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Thought for the Day: Why Avraham Avinu Waited For Bris Mila

While working through the process of conversion, the budding erstwhile proselyte is expected to do all the mitzvos.  Sort of a dry run, if you will, to really ensure his sincerity.  He also has to learn, of course, both to know what he is getting into (yeah, right...) and so he will actually know what he needs to do as a Jew.  At some point I learned about the mitzvah of t'vilas keilim.  I was all set to fulfill that mitzvah when it dawned on me that I couldn't.  Since the mitvah is to tovel keilim that used to belong to a goy and now belong to a Jew, this mitzvah was just going to have to wait.  (My wife didn't have the mitzvah either since they were my keilim.  We realized later that I had been feeding my family treif m'd'rabanan because of bishul Abba-the-goy; but that's another story.)

Avraham Avinu (and all the avos) fulfilled all of the mitzvos: matzah, korban pesach, shabbos (some interesting details there); and even mitzvos d'rabanan, such as eiruv tavshilin and chanuka licht.  That being the case, the fact that Avraham Avinu waited so long to perform the mitzvah of mila appears to be a glaring omission.  I heard three answers to this question (two new to me) last night; so figured I'd share.

First (and the one I had heard before), is that the mitzvah is "bris mila" (the contract/covenant sealed by circumcision), not simply chopping of some dangling skin.  Avraham Avinu couldn't perform the mitzvah of making a contract with HaShem until HaShem was, so to speak, also ready to pony up His end of the deal.

Still, though, Avraham Avinu could have performed the circumcision, thus doing all he could, and then when his actual geirus was decreed go for hatafas dam (taking a drop of blood) l'sheim mitzvah bris mila.  That is, in fact, how we handle adult male geirus now a days.  It is also how we handle a baby who is born ma'hul (as Moshe Rabeinu was).  Since there is no issur, and there is the concept of "do what you can" (as when Moshe Rabeinu separated the three cities of refuge even though they would not be effective until the conquest of the land).

That brings us to reason #2: There is, in fact, an issur.  It is forbidden to wound a Jew for no reason.  As long as Avraham Avinu was not commanded to perform the mila, it was forbidden.

Still, though, since Avraham Avinu was not (yet) Jewish, maybe that issur didn't apply.  That will bring us to reason #3.  Unfortunately, though, we are out of time/space.  Bli neder, we'll get to it.

In the meantime, however, why don't you ponder the following: Since Avraham Avinu was careful with issurim, how in the world did he learn Torah sh'b'al Peh?


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