TAZRIA/METZORA (Leviticus, 12:1-15:33) — “No ‘Short Cuts’ To the Bris”

This week’s Torah Portion opens with a list of Commandments pertaining to a woman after childbirth.  It starts with the birth of a boy:

“…and on the eighth, day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (Leviticus, 12: 3)

The Talmud tells us that this Mitzvah, of circumcision on the eighth day, is so essential that it actually supersedes the prohibition of causing a wound on Shabbos. Observing the “Mitzvah of the Eighth Day,” as it were, is more important than observing the “Mitzvah of the Seventh Day.”

There is an interesting dispute between two great rabbis in the Talmud. (Shabbos, 130a).  Rabbi Eliezer is of the opinion that one may do whatever needs to be done in order to facilitate a Shabbos Bris.  If, for example, there is no knife available at the location where the Bris is to take place, the mohel is permitted to bring a knife from elsewhere, in violation of Shabbos.  He may even, in Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion, light a fire that would provide sufficient heat to forge a steel knife.

[I assume that if Rabbi Eliezer were living today, he would permit a Mohel to get into his car on a Saturday morning and drive to the Bris. However, it is important to note that Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion is rejected, as we will see below.  Any Mohel who would drive to a Saturday Bris is considered a Sabbath violator, and should be disqualified from performing Brisses ANY DAY of the week.]

Rabbi Akiva disagrees with Rabbi Eliezer.  “Any work that could have been done before Shabbos, (for example, making/bringing the knife, driving to the Bris on Friday, etc.) does NOT set aside the laws of Shabbos. Only if it could NOT have been done before Shabbos, (i.e., the Bris itself) does it supersede Shabbos.”

Rabbi Akiva takes the position that there is no excuse for not doing everything in your power to avoid desecrating the Sabbath.  If you could have made the knife before Shabbos, and you didn’t, it’s your own fault!  You’re too far away on Saturday morning?  Too bad!  Why didn’t you take care of this yesterday? No dispensation.  No Shabbos Bris. See you on Sunday!

Rabbi Akiva is teaching us a lesson about Bris that we can apply to life in general.

There are certain things that we are capable of doing.  There are certain things that are beyond our ability.  G-d doesn’t expect us to go beyond our ability.  But He doesn’t let us off the hook too easily. There is no excuse for not doing everything you can.

I don’t have a right to say, “Okay, G-d, I’m going to smoke and drink and be irresponsible.  Please make sure I stay healthy.”

We can’t sit back and say, “I’m not going to make any effort to support myself and my family; G-d will provide.”  Manna delivery expired in Joshua’s time.  We have to make the effort, and pray to G-d that the efforts succeed.

Our brethren in the Middle East are in grave danger.  There are many things that we are not capable of doing.  We are not capable of making Arafat into a lover of Jews, justice, and peace.  We are not capable of disabling every gun and bomb in Judea and Samaria.  We are not capable of ending all the bloodshed and beginning a Messianic era by ourselves.

We ARE, however, capable of writing to Washington, (and perhaps GOING there this Monday!) We ARE capable of writing to (and perhaps boycotting!) the New York Times. We ARE capable of sending donations (and perhaps GOING!) to Israel to provide the support she desperately needs.   We ARE capable of praying our hearts out to G-d to put an end to this frightful situation.

And so we must.  As Rabbi Akiva would say, there is no excuse for not trying.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Some years the two Torah Portions of Tazria and Metzora are read together, and some years they are read on two separate Sabbaths.  For your convenience, here are links to both Portions:

Links to Tazria:

“A Taste of His Own Medicine” (2011)

… Many have praised the wisdom of the ancient Hebrews in realizing the importance of isolating patients with communicable diseases.  The leper was segregated from the Camp of Israel, dressed in a way that clearly identified him as contagious, and would announce“Unclean!  Unclean!” to anyone who approached. (Leviticus, 13:45) How insightful of the Israelites in the desert to realize that they could prevent an epidemic by keeping people with infectious diseases away from the general population.

Except for one problem.  It makes no sense!…

Read more

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“Dueling Brisses” (2010)

What do you do when you have conflicting responsibilities?

A Mohel once asked Rabbi Moshe Feinstein whether he should perform a Bris on Saturday if the people attending the Bris are desecrating the Sabbath (turning on lights, etc.) in his presence…

Read more

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“Blood Libel 2005” (2005)

I really didn’t want to write this article.

Often, the best way to react to negative PR is to ignore it.  When you respond to ugly accusations, you sometimes exacerbate the problem by giving a forum to a topic that does not deserve one.  I hoped that the story would die down and go away.  Therefore, I chose to remain silent.

Ironically, this terrible tragedy has been great for business…

Read more

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“Timing” (2003)

… I approached Rabbi F’s son with a “business proposition.”  I asked him to lend me his father’s knives, to be used “in memory” of his father. … he lovingly took his father’s two Bris knives out of their cases.  Imagine the nostalgia he must have felt!  He was happy that his father’s knives were going to be used once again, and I was honored to be the vehicle through whom they were to be used… After the sterilization cycle was finished, I opened the autoclave, and took a look.  To my horror, I discovered…

Now what was I going to do?  My friend had lent me his father’s knives in good faith, and I had ruined them! …

Read more

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“No ‘Short Cuts’ to the Bris” (2002)

There is an interesting dispute between two great rabbis in the Talmud…Rabbi Eliezer is of the opinion that one may do whatever needs to be done in order to facilitate a Shabbos Bris… if Rabbi Eliezer were living today, he would permit a Mohel to get into his car on a Saturday morning and drive to the Bris…

[PLEASE NOTE: RABBI ELIEZER’S OPINION IS NOT ACCEPTED.  Any Mohel who would drive to a Saturday Bris is considered a Sabbath violator, and should be disqualified from performing Brisses ANY DAY of the week.]…

Read more

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Link to Metzora:

“A Pox on NONE of Your Houses” (2011)

… This spiritual disease can only happen in the Land of Canaan/Israel.  It never happened in the desert.  The Land of Israel is very sensitive to sin.  When people engage in activities to which the Land is “allergic,” the Land “breaks out” with an “infection.”

So there’s a simple solution.  Stay out of Israel!  Who needs these threats to our financial well-being?  Forget the house in Israel; buy a condo in Miami!  It’s safer.  No wall stains, no Kohain visits, no quarantines!  Why would anyone want to subject themselves to this threat?…

Read more

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on April 10, 2002 at 6:29 am  Leave a Comment  

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