TAZRIA (Leviticus, 12:1-13:59) — “Timing”

Timing is everything.  If you pick a fruit before it’s ready to be picked, it won’t be edible.  If you wait too long, it will be too late.

A woman has given birth.  There are several ritual laws that apply to her at that time.  There are times when she may enter the Temple, and times that she may not.

And then, there’s her son: “…and on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin should be circumcised.” (Leviticus, 12:3)

Timing is very essential.  If the Bris is done too early, or at night, the Mitzvah has not been fulfilled.  (In such a case, a drop of blood must be drawn at the appropriate time, to fulfill the Mitzvah.)  If the Bris is done too late, the Mitzvah has been fulfilled, but not optimally.

There are several reasons given for the Bris being performed on the eighth day.  Some commentaries point to the fact that the baby should experience the holiness of a Shabbos before the Bris.  Before entering into a covenant with the King, it would be appropriate to be introduced to the Sabbath “Queen.”

There are many other reasons given.  The bottom line is that G-d has His own schedule that we are required to follow.

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Rabbi Mordechai F was a Mohel.  In the last two decades of his life, health issues prevented him from practicing his holy work. He put away his instruments and retired.  For years, they sat unused in the home of his son, who is a neighbor and dear friend of mine.

Last spring, on the last day of Passover, Rabbi F passed away.  My neighbor, like every good son, sat Shiva, and recited Kaddish for his father.

A word about Kaddish.  We are given a certain number of years during which we have the opportunity to serve G-d and make the world a better place.  As I said above, timing is everything; once our time is up, there is nothing else we can do.  G-d judges us on the basis of how we utilize the time that has been allotted.  There is no opportunity to perform Mitzvahs in the next world.  There are no poor to whom we can give charity, and there are no pork chops for us to avoid.

However, there are still opportunities for spiritual “growth.”  Judaism teaches us that when a loved one dies, his friends and relatives are encouraged to do Mitzvahs on his behalf.  When a child gives Tzedokah — charity, or studies Torah as a tribute to his father, that is considered, in a sense, as if the departed father is himself doing that Mitzvah.  Kaddish, a public declaration of G-d’s holiness, is one such Mitzvah.  (For more information on Kaddish, click here.)

Last summer, 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.  I assured him that he could take them back at any time, whenever he wanted.

He loved the idea, and agreed immediately.  He invited me to his home, where 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.

I took the knives home to prepare them for my next Bris.  They needed to be sterilized.  I put them, together with my stainless steel instruments into an autoclave.  (You know how your dentist always has a small paper or plastic envelope containing his instruments?  They have been sterilized by high-pressure steam in an autoclave; it works like a pressure cooker.)

After the sterilization cycle was finished, I opened the autoclave, and took a look.  To my horror, I discovered one shiny sterile knife, and one misshapen, brown glue-covered tarnished knife.  I had melted the glue that held the blade in the silver handle, and stained the “stainless” steel blade.  I was mortified!  How was I going to tell my friend that I had destroyed his father’s knife?!

But, I decided, I’ll have to worry about that later.  I had a Bris to do.  I put the good knife, which was obviously sturdier, into a new envelope and put it back into the autoclave.  (Since I had handled it to examine it, it was no longer sterile.) I placed the sealed envelope containing the re-sterilized knife into my bag (AKA my “BrisKit” J) and left for the Bris.

Imagine my shock when I opened the envelope at the Bris to find that this too was now tarnished!  Well, it may have been discolored, but it was sharp and sterile, so I used it.  Before I began the Bris, I recited my standard preliminary prayers, adding that I was performing this Mitzvah “L’Iylui Nishmas (to “elevate” the soul of) HaRav Mordechai ben Aharon.”

The Bris came out beautifully and I reported to my friend that his father “did a good job.”

Now I had to deal with somehow undoing the mess I had made of his father’s knives.  I brought them to a jeweler who was able to reassemble the broken knife, and polish them to the best of his ability.  But many of the stains were still there.  They would never be the same.

Now what was I going to do?  My friend had lent me his father’s knives in good faith, and I had ruined them!  If it was only a financial issue, I could just buy new ones.  But these were Bris knives that had belonged to his departed father!  And I had destroyed them!  How was I going to tell him?

For months, I tried to find someone who could restore the knives.  Finally, about a month ago I found a custom knife maker in Canada who said he could repair them.  (If you happen to be interested, it’s AJH Custom Knives and Services.)

After several emails back and forth, I packed up the precious knives and sent them to Tony, who has never fixed a circumcision knife before.  Last Wednesday, an insured package arrived from Canada.  I removed two beautiful, shiny, and razor-sharp Bris knives.  What a relief!  Now I could face my friend with a clear conscience.

He got to me before I got to him.  Last Shabbos, I bumped into him on the way to Shul.  He had a big smile on his face.  “Mazel Tov!” he said.  “My daughter had a baby boy yesterday!”

The baby was born almost exactly a year to the day after his great-grandfather passed away.  In addition, the baby’s cousin, also a great-grandson of Rabbi Mordechai F, was born the same day.

The Bris for both boys will be today (Friday), G-d willing.  Guess what their name is going to be.  Guess whose Bris knife will be used.

How’s that for timing?  As I said above, G-d has His own schedule.

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 3, 2003 at 6:27 am  Leave a Comment  

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