HASHEM spoke to Moshe, saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male…On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Vayikra 12:1-2)
On the eighth day the flesh of his skin shall be circumscribed: It’s not written here that there should be any expense for the event of the circumcision. Come and see how dear this Mitzvah is to Israel that they go through great expense to guard and rejoice in it… (Midrash Tanchuma)
It is a wondrous phenomenon that of all Mitzvos, Bris Mila should remain as a lasting symbol of Jewish loyalty. What’s the great joy associated with making a Bris? It’s a surgery! The kid is crying and all the adults are wishing “mazel tov” and eating lox. What’s going on here? Why have Jews remained so tenaciously loyal to the Mitzvah of Bris Mila for thousands of years?
The truth is that I don’t think there is a logical explanation. It transcends logic as we know it. That doesn’t make it illogical. Rather it’s supra-logical. Maybe that’s why Bris Mila is performed on the 8th day. It is connected to and it connects us to a world beyond the universe of seven in which we reside. The biggest proof is that Jews have always willingly and joyfully celebrated this ceremony that afflicts a wound on a newly born baby with song and good food. Is this behavior consistent with the people who specialize in Rachamim- mercy and empathy!?
Almost 35 years ago I was driving to work and listening to a tape from the Agudah Convention. Rabbi Donner was telling over some of his experiences in Russia when it was still hemmed in by an iron curtain, Yiddishkeit and the practice of religion had been all but stamped out by 70 years of brutish communist rule. He met a couple, not at all learned in Torah and Mitzvos but still filled with profound longing for what they did not understand.
This was their story, the story of simple unlearned Jews. The wife was expecting a child and at her doctor visits she received stern warnings from the physician who recognized her as a Jew.
He cautioned her repeatedly not to mutilate her child if it would be a boy. She knew exactly what that meant. She delivered a healthy baby boy. Eight days later they were ready to perform a secretive Bris but they sensed that they were being observed by KGB agents. Making a Bris might result in imprisonment or worse. It was deemed too risky and so the Bris was postponed. Thirty days later they were hoping to accomplish their holy task but still the enemies of holiness were keeping a keen eye on this potential “crime scene”. It didn’t happen.
Now eleven months later they felt the coast was clear and a Bris was surreptitiously organized. People came in through different doors at varied times so as to not attract attention. In the small apartment of this Russian couple ten men gathered with a Mohel and the baby. A circumcision was dutifully performed and the baby received his Jewish name.
Quietly the guests sat down to some food to celebrate the joyous occasion and the baby was wrapped up and returned his mother in an adjacent room so she could nurse him. Suddenly there was a thud and a shrieking cry from the baby. People came running and there was the mother fainted out cold on the floor and the baby sprawled out nearby and crying. Immediately they picked up the child and calmed him while others were reviving the mother. Everyone was speculating as to what had happened. Some said it must have been the excitement of the Bris. Others suggested that the wound was bigger than usual and that must have triggered her fainting.
When she was back to senses the mother explained exactly what happened. When she realized that it may not be possible to make a Bris for her son on the 8th day she was afraid that she may pass up on the Mitzvah altogether and never give her son a Bris, so she vowed that she would never kiss her child until the day he had a Bris.
When they handed her the baby of 11 months and she gave him a kiss for the first time and all of that stored up motherly love came rushing forward. That is what caused her to faint. From where does a simple Jewish mother get such superhuman strength to withhold that kiss?!