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Parshat - Nasso

Thursday, 24 May, 2018 - 1:14 pm

First of all, I wish a hearty Mazal Tov to my son and daughter in law, Rabbi Zalman and Devory, on the birth of their son on Tuesday. The Bris will be, with Hashem’s help, on Tuesday morning at 8 at the Chabad Center of Palo Alto. A Bris is a unique event, celebrating the essential bond that Hashem made with the Jewish people, beginning with the covenant with our forefather Abraham. We don’t wait until the boy is old enough to make a rational decision about the Bris, because our bond with Hashem is beyond rationale and is unconditional. Regardless of how a Jew lives, his or her bond with Hashem can never be broken. (While girls are obviously not circumcised, G-d forbid, the Talmud tells us that this does not mean that they are left out of the covenant. Rather they carry the covenant automatically, without the need for human intervention.)

Our tradition tells us that Elijah the Prophet comes to every Bris, and that there is a spiritual light that surrounds the parents on this day. Throughout the ages we have steadfastly kept this Mitzvah, even under threat of death by our enemies, who have from time to time outlawed the practice. My own grandfather was a Mohel in the Soviet Union, and was ultimately murdered by Stalin’s regime for “counterrevolutionary activities.” 

An interesting fact about a Bris is that it is customary not to explicitly invite people. The reason for this is that the Bris is such a holy event that one cannot turn down the invitation. In order not to create pressure for someone who can’t make it, we only notify them of the event, and the notification implies an invitation. 

The Mitzvah is for the Bris to be done on the eighth day. The mystical reason for that is that the number eight represents that which is above nature, as is the Bris, as I mentioned above. Seven represents the seven days of the week - the limits of time. Seven is also the number of Divine attributes with which the world was created, and the corresponding seven emotions of a human being. (This is all discussed at length in Chassidus and Kabbalah.) Eight, the number above seven, therefore represents that which is above nature. The first time the presence of Hashem was revealed in the desert sanctuary after the Torah was given was on the eighth day after its construction, and we find this theme in other areas of spiritual life. 

Modern science has identified a scientific reason for the Bris on the eighth day. It turns out that Vitamin-K is a necessary component in blood clotting. The levels of Vitamin-K grow for the first days of life, and peak on the eighth day. On that day the Vitamin-K level is the highest it ever gets in a lifetime. Of course we do it on that day because of our tradition of following the Torah, but it is nice to see another example of how modern science is slowly catching up to what the Torah has taught for thousands of years. I’m looking forward to celebrating this great event on Tuesday together with our friends and community members.

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