A Taste of Torah in Honor of Shabbat
by Rabbi Avi Weiss
6 Iyar 5758 May 1-2, 1998
There is a relationship between the weekly portion of the Torah and the time of year it is
read. Such is the case with the parallel between Israel's fiftieth anniversary and a
sentence read this week dealing with circumcision. (Leviticus 12:3)
There are many understandings of the meaning of circumcision. One approach is to
recognize a basic difference between Christianity and Judaism. For
Christianity, the innocent suffering servant is their man-god. For Jews, it is the
very people of Israel.
And the ritual which most symbolizes the Jewish people as the innocent suffering servant,
is circumcision -- where an innocent child suffers through the shedding of blood on its
very organ of propagation, symbolic of the continuum of the Jewish people.
In fact, the Torah insists that sacrifice, even suffering, must precede redemption.
Thus, God tells Abraham (Avraham) that his children would be enslaved in Egypt before they
would be freed. (Genesis 15:13,14)
The symbol par excellance of that suffering is circumcision - - whose mandate is found for
the first time in the Torah soon after the chapter in which God forecasts to Avraham exile
and redemption. (Genesis 17)
Indeed, circumcision precedes virtually every process of redemption in the Torah.
Before Isaac -- crucial to the continuity of the Jewish people -- is born, God commands
circumcision. Before Moshe (Moses) confronts Pharaoh and demands "Let my people
go," his son must be circumcised. Before leaving Egypt, and, indeed, upon entering
into Israel forty years later every Jewish male is
Appropriately this commandment concerning circumcision is read on the Shabbat after we
celebrated Israel's fiftieth. Clearly, there would be no state were
it not for the self-sacrifices of its soldiers, 20,332 of whom gave their lives.
The Midrash says it this way. A father and son were walking through the forest.
After many days the son turns to his father and asks, "where is the
city?" "When you see the cemetery," the father replied, "you
know you are on its outskirts."
Such is the case in Israel today. On the outskirts of each city are the military
cemeteries, the final resting-places of the thousands who gave their lives for Israel and
They are the holiest of our people. As we read about circumcision -- symbol of
self-sacrifice -- on the Shabbat after the fiftieth anniversary celebration, we offer the
prayer that the souls of the men and women who gave
their lives for the State be forever blessed and that God always watch over those
protecting our land.
YOM ATZMAUTH Sameach
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