| Parshah |

Setting the Next Stage

“G-d only gave us the commandments to refine us”

"And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin should be circumcised.” (Vayikra 12: 3)


The wicked Roman commander Turnus Rufus asked Rabi Akiva, “Whose deeds are more beautiful, those of G-d or those of man?”

Rabi Akiva answered, “The deeds of man are more beautiful.”

Despite this admission, Turnus Rufus continued, “So why do you circumcise yourself?”

To underscore his point, Rabi Akiva showed some ears of corn and said, “This is the work of G-d.” Then he showed some small cakes and said, “These are the work of man. Are they not more beautiful than the ears of corn?”

However, Turnus Rufus insisted, “If G-d wants people to be circumcised, why does He not create them so?”

Rabi Akiva answered, “G-d only gave us the commandments to refine us.” (Rabbi Avraham Kahn, Torah Attitude)

This past winter during Israel’s longest (to date) lockdown, I attempted to plan my daughter’s wedding. While I was sincerely grateful for this simchah, I kept bumping into minor obstacles, which led me in frustrating circles.

You can’t set a venue when all wedding halls are locked. It’s hard to find a kallah dress when every store is closed — and forget about clothing the rest of the family. (I did take the proactive measure of hiding a clean pair of socks for each of the kallah’s brothers, knowing their predilection for being sockless at times of stress; e.g., when the bus is honking at 7 a.m.)

I fell asleep every night with to-do lists floating in my head, woke up with them pounding on my brain, and went to sleep the next night with nary a thing crossed off those lists. The pressure was draining.

It makes absolutely no difference to Hashem whether a child is circumcised or not — we do this mitzvah for our benefit. Hashem’s sending parents a message that just as they have to complete their child’s physical body, so too they must complete his spiritual development and educate him according to the Torah’s instructions.

With the chasunah less than three weeks away, my daughters decided we needed a girls’ night out. The thought of venturing out of my house when all I wanted to do was to shelter in place seemed daunting. I needed my own bed, preferably with the covers pulled over my head.

But I was outmaneuvered by the younger set. They managed to find a one-night rental in Netanya, two blocks from the beach. Walking into the small apartment was like entering an Ikea showroom, all white and shabby chic, with modern art and bright lights. The living room even boasted a piano, guitar, and accordion. Plus a huge wall flat screen.

“We can have a kumzitz!” my girls crowed. “And the screen is perfect for our surprise.”

The Ohr HaChaim explains a deeper meaning to Rabi Akiva’s answer. Adam was created circumcised. Only after he and Chavah sinned did his foreskin grow. This impurity affected all of creation; since then, all produce has parts that are inedible and every person is born with an evil inclination. The sole antidote to this is the Torah and its commandments.

Hashem sends this commandment of milah so parents will educate their children that their sole purpose in creation is to continue purifying themselves with Torah and mitzvos.

After a picnic supper (rustic kitchen table as our picnic grounds) my daughters dimmed the lights and attached a USB to the monster screen. Snuggled into the couch with my daughters pressed against me, I watched the screen flicker to life.

There they were. My girls. Bright and bold, dancing across the entire wall, images of them from when they were babies until the present. Parks, plays, parties, Purim, life-sized photos filled the wall, with Yonatan Shainfeld’s “Bossie Legani” playing hauntingly in the background.

Tears started streaming down my cheeks, then became sobs. I hugged my daughters tightly to me. Here were my closest companions of the last two decades. Together we’d gone from diapers to dance class to dreams and dancing at chasunahs. Where had the time gone? So fast. So fleeting. So fulfilling.

I’d held their hands as they walked these steps, these stages throughout the years — through the DMCs, the outings, the mother-daughter school nights — steering them to success while cheering from the sidelines.

The last photo showed them gathered, arms around each other, right before my oldest daughter’s chasunah. That final step into the future. I’d gotten them here and they’ll always be mine. But now it was up to them to add to my work and make it their own.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 738)

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