Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Print this article
Parshat Lech Lecha 5783
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha about Avraham Avinu receiving the mitzvah of Bris Milah. When the mitzvah is commanded to him, the parsha begins with the statement (Chapter 17, Pasuk 1), התהלך לפני והיה תמים; walk before Me and be complete. How precisely was removing his foreskin meant to make Avraham a complete individual?

The pasuk in Tehillim states (Chapter 139, Pasuk 5), אחור וקדם צרתני. You have created me front and back. The Gemara in Eiruvin 18A teaches that we learn from here that Adam Harishon was created originally with two faces, front and back, and then they were separated as man and woman. The Medrash Rabbah (14,1) in the beginning of parshat Tazria teaches that we learn from this pasuk a different idea. Man can reach great heights and be in the forefront of creation, or he can sink to the lowest depths and be behind all of the created world, including insects. Hence, אחור וקדם צרתני.

The Sfas Emes teaches a different p’shat. He says that this duality in man refers to the joining together of the body with the soul. You have created me front, refers to the soul, and back, refers to the body. Since man is a physical being, filled with temptation and desire, he needs to ensure that his body is suitable to contain his holy Neshamah. One needs to resolve this apparent contradiction.

The method of creating a proper environment for his soul within his body is the mitzvah of Bris Milah. By removing the Arlah, one is permitting his spiritual light to shine forth. At the point of temptation, a block is removed, allowing for his physical actions to be guided and directed by his spiritual self.

The pasuk in sefer Tehillim states (Chapter 119, Pasuk 162), שש אנכי על אמרתיך כמוצא שלל רב. The Gemara in Shabbos 130A teaches that this pasuk is referring to the mitzvah of Bris Milah. It’s brought in the Sefarim that Bris is referred to as finding a great treasure since the holiness of the Jew is trapped within his body. Only upon removing the ערלה is this great treasure, the Neshamah of a Jew, revealed. Suddenly, this great light is discovered! The beauty of a Jew is revealed and it is up to the individual to live up to the challenge of maintaining his holiness and giving off his light to the world.

The pasuk in Shir HaShirim states (Chapter 8, Pasuk 8), אחות לנו קטנה ושדים אין לה; We have a young, undeveloped sister. The Medrash Rabbah on our parsha (39,3) teaches that this pasuk is referring to Avraham Avinu, and learns the word אחות, which means sister, as a verb, לאחות, which means to connect or sow together. According to the Medrash, Avraham Avinu was a great unifier and connecter. He was bringing the people of the world closer to Hashem. Since the sin of Adam Harishon, and then the generations of the flood and Hapalagah, there was a great disconnect between man and Gd. Avraham worked at bringing back this connection.

The Sfas Emes teaches that part of this process of Avraham Avinu was to teach people how to access their soul from within their body and connect them. And even before the mitzvah of Bris Milah, Avraham Avinu was on a journey to connect the body with the Neshamah. The Sfas Emes learns the words ושדים אין לה, as a reference to the name of Gd, ש-ד-י. Even though there wasn’t yet the Bris of Torah and the Bris of Milah and he wasn’t given those two connections with Gd, ושדים אין לה, Avraham was still on the journey of purifying his body with his soul.

This is why when Avraham Avinu was given the mitzvah of Bris Milah, he was told והיה תמים. Now he could be complete; his body and soul will be in total harmony. אחור וקדם, front and back, will join into one. And ultimately, with the addition of the Bris of Torah which came later, the light of the Torah will enable the light of the Neshamah to shine forth. Let us appreciate what we have within us and not allow it to lay dormant, but rather, actualize the light of our Neshamos by keeping and maintaining our Brisim with Hashem.

Good Shabbos

Print this article