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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Vayiqra: Parashat Tazria: The Foreskin of the Heart

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In parashat Tazria, we read of the missvah of Berit milah: "On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised" (Leviticus 12:3)

Berit Milah is one of our most important missvot. This missvah is always mentioned with the word "Berit", which is Hebrew for covenant. The missvah of Milah is a special missvah that bonds us with the Boreh in many ways. The Mishnah in Masechet Nedarim relates to us the magnitude of the importance of the Berit Milah. The Mishnah states that if it were not for the missvah of Milah, the entire world would not have been created:

"This is what Hashem says: 'If I have not established My Covenant [Beriti] with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Yirmiyahou 33:25-26)

The Gemara makes a similar limoud, but relates that if it not were for the Torah, the world would not have been created. The Gemara learns from the similar phraseology in the verse "day and night" to the classic verse in Yehoushua, that we are commanded to learn Torah in the "day and night".

So it seems like the Mishnah and Gemara learn from the same verse a similar limoud for Torah and Berit Milah- if it were not for them, the world would not have been created.

However, our rabbis ask a very obvious question. When making suh a derasha from a verse, the rest of the verse must still be pertinent with either understanding of the derasha. If the verse speaking about Torah and also speaking about Milah, how then should we understand the rest of the verse with respect to Milah? We know that the missvah of Limoud Torah applies in the day and night, but the missvah of Milah does not apply at night. How then do we explain the end of the verse "day and night" with Berit Milah?

The answer gives us new understanding about the missvah of Milah. The removal of the foreskin is a prelude to the metaphoric removal of the "foreskin" around the heart. Just as the baby is born with a blockage that needs to be removed, so too there is a metaphoric blockage around the baby's heart, preventing him from truly learning and grasping Torah knowledge. As the Mohel removes the physical foreskin, the metaphoric one is removed as well. Thus the baby will be able to have "effective" evenings, learning Torah. This is the connection between Milah and word "night" in the verse.

Beā€™ezrat Hashem, we will merit to have shelemout of the heart, completeness in our hearts, open ears and minds, to make time for, learn, and understand our divine Torah.
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