Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Lech Lecha) He Said and She Did What?
Our forefather Avraham’s devotion and enthusiasm to perform G-d’s command to circumcise himself and his family members is eternally implanted within the DNA of his descendants. No matter how distant one may be from his heritage, there is an inborn sense of responsibility and consciousness to have a Bris performed on one’s son. I share with you the following story where through the Mitzvah of performing a Bris a person became cognizant of the treasure trove of Jewish identity.
A couple of years ago, the chief advisor to a renowned anti religious MK in Israel’s Knesset, had a son and invited the Rabbi of his army base to the Bris. The Rabbi, who obviously knew who he was dealing with, challenged him and boldly said that he was not coming! Shocked and caught off guard at the response, the father asked him, “Why not? After all, once you are invited to a Bris you cannot refuse!”
The Rabbi told him that he would not attend the celebration of a hypocrite!
The father asked the Rabbi, “Why am I a hypocrite?” The Rabbi responded, “Why are you giving your son a Bris?” The father answered, “It is tradition.” The Rabbi said, “Isn’t Shabbos, Kosher, Holidays etc. also tradition? Why do you vehemently reject our tradition and despise all who are religious? How does the Tradition of Bris differ from other traditions?”
The father changed his position and reasoned that the Bris was being performed for his son’s Jewish identity. The Rabbi responded that a Bris is not our unique identifiable sign, after all, the Palestinians, Arabs and many non-Jews are circumcised.
“Well,” the father said, “I’m doing it for hygienic reasons.”
The Rabbi retorted, “Why did your parents and grandparents have a Bris - before hygiene was an issue? And also, if it is for hygiene, why don’t you have it done in the hospital in a sterile environment rather than at home with a bearded Rabbi performing the Bris? And if it is for hygiene, did you ever have a surgical procedure such as your tonsils removed, and afterwards gather 150 people to greet you, wish you Mazal Tov, offer blessings and host a lavish festive meal to boot?”
The Rabbi ended up attending the Bris, however he got his point across. This direct conversation made the father start thinking what Jewish tradition is all about. A short while later, this anti religious advisor to the MK, did the unthinkable and set out to explore traditional Judaism. Study and experience affected him positively, and today he is a top lecturer for Arachim seminars, which educate and inform secular Jews about the beauty of our tradition.
Another lesson from Avraham and Sarah:
During a prophetic experience, G-d told our forefather Avraham that he would inherit the Land of Israel and that he would be blessed with children. The Torah relates that after living in the Land of Israel for a ten year period without having children, Sarah made a courageous move and offered her maidservant Hagar to Avraham so that he could fulfill G-d’s promise to have children.
Yishmael, the child that Hagar bore to Avraham, was not the child G-d had in mind, rather it was Yitzchok, born to Sarah when she was 90 years old. Avraham and Sarah were the quintessential couple, each complimenting, honoring and looking for the best in each other.
This brings to mind a Medrash that relates a tender and touching story. A couple had been married for ten years without having children. They sought the advice of the great Sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – the author of Kaballa. After listening to the adoring couple, whose only obstacle to their happiness was their lack of children; he gave them the following directive. “I want you to separate the same way you got married. Just as at your wedding you had a feast with food wine and music, so too, when you part from each other, make yourselves a feast of food, wine and music.”
During the meal marking their separation, the husband turned to his wife and told her to choose the most precious item of the house and take it with her when she returns to her father’s home. The feast continued into the night, and the effects of the wine caused the husband to fall into a deep sleep. The wife immediately instructed her servants to carry her husband to her father’s house. In the morning, the husband woke up a bit confused and asked, “What am I doing here? Who brought me here?” His wife answered, “I listened to your instruction to take the most precious item of our house to my father’s home – and there was nothing more precious in our home than you!”
The couple returned to Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai. When he heard the deep affection and love the woman had for her husband, he prayed to the Almighty that He bless them with children and indeed they had children together!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks