Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bris of Pesach

O nly two positive mitzvos bear
the penalty of kareis if they are neglected:
the eating of the Korban
Pesach and bris milah. The Sfas
Emes explains that this punishment
is a direct consequence. Since
the Korban Pesach and the milah
are the two main wellsprings of
vitality within a person, anyone
who cuts himself off from them
remains detached from spiritual
life – he suffers kareis. According
to Rav Hirsch, zt”l, the root of the
word bris is “barah,” or the rejuvenation
that comes from nourishment.
Milah represents purity of
the body, and its life-force is expressed
when it serves as the channel
for fresh Jewish souls to come
down to this world. Similarly, pure
speech has the power to infuse us
with new life and enthusiasm, or
Korban Pesach rectifies the
bris halashon in a number of ways.
It is the “peh sach" the mouth opened
to tell the story of the miracles of
yetzias Mitzrayim the night it is
offered, and the gateway through
which it enters into the body is the
same door through which words
emerge. One cannot attain the
spiritual renewal of the Korban
Pesach until the body is purified,
therefore any Korban Pesach
slaughtered on behalf of the areilim, uncircumsized men,  
alone is automatically disqualified—
and this is just one sign of
the greatness of bris milah.
The Brisker Rav, zt”l, once
served as sandek at the bris, that of
a new member of the family, which
was held in his home. Afterward
the mohel approached Rav Yitzchok
Zev and exclaimed, “Boruch
Hashem, we were privileged to
make a bris. And what a bris!”
He meant to convey his joy
in the Brisker Rav’s presence, but
Rav Soleveitchik gently upbraided
him. “What is the sense of saying,
‘What a bris’?! What could be
more momentous than the bris itself—
over which thirteen covenants
were sealed? You could compare
this to a simple and desperately
poor teacher who says, ‘If I
had the wealth of Rothschild, I
would be wealthier than him!
How? Well, I would have all his
money, plus what I make as a
Rebbi!’ People would consider
such a man a complete fool. The
value of a bris is inestimable—how
could one possibly add to its worth
just because it happened to take
place in the home of a melamed
like the Brisker Rav?”

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