First is First

RABBI YISRAEL KANIEL

RABBI YISRAEL KANIEL

Administrator and Rabbinical Advisor of B'Ahavat Yisrael

In the beginning of the Torah portion of Tazria, we read (Vayikra 12:3), “And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.”  In his Darash Moshe, the latter day Torah giant R. Moshe Feinstein comments on this verse and thereby delves into the meaning of this precept and related precepts.

R. Feinstein points out that, as brit milah (circumcision) is performed on the eighth day, so is the qualification of a sacrifice on the eighth day, as is also the induction of the kohanim (priests).  It should also be noted, R. Feinstein mentions, that our Sages explain in Vayikra Rabba 27:10 that circumcision is performed on the eighth day in order that the child should first experience a Sabbath before his circumcision, and, likewise, this is why a newborn animal may only be sanctified after the eighth day.

R. Feinstein continues to elaborate.  It is obvious, he notes, that if one does not believe in G-d’s existence, any precepts that he performs are meaningless and his blessings are worthless (since he attaches no significance to the words he expresses).  The same is the case, R. Feinstein notes, if one believes in G-d’s existence but does not connect Him to the world’s existence.  Consequently, we are commanded to allow eight days including the Sabbath to pass before bringing a sacrifice.  Since the Sabbath is testimony to G-d’s creation of the world, the obligation to wait until one Sabbath passes symbolizes that a sacrifice is only acceptable if the one who offers it realizes that whatever he offers is not his but is the property of the world’s Creator.  All comes from G-d.  Similarly, the sanctification of the kohanim and the Mishkan (Tabernacle), R. Feinstein continues, requires waiting the span of eight days, including a Sabbath, to further allude to their contingence on the belief that G-d exists and created everything whereby all is dependent on Him.  When brit milah is performed, whereby the child’s inauguration to and connection with Torah begins, one must also wait eight days that includes a Sabbath to symbolize the contingency on the understanding of G-d’s existence and His creation of the world as we know it.

We must keep our priorities in order, which brit milah and other precepts allude to.  First is first.  Before proceeding, we must always keep in mind the fundamental basis of the precepts that we follow.  We must remember and instill in our thoughts the principle of G-d’s existence and the world’s dependence on Him.  This, R. Feinstein explains, is the message behind brit milah, and this is the message of a number of other precepts.  It is our task to incorporate it into our minds and our conscience.

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