that ever crosses a person’s mind.

We Were Created to Change

The Gra writes, “If not for changing one’s character traits, what is the purpose of life?”

Change isn’t part of the Torah – it is the focal point of all of our avodas Hashem. The reason we were put on this planet is to grow. All the mitzvos focus on growth. But growth means taking who I am now and changing it, taking myself from where I am and willfully, purposefully, changing me. Whether it is in character traits, beliefs, trust, or honesty, whether it is in seeing Hashem more clearly or in treating people with greater respect, every part of what the Torah demands of me is about change.

If a person is locked into the idea that he cannot change, then in fact he won’t be able to. To such a person, the Torah has no relevance.

The answer to the question on the Sefer HaChinuch seems to be that this concept of man’s ability to change is so central to being Jewish that it warranted giving up another essential lesson. It is true that had Jews been born circumcised, it would have taught us that just as our body is different, so too is our soul. That concept would have aided us in recognizing our mission in Creation. However, the concept that “I can change the essence of who I am” is far more central to being a practicing Jew, and therefore, it came at the expense of the weakening the first lesson.

This idea has great relevance to everything we do. We often find ourselves mired in thoughts that limit our ability to grow. “That’s just the way I am. What can I do? I didn’t choose to be born stubborn, hot-tempered, selfish, and arrogant. Ask my Creator why He made me this way.”

While it is true that each individual was created with a different nature and temperament, and it may well be that one person has a greater tendency toward anger, jealousy, or arrogance than another, the entire focus of our lives is supposed to be on changing our natures. To do that, however, we must clearly see change as possible, as something within our capacity. For that reason, Hashem gave us the mitzvah of milah – so that we can have a permanent reminder of our ability to change.

About the Author: Rabbi Shafier is the founder of the Shmuz.com – The Shmuz is an engaging, motivating shiur that deals with real life issues. All of the Shmuzin are available free of charge at the www.theShmuz.com or on the Shmuz App for iphone or Android.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Leopard Can’t Change Its Spots, But A Man Can…”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Yeshiva boys learn Torah together at Beit Midrash Derech Chaim.  Due to their participation in a pre-army intelligence program, the IDF requires their identities to remain secret.
Exclusive: First IDF Cyber-Defense Program Opens at Yeshiva
Latest Judaism Stories
17th_of_Tammuz_(medium)_(english)

17th of Tammuz: Beginning 3 weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

With Ruth, The Torah seems to be stating that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of parents

Neihaus-070315

Without a foundation, one cannot hope to build a structure.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Why do we have a parsha in Sefer Shemos named after Yisro who was not only a former idolater, but actually served as a priest for Avodah Zarah!

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

This Land Is ‘My’ Land
‘[If The Vow Was Imposed] In The Seventh Year…’
(Nedarim 42b)

The Shulchan Aruch in the very first siman states that one should rise in the morning like a lion, implying that simply rising form bed requires strength of a lion, in line with the Midrash.

Attempts to interpret the message of Hashem in the absence of divine prophecy ultimately may twist that message in unintended ways that can lead to calamitous events.

Suddenly, the pilot’s voice could be heard. He explained that this was a special day for those passengers on board who lived in Israel.

If the sick person is thrust into a situation where he is compelled to face his sickness head on, we who are not yet sick can encourage him by facing it with him.

All agree that Jews ARE different. How? Why? The Bible’s answer is surprising and profound.

What’s the nation of Israel’s purpose in the world? How we can bring God’s blessings into the world?

“Is there a difference between rescuing and other services?” asked Ploni.

To my dismay, I’ve seen that shidduch candidates with money become ALL desirable traits for marriage

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

More Articles from Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier
Shmuz-logo-NEW

We are affected by our environment. Our perspective on the world is affected by what those around us do.

Shmuz-logo-NEW

It is the right amount of the right middah in the right time that is the key to perfection. Each middah has its place, time, and correct measure.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him.” – Vayikra 19:17   When the Torah mentions the obligation to rebuke a fellow Jew, it ends with the words “and do not carry a sin because of him.” The Targum translates […]

The answer to this question is based on one of the greatest shortcomings of man – self-limiting beliefs.

When Chazal call not eating treif food a chok, that refers to how it functions.

And the farmer can’t help but feel a sense of pride. After all, it was his wisdom that led him to choose corn, not like that fool of a guy next door who planted wheat.

So what type of praise is it that Aaron followed orders?

If my garment is clean, then I will be careful about maintaining its beauty. If it is soiled, I will not be as careful.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/a-leopard-cant-change-its-spots-but-a-man-can/2013/04/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: