Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Avraham Avinu Becomes the First Jew

Avraham Avinu was careful with all the mitzvos.  As his understanding of what HaShem wanted from mankind deepened, so to his avodas HaShem increased.  But Avraham Avinu was cognizant also of his status; or, better, lack of status.  Was he a Jew or not?  This was not simply a philosophical question for our illustrious ancestor; it led to some very practical problems.  For example, a Jew is obligated to keep Shabbos while a goy is forbidden to keep Shabbos.  The s'farim say he navigated that one by wearing a garment with tzitzis while taking walks outside on Shabbos.  How does that help?  If he was a Jew and obligated in tzitzis, then they are part of his clothing.  If he was a goy, then the tzitzis are just strings and walking outside violates the m'lacha of carrying.

But if Avraham Avinu knew that, then certainly he knew also knew that is is assur for a goy to learn torah sh'b'al peh.  Given that all of the m'lachos of Shabbos are torah sh'b'al peh, then... how did Avraham know how to avoid navigate the m'lachos so deftly?  The answer is obvious, but it is worth spelling out carefully.  Why is it assur for a goy to learn torah sh'b'al peh?  It is a d'rash on the pasuk, "Torah tzvi lanu Moshe, morasha k'hilas Yaakov" -- Moshe command the Torah to us; an inheritance to the congregation of Yaakov.  Say Chazal: don't read "morasha" (inheritance), read "m'urasa" (betrothed).  So the torah sh'b'al peh is only assur to a goy after the betrothal.  That is, with the start of the Avos.  Which neatly answers whether the Avos were Jews or not.  They were between... just as there is a stage of betrothal between a single woman and eishes ish, there is a stage between goy and Jew.  HaShem, so to speak, betrothed us at the time of the Avos and that relationship was consummated at Har Sinai.

Which brings us to the third reason that Avraham Avinu waited to circumcise himself.  Just as only the betrothed can become the wife, so to only an Av can become a Jew.  That's the reason the Brisker Rav gives for Avraham Avinua waiting.  It wasn't waiting till a certain time, it was waiting to be invited.  Avraham had to be invited to perform bris mila before it was even relevant.  By the same token, HaShem was waiting for Avram to be ready to become Avraham Avinu.

Bris mila is different than all the other mitzvos.  All the other mitzvos are fulfilling the conditions of our chosen (from both sides!) relationship.  Bris mila is entering into that relationship.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…