Questioning faith in the parsha
Oct. 16, 2010/8 Cheshvan 5771
KOSHI…HOW is Abram’s call of covenant affirmed through the covenant of circumcision…? WHAT is the Covenant brit-milah makes real?
Modern Author: Max Apple, “The Eighth Day” from Free Agents
REMEZ…Dialogue of the Centuries—Reclaiming Culture/Connection
CH12 V.1 The Lord said to Abram, “Lech L’cha—Go, from your land, from your birthplace, from your father’s house…
SARNA…The patriarch bursts on the scene of history with astounding suddenness. The first 75 years of his life are passed over in total silence. God’s call comes in an instant, without forewarning or preparation. It is brief and compelling in its demands, and Abram’s immediate response marks the true beginning of his life.
IBN EZRA… “And Terach took Abram, his son, and Lot, the son of Haran—his son’s son, and Sarai, his daughter-in-law, and they went forth from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the Land of Canaan.” Thus our opening should be rendered, “As the Lord had already said…”
ZOHAR… Since Terach, an idolater, began the journey because he wanted to accompany Abraham, why did God not command them in the plural, including Terach? R’ Shimon replied: If you think that Terach left Ur in order to repent, you are mistaken. The truth is that he was fleeing in order to save himself from his countrymen after the incident of Abraham in the fiery furnace. But when he reached Charan and no longer feared them, Terach went no further. Thus the command was worded in the singular, Lech Lcha, as if to say: Give new life to yourself and all who follow you Abram. Terach, however, “saw not the light.”
R’ SHMUEL of SOKOTCHOV… “Go forth”—L’cha—unto yourself, to be what you truly are. RASHI… “Lech LCHA”—For your own benefit and your own good. “I will make of you a great nation”—there, whereas here, you will not merit having children. [Talmud. RH 16b]
B’REISHIT RABBAH… The words “Lech L’cha” occur both here and in God’s command at the Binding of Isaac, [22:2] teaching us that leaving his father’s house and binding his beloved son were equally difficult. The generations were at stake in both….
CH17 V.11/13 You & your offspring shall keep My Covenant…You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, every male among you at the age of 8 days…Thus shall My Covenant be marked in your flesh as an everlasting pact.
SA’ADIAH GA’ON… “You shall circumsize the flesh of your foreskin”—Perfection consists of removing deficiency. When the superfluity is cut away, man can achieve a state of perfection.
RAMBAM… The commandment of milah was not given as a compliment to a deficient physical creature, but as a means for perfecting man’s moral shortcomings, to counteract excessive lust.
RADAK… Circumcision should serve as an “ot-Brit—sign of the covenant,” just as tzitzit functions as a reminder of Israel’s bond to God through mitzvah. This, however, is the supreme sign, inasmuch as it is indelibly sealed in the flesh,…sanctifying each new life.
TALMUD…R’ Nachman taught: The expression “ot-Brit—sign of the covenant” is designated “l’dorotam” in connection with two commandments—Shabbat and circumcision. From this we learn that circumcision, in its proper time, supercedes even keeping Shabbat. [Shabbat,132 a]
SPINOZA…I consider the sign of the covenant so important that it alone is sufficient to maintain the separate existence of the Jewish people for all time.
PLAUT…The ZOHAR considered the safeguarding of circumcision important to all mankind: “As long as Israel observes the mitzvah of brit milah, heaven and earth will go on their appointed courses, but if Israel neglect this covenant, heaven and earth are turned on edge.”
TALMUD… “himol yimol—he shall be circumcised and will be circumcised”—One who is a “mashuch”
[surgically concealing his circumcision to pose as a gentile] must be recircumcised, even 100 times [Yevamot, 121a]
RASHI… “An uncircumcised one…shall be cut off from his people.”—That is, he shall go childless and die before his time. Some say, his spirit will not find a home. [TALMUD, Mo’ed Katan, 132a]