Parshas Tazria - From Womb the Bell Tolls

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman
Posted on 04/04/19

Who knows seven? I know seven! Seven are the days of the week.

Who knows eight? I know eight! Eight are the days of Milah/Circumcision.

In exactly two weeks from this Friday night, we will be joyously singing these sentiments at the end of the Seder.

As we ascend the numbers upwards, associating G-d for one, the Tablets for two, the Patriarchs for three, the Matriarchs for four, and so on, these two items specifically leave us perplexed.

Each of the corresponding concepts accent a very defined and precise value. But what significance is there to the ‘seven days of the week’ if not for the notion of Shabbos which isn’t even mentioned?

Similarly, although we make reference to the essential command of Milah, but why are we mentioning ‘eight’ days of Milah? Isn’t there only the special ‘eighth’ day on which we perform this mitzvah? Why then do we mention a ‘set’ of ‘eight days of Milah’? Aren’t they just days that lead up to the most important eighth one?  

The Midrash teaches that the reason we perform this mitzvah on the eighth day from a child’s birth is so that a child can first experience a Shabbos, ‘greeting the Shabbos Matron’, before entering into the covenant of Milah.

Why is Shabbos the prerequisite for Milah?

When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be contaminated for a seven-day period... On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (ויקרא יב ב-ג)

The Torah seems to be implying that this period of defilement is almost a requirement to being able to perform this mitzvah. The Talmud in fact teaches that although a child born to a woman who experienced a Caesarian birth and thus free of these seven days of impurity (on a strict Torah level, although still rabbinically impure), must still be circumcised on the eighth day as well, nevertheless it lacks the full import of the mitzvah insofar that it would not preempt Shabbos were its Bris to coincide on Shabbos, and would be delayed until the next day. As opposed to a child born naturally, whose mother incurs this state of contamination, whose Bris on the eighth day would override Shabbos in order to carry it out.

Why only if the child’s mother experiences the full thrust of this seven-day impurity is it worthy to be circumcised even in the advent of Shabbos?

The late beloved Gadol HaDor, Reb Moshe Feinstein suggests that the Torah is teaching us a vital lesson regarding the chinuch, the education, of a child. Before the inception of this journey that begins with circumcision, a parent must realize that we live in a material world whose impure influences seek to to inundate us. Only if we first undertake the purification of ourselves can we ever succeed in raising inspired children as well. (דרש משה)

When a child is born we often perceive this privilege as an opportunity to mold this child into a asset to the family, a fulfillment of our greatest hopes, desiring that this child bring us much deserved nachas and honor. Often, we seek to vicariously fulfill our own personal aspirations that we didn’t achieve, come to fruition in this child. We long for the day when we may proudly parade our accomplishment in life through the achievements of this child we raised.

This view is skewed.

We observe Shabbos to remind us that we are not masters of our fate nor lords over the physical realm. All our creative abilities are gifts G-d kindly endowed us with was so that we may permeate each of our physical endeavors with His presence and His message.

Similarly, Shabbos cues us to remember that the precious children G-d generously deposits in our care are not ‘our possessions’ to utilize in obtaining personal satisfaction and joy. The Creator of the universe granted us children and the challenges associated with that arduous but noble task, so that we may purify and elevate ourselves in that process, achieving levels of perfection of character and faith. It is only in our attaining that stature that our children will be inspired in kind and bring us genuine nachas.

A great disciple of the renowned educator, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, exclaimed that G-d didn’t bless us with children so that we should have nachas, but rather the gift of children is so that we may become great ourselves!

We talk about ‘seven days of the week’ as reference to the playing field of life wherein we are given the opportunity to elevate the world through the refinement of our qualities and deeds. Certainly, it is the observing of Shabbos that brings the message home each week of our roles as Avdei Hashem, Servants of G-d, who emulate His greatness. But it is during the week that we truly implement it by transforming a material world to radiate holiness.

When we circumcise a child on the eighth day it is our expression that we understand that just as the seven days of the week are not our entitlement to obtain physical accomplishment, it is that same message that inspires our attitude towards the privilege in the raising of our children.

ומבטן לשמך המה נמולים, And from the womb they are circumcised for Your Name’s sake

(פיוט יום ליבשה אשר חיבר רבי יהודה הלוי)

From the moment of birth this awareness must suffuse our relationship to this remarkable treasure. It is during the entire eight days, as we traverse the weekly journey capped by the Shabbos Queen which drives home the point that every moment, every experience, every relationship is permeated with that same sense of mission: to personally improve, grow, perfect and come closer to His presence.

The Torah states, וביום השמיני, And on the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised.

It is a culmination of ruminating over this profound awareness that begins the moment the child enters this earthly realm and reaches its peak with the entering of the covenant of Milah.

As we begin the month of Nissan heralding the task to transmit to our precious children, effectively and passionately the privilege of our mission as a people in bringing His inspired presence to the world, may we refocus on our personal charge to become ever greater in our own lives.

It is only if we ‘get it’ that we can raise generations that will bring nachas to us and Hashem.


צבי יהודה טייכמאן