Milah Morals By Yonassan Rutta (’20)


In Parashat Tazria the Mitzvah of Milah is mentioned and then it is followed by the Dinim of a Metzora. This Semichut Parashiyot teaches us that if a baby has Tzara’at on his Eiver (limb), he still receives a Brit Milah on the eighth day. Kli Yakar (VaYikra 13:2 s.v. Adam Ki Yihyeh Be’or Besaro) explains that this Semichut HaParashiyot is similar to the one we find in Parashat VaYakheil, where we learn that just as Shabbat is Docheh (overrides) the building of the Mishkan, so too, we learn here that Brit Milah is Docheh the Halachot of Tzara’at. Interestingly, Kli Yakar interprets the word Docheh (used in Nedarim 31b) differently than the traditional understanding of ‘override;’ translating it as ‘prevention.’ He then continues and says that when one removes the Orlah (foreskin) during the Brit Milah, one must also remove the Orlat HaPeh, preventing the child from speaking Lashon HaRa and thereby ensuring he does not contract Tzara’at. However, there are

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multiple reasons for which someone contracts Tzara’at; Lashon Hara is not the only cause for such a punishment. Tzarut Ayin (stinginess) and Gasut HaRuach (haughtiness) also cause one to acquire Tzara’at.

If so, Brit Milah, which only prevents Lashon Hara, does not truly prevent Tzara’at. Thus, we can view Brit Milah and Lashon Hara in a new light. Milah is the quintessential identity of a Jew. It represents an archetypal trait which distinguishes a Jew from a Nochri: the ability to restrains one’s physical desires. One of the main attributes which separates man from beast is man’s ability to withhold from his instinctual and immediate desires. An animal eats, sleeps, and mates whenever it desires. It acts on impulse and instinct. In contrast, a human thinks about what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. A Nochri sleeps when he has time and indulges his physical desires. However, a Jew is a step greater, as he or she tries to fulfill the Divine Will. Jews observe Kashrut, distance themselves from Arayot, and undertake several other Mitzvot to better their lives. Milah is a perfect example of this fact. We literally give of our own flesh and blood, in one of the most intimate places, because it is the will of our Creator.

Lashon Hara is the complete antithesis of this trait. A person engages in Lashon Hara to illegitimately elevate himself. He/she experiences pleasure at another person’s expense. Gasut HaRuach affects one’s behavior and eventually one’s Avodat Hashem. Tzarut Ayin is an example of one who hoards for personal benefit and pleasure. Therefore, one can answer the question posed to Kli Yakar’s explanation by explaining that if one performs Brit Milah, realizing and internalizing its inner message, then Tzara’at will not strike him. Furthermore, the reason that Kli Yakar mentioned only Lashon HaRa was because that is the primary Aveirah which causes Tzara’at.

Unfortunately, in today’s times, the practice of Milah is attacked by some. It is described as a barbaric custom. May we all have the strength and courage to uphold the values the Torah and instill them in our people’s future generations.

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