In Israel, a new five month scholarship program being offered to young aspiring athletes – one of them could be you.
In this week’s parshah, Hashem commands Avraham Avinu to perform the mitzvah of bris milah. We once discussed a question that several Achronim ask regarding this mitzvah, and I want to share some new thoughts on the matter. The Achronim ask that since the Gemaras in Kiddushin 82a and Yuma 28b say that Avraham kept the entire Torah, even though it was not yet given, why then did Avraham not perform a bris milah on himself earlier? Why did he wait until he was commanded to do so at age 99?
The Mizrachi, on this pasuk, answers that the Gemara in Kiddushin 31a says that the performance of a mitzvah when one is commanded to do so is greater than its performance when he is not commanded. Thus, to gain the mitzvah, Avraham decided to wait until he was commanded to perform it.
The Brisker Rav answers that Avraham kept the entire Torah even though it was not yet given. However, certain mitzvos, due to the lack of their physical existence, were impossible for him to perform – and therefore were not considered as if he didn’t perform them.
The mitzvah of bris milah is to remove the orlah (foreskin). Before Avraham was commanded to perform a bris milah, there was no concept of orlah. Prior to the commandment to remove the orlah, there was no distinction between the foreskin and the rest of the skin, since the foreskin was not yet considered orlah. Only once the Torah commanded him to remove the orlah did the foreskin become orlah. Thus, prior to the commandment, Avraham could not perform the mitzvah of bris milah.
With this understanding we can also answer another question. The pasuk in this week’s parshah (Bereishis 17:3) says that when Hashem spoke to Avraham regarding the mitzvah of bris milah, Avraham fell on his face. Rashi explains that this happened because he was an arel (uncircumcised male). As we find that Hashem spoke to Avraham many times before this episode, why only now did Avraham fall on his face because he was uncircumcised? According to the p’shat of the Brisker Rav, that prior to the commandment that he be circumcised the foreskin was not considered orlah, we can understand why Avraham never felt the need to fall on his face while talking to Hashem until this time: because before this commandment, he was not considered an arel.
Another example of a mitzvah where the concept did not exist prior to it being commanded is the mitzvah of kiddushin. Although there was a form of marriage before the Torah was given, it was of a different status. With this the Brisker Rav explains how Yaakov Avinu was permitted to marry sisters. He explains that only under the new status of kiddushin is it forbidden to marry sisters, whereas the marital status that existed prior to the giving of the Torah did not prohibit marrying sisters.
There is another answer as to why Avraham did not perform the mitzvah of bris milah prior to being commanded to do so, even though he kept the rest of the Torah. Bris milah is a bris (covenant) between two parties. Before the other party agrees to a covenant, there cannot be a covenant. Therefore, prior to being commanded to perform a bris milah, Avraham could not do so on his own – for it would not be a covenant.
On this pasuk, the Panim Yafos (who also authored the Sefer Hafla’ah) offers another answer to this question. He says that the prohibition of not wounding oneself extends to bnei Noach as well. Therefore, prior to being commanded to do so, Avraham could not perform a bris milah on himself, as it was prohibited to wound himself. He explains that this was the reason that the people of Avraham’s generation protested Avraham’s performing a bris. Since they were not aware of the new commandment, they argued that it was prohibited. Thus Avraham had to perform the bris, as no one else heard the commandment.
I was bothered by the following question after reading the answer of the Panim Yafos: How is it that we are allowed to perform a bris milah today if in fact it violates the prohibition against wounding oneself or another? One cannot answer that when the wound serves a purpose, it is not prohibited – since in Avraham’s case there was a purpose even prior to his being commanded to do so. Perhaps one could suggest that after the commandment to perform a bris milah was instituted, we can apply the rule of assei docheh lo sa’aseh; thus one may perform a bris even though he is making a wound. This would explain why Avraham could not perform a bris prior to being commanded to do so, since we cannot apply the rule of assei docheh lo sa’aseh before there was a command to do that assei.
For questions or comments about this column, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.
About the Author:
You must log in to post a comment.
I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of when one steals from another and when confronted in beis din, the thief swears falsely with his denial that he stole. This parshah was already taught in parshas Vayikra; however, there are two halachos that the Torah adds in this parshah to this topic.
