June 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The beginning of Parshat Tazria outlines the mitzvah of brit milah, commanded to take place on day 8 of a boy’s birth. While milah was already commanded to Avraham in Sefer Bereishit, our parsha marks the first time that it is commanded to the entire nation.

Much has been written regarding the importance of brit milah, and its centrality to the identity of the Jewish people. However, I would like to highlight one fascinating aspect of this mitzvah that I believe underscores a couple of poignant lessons for us as parents.

The rabbis engage in much discussion regarding who is obligated in the mitzvah of brit milah. The conclusion that apparently emerges from the Gemara and Rishonim is that it is an obligation on both father and son—depending on the time. While the child is young, the father is obligated to have his son circumcised. If the boy reaches age 13, however, and has not yet been circumcised, he is now obligated to ensure his own circumcision. Some authorities maintain that under such circumstances the son alone is obligated, while others suggest that both father and son are now obligated in this mitzvah.

Brit milah therefore emerges as something extremely unique: a shared mitzvah between father and son. Initially, it is the obligation of the father, and later, that same mitzvah is the obligation of the son—perhaps even the joint obligation of both father and son. This unique aspect of milah highlights two beautiful lessons that I believe are valuable for us to consider.

Firstly, there is tremendous significance in the fact that the first mitzvah a father is commanded to perform is a mitzvah that is shared with his child. This reality emphasizes to us, from the very beginning of fatherhood, the importance of creating shared experiences with our children, particularly in the world of mitzvot and spirituality. We must not take the position that “I have my mitzvot and my child has his.” Rather, Judaism must be seen as a journey that we share, a sacred spiritual mission upon which we embark together. We have noted in the past the importance of taking advantage of all available opportunities to spend time with our children. Shared time and experiences build an extremely powerful bond between parent and child. When we create such shared opportunities within the realm of Torah and avodat Hashem, we can learn from each other, as we deepen our connection with each other and with Hashem.

Secondly, this unique aspect of milah underscores a crucial message regarding Jewish and familial continuity. Here we are presented with a mitzvah that is incumbent upon a father—but if the father cannot carry out the obligation, the son is then charged with fulfilling it instead. This highlights the crucial role that children play in continuing the legacy of their parents. As parents, we have many dreams as to how we wish to impact the world. Our children certainly have their own personal hopes and dreams, as well. On some level, however, children are also charged with continuing the legacy of their parents and grandparents before them. Our successes are not simply defined by what we ourselves are able to accomplish, but by the accomplishments of our children and grandchildren as well. If we aren’t able to achieve something, but we enable our children to do so, then we share in that achievement as well. If a father cannot perform the mitzvah of milah on his son, his son is charged to ensure the fulfillment of the commandment himself. In doing so, he allows his father to share in the completion of the mitzvah on some level as well.

On a personal note, as adult olim to Israel, this message carries particular significance for my wife and I—especially as we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut this week. Having grown up in a different society and culture during our formative years, we often find ourselves feeling like “outsiders” within the larger Israeli community. Although we are both relatively fluent Hebrew speakers and are relatively integrated into Israeli society, there are always aspects of language and culture that don’t come naturally to us. This is no one’s “fault”—and in no way does it cause us to question our decision to make aliyah; it is simply a reality of circumstance. We feel, however, that despite the “in between” stage we find ourselves in, our success as olim will be defined by our children. If our aliyah enables our children to fully integrate into Israeli society in a meaningful way, then we will have accomplished our goal; our children’s success will have become our own. And we could not be happier.

The mitzvah of milah is a definitional and fundamental mitzvah in Jewish law and thought. A unique aspect of the mitzvah—its status as a shared mitzvah between father and son—highlights meaningful messages for us as parents. On the one hand, it encourages us to seek shared experiences with our children in the arena of Torah and mitzvot—to strengthen our connection specifically through enhanced spirituality and meaning. On the other hand, it reminds us that our success as parents will not be defined solely by what we accomplish within our lives, but by the successes of our children and future generations as well.

Shabbat Shalom!


Rav Yossi Goldin is a teacher and administrator who teaches in a number of seminaries and yeshivot across Israel. He currently lives in Shaalvim with his wife and family. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles