Circumcisions and Seders

You don’t need to be Jewish to enjoy chicken soup. You don’t need to be religious to attend Synagogue. The more observant a person is, the greater the likelihood of them keeping Shabbos and kosher. There are however two Mitzvos that Jews, almost without exception, observe and cherish: Pesach and bris.

Our Shuls might be full every Yom Kippur, but all the seats in all the Shuls in Melbourne would seat only 20% of the local population. Chanukah and Purim are fun for all the family, and attendance at their celebration may be growing, but they don’t compare in popularity to the masses that share a seder every Pesach. Assimilated Jews, intermarried Jews, you-name-it type of Jews, all circumcise their sons. Why, what do these two commandments have that the others don’t?

The festival of Passover recalls our liberation from slavery to freedom; a conceptual leap from one state of existence to a higher calling. So too bris entails an act of transformation. By this symbolic act we effect a partnership between ourselves and Hashem, connecting our body and soul to the unlimited Being of G‑d.

At our birth as a nation, still a rag-tag bunch of slaves, Hashem commanded us to find a live sheep, bring it home and prepare to slaughter and eat it.

To say this was a risk is putting it mildly. The Egyptians worshipped sheep; to publicly announce our intention to treat their G‑d in such manner was to invite retribution and persecution. It was only our extraordinary faith in our Creator and total dedication to His cause that helped us find the courage to fulfill this Mitzva.

No less courageous are the parents of every child who manage to find the strength and will to hand their precious newborn child over to be circumcised. As a mohel it never ceases to amaze me that parents so deeply in love with their new bundle of protection can smother their mothering instincts in a higher cause.

Only these two acts, Pesach and bris, conceived in a cauldron of such self-sacrifice and emotion, have managed to sear a permanent brand into our historical psyche. The generations of ancestors who have preceded us in their individual and collective acts of bravery, keeping up the covenant with our G‑d throughout all times and under all conditions, have passed their torch to us.

As custodians of their spirit, we too pledge our faith and commitment to transmitting this covenant and connection to our children.