In order to carry from one’s home into the street (even when the area is enclosed by a properly constructed eruv), the eruvin ceremony must be performed. This ceremony involves the placing of food in one designated home on behalf of all Sabbath observers in the enclosed area. In order for the eruvin ceremony to be valid, however, it must be performed on behalf of all owners of streets and homes in the enclosed area.
Question: On Friday night the chazzan in many shuls ascends the bimah for Kabbalat Shabbos but goes to the amud starting for Barchu. Why?
Question: As Shavuot is fast approaching – a holiday on which we dwell on the story of Ruth and the origins of the royal house of David – I was wondering if you could help me resolve something. Some people say that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, the redactor of the six orders of the Mishnah and a scion of King David, purposely kept any mention of Chanukah and the Hasmonean kings out of the Mishnah because the Hasmoneans improperly crowned themselves and ignored the rule that all Jewish kings are supposed to come from the tribe of Yehudah. Is this true?
The Rema writes (Ohr Hachaim, 494:4), “It is customary to spread branches of trees in our synagogues and homes [on Shavuos] in order to commemorate that which the sages say [Rosh Hashanah 16a] that on Shavuos the world is judged concerning [how many] fruits the trees will produce [that year].”
‘A Separate Contribution From Each’
If a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he is to bring witnesses and warn her not to go into private quarters with the man in question. If she violates that warning, he is to bring her to the kohen, who will give her the “bitter waters” to drink. If she was falsely accused and was innocent, she will be blessed with children. If she was guilty, she will die a gruesome death.
A flash of red caught my eye, and I looked up and saw a cardinal perched on the picnic table on my deck. What a miracle, I marveled. You’re beautiful. Thanks, Hashem. And then my mind’s wheels began to roll, and it struck me that several miracle stories had come my way this week. The stories prodded me to think of and feel Hashem’s presence as a more tangible and vivid reality.
Over the years I’ve received letters from all over the world in which people share feelings and thoughts they’ve experienced upon becoming became Torah observant. Usually these letters arrive not long after the writers had heard one of my speeches. No matter where a particular speech took place, and no matter whether I spoke the language or had to use a translator, the magic always works. In reality, it’s not magic at all but a little voice in the soul – the “Pintele Yid,” that spark of G-d’s Word engraved on all our neshamahs. Here is one recent letter.
By the time these words are printed, there will be only a few more days left before Shavuos. We hope that up until that point, we will still have been counting the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer with a bracha, but we also know that too often, despite our best efforts, we drop out of counting with a bracha some time before the count is complete.
In this week’s parshah the Torah tells us that the bechorim were replaced by the levi’im to serve in the Mikdash. The Torah says that there were 273 more bechorim than levi’im. Those bechorim could not simply be replaced, and had to be redeemed. Hashem told Moshe that each bechor should give five shekalim to Moshe, who, in turn, should give them to Aharon and his sons. With that, they would be redeemed.
Question: Is there anything special that one should do on Yom Yerushalayim?
Question: As the shamash in a small community shul with an aging population, I am faced with numerous challenges. The following is only one of them. During sefirah, different people daven for the amud for Ma’ariv. Once, a bar mitzvah was one of them. On another occasion, a very recent ger lead the service. Were these individuals allowed to lead the congregation in counting sefirah? I also wonder, in general, if everyone should be trusted to lead the counting. What if someone forgot to count on one of the previous nights but does not inform anyone of this?
The heinous crime that put “Prisoner X” Ben Zygier in an Israel jail where he killed himself was not known until today: He butchered a secret Mossad operation to bring home the remains of 3 soldiers.
Last week, police executed a search warrant in the couple’s former home in Dewitt.
“They located the barbecue in a grassy area, ignoring safety guidelines.”
The organizers of a Thursday parade in Rome marking the World War II liberation of Italy prevented a representative from the Jewish Brigade group from speaking at the commemorative ceremony. A group of Jews and others marched under the Israeli flag and a banner of the Jewish Brigade that fought the Nazis in Italy. The [...]
Rabbi Avraham Sherman could be charged with fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office.
Second suspect sought after Watertown explosions, gunfire.
Peter Vallone Jr., the frontrunner in the Queens Borough President’s race this fall, met last week with the editorial board of The Jewish Press at the newspaper’s Boro Park office. Vallone, a city councilman representing Astoria, Queens, touted his strong backgrounds in both public safety and running a small business, as well as his being a longtime supporter of Israel and of more funding and benefits for private schools.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/why-did-avraham-not-perform-a-bris-earlier/2011/11/02/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.