By: Steve Kirschenbaum
Parshas Tazria begins with the Mitzvah of Bris Milah. The Gemara Shabbos 130a states regarding Bris Milah as is found in Tehillim 119:162 ‘Sas Anochi Al Imrasecha,’ that Klal Yisrael rejoices with Bris Milah so, Adayin, we still do it with Simcha.
The question is what is Adayin, we still do it with Simcha? A Mitzvah that we are Mekabeil with Simcha, we do with Simcha. What’s the Adayin Osah B’simcha? The GRA in Aderes Eliyahu explains Chazal teach us in Niddah 31b that when a woman gives birth, she has a Din as a Timai’a with Tumas Yoledes for seven days. So, the Gemara says why is Milah on the 8th day? She’lo Yehu Kulam Simeichim V’Aviv V’Imo Atzavim, the parents should not be sad at the Bris while everyone else is rejoicing. The mother should have the opportunity to become Tahor and attend the Bris in a Tahor state rather than a Tamei state. So, the Torah has a set of Halachos designed to ensure her joy. She is Temai’a for seven days from the birth, the Bris is on the 8th day, and she comes to the Bris Milah joyfully on the 8th day B’tahara.
The Gemara describes that the Bnos Yisrael then accepted upon themselves a Chumra that they’re not Tahor after seven days, that the Dam Tohar, the blood of the afterbirth is treated as Dam Tamei, and therefore, they don’t become Tahor by the 8th day. Says the GRA, that’s the Pshat in the Gemara. Even though the Torah’s reason for the Simcha no longer applies, Adayin – still, once Bris Milah became something of Simcha, it remains something of Simcha.
We learn from here an idea in the Tenu’as HaNefesh, in the nature of a Jew, that how a Jew performs a Mitzvah B’Osah Shaah, specifically by Bris Milah as Chazal illustrate, that action is Mashpia, that action impacts the Neshama during the performance of the Mitzvah and will leave a lasting effect moving forward.
Further, Rav Akiva Eiger writes in Teshuva 42 in the name of Rav Efraim Zalman Margolios, that at the time of a Bris there’s a Hashlamas HaNeshama, the Neshama of the child is Mushpa; there’s a tremendous Hashpa’a deep within the child from what transpires at the Bris. The Bris Milah plants the seeds and lays the foundation for the future life of the baby. Specifically, this Shleimus HaNeshama occurs, and the heart of the child is open to the future learning of Torah; Milah is a Hakdama, is a prerequisite, to Torah. What happens initially at the Bris with great joy remains forever intact because the Hashpa’a of the Bris Milah is something that’s everlasting. Rav Akiva Eiger takes it literally. He says that since a grandfather is obligated to teach his grandson Torah and since Bris Milah is a Hachana for Torah, so when there’s no father to do the Bris, the grandfather is obligated to do the Bris as part of the Mitzvah of Limud HaTorah.
The Gemara Nedarim 32a teaches that the world is Kayeim, it endures through Bris Milah. Asks the Maharsha, if this is so, then the Mishnah in Avos should really teach Al Arba’a Devarim HaOlam Kayeim and list Bris Milah as the 4th? Rav Yisroel Reisman mentioned once in the name of his Rebbe, Rav Avraham Pam, that the Pesikta relays that Unkelos HaGeir asked Rav Elazar why isn’t Bris Milah one of the Aseres HaDibros? It’s such a fundamental Mitzvah within Klal Yisrael that it should have been enumerated within the Aseres HaDibros. Unkelos understood that it belongs there. Rav Elazar answered that Bris Milah came before the Aseres HaDibros. True, Shabbos was also given earlier, but what does it mean that Bris Milah came before the Aseres HaDibros? Says Rav Pam, Bris Milah is before the giving of the Torah because the Milah is a Hakdama for Limud HaTorah. The Bris Milah itself unlocks the Jewish Neshama; it opens the Orlas HaLeiv and enables the Neshama to then internalize Torah moving forward. In that regard, it’s a Hakdama to the Aseres HaDibros; the Bris Milah is first necessary to then have the Aseres HaDibros. The Milah is a prerequisite to the child’s Limud HaTorah.
With this, we might understand Tosafos in Chagiga 15a that teaches that for one Tanna, Elisha Ben Avuya (also known as Acher), that the seeds that caused him to leave Torah Judaism were the inappropriate behavior exhibited by his father at his own Bris Milah. At Acher’s Bris Milah, his father did something inappropriate which lay the groundwork to have a negative Hashpa’a on the child decades later.
This notion also sheds light on the Minhag that the father stays up late learning the night before the Bris. It’s the attitude and the way that a father approaches the Bris that has the potential to be Mashpia on the child for Dorai Doros — with Simcha, joy, and an open heart to Kabbalas HaLimud. That’s the Hashpa’a that the Bris Milah, and any Mitzvah a Jew performs, has moved forward for years to come.