Cravings

Teach us, our Rabbi, at what point is a boy circumcised? On the eighth day! What is the reason? Just like Yitzchak Avinu was circumcised as the passuk says (Beresheet 21:4): “Avraham circumcised his son Yitzchak at the age of eight days…” (Midrash Tanchuma Parashat Tetzaveh)

Our parashah opens with the mitzvah of brit milah. The Torah commands that a newborn male must be circumcised on his eighth day of life. The fact that the Torah clearly states in a passuk the command to circumcise on this day arouses curiosity regarding the Midrash in Tanchuma. If we have a direct commandment, why did the Rav in the Midrash resort to the example of Yitzchak to answer his student’s question?

A small group of visitors to our Holy Land were granted a brief visit with the elderly Rosh Yeshivah of Ponevez, Harav Elazar Menachem Man Shach, zt”l. They drove late one night from Yerushalayim to Bnei Brak and arrived earlier than the appointed time. When they entered the Rosh Yeshivah’s humble abode, a young man introduced himself as the Rosh Yeshivah’s grandson.

“There are some people inside with the Rav right now, but they should be done soon,” he said. “Would you like to learn some Torah while you wait?”

“That would be great,” one of the visitors replied.

To their surprise, they were led past a room full of sefarim into a small dining area with a window facing the streets of Bnei Brak. The young guide stopped and pointed to the menorah on display in the window and smiled and said, “Here is your Torah lesson! My grandfather made time to prepare his Chanukah menorah to do the mitzvah as soon as he can. The preparation was done 10 days before the first lighting. Your lesson is that the Rosh Yeshivah cannot bear the waiting to fulfill the mitzvah!”

Avraham Avinu was blessed with a son and could not wait to fulfill the command of Hashem. Every moment of every day from the birth of his son until the morning of the eighth day, Avraham envisioned himself fulfilling the will of his Creator. He impatiently anticipated the culmination of his strong desire to circumcise his son. Grammatically, the word “shemonat” indicates a complete set of eight while “shemini” indicates the eighth in a series of individual days. The verse says he circumcised Yitzchak when he was “shemonat” days old, revealing to us that the cravings of Avraham were counted in Heaven as actual performance of the mitzvah eight consecutive days.

The Gemara (Berachot 6a) teaches that one who attempts to do a mitzvah and, due to circumstances beyond his control fails to complete performance of the commandment, is considered as one who succeeded in doing the command. From this week’s parashah, we learn that when one wants to fulfill a mitzvah and constantly craves the completion of the act that will fulfill Hashem’s will, every craving is rewarded like performance.

Of course, one should never consider Torah commandments as a bother, and one should always do a mitzvah without delay. One should realize and find consolation and happiness in knowing that if the time or circumstances for performance are delayed, one’s desire to do Hashem’s will will be treated as if his desire was fulfilled over and over again.

Shabbat shalom.