Friday Candle Lighting: 5:55 pm
Shabbat Ends: 6:42 pm
A Present of the Future
“I will set My covenant between Me and you, and I will increase you most exceedingly.” (17:2)
In London during the War, a young Jewish mother whose husband was a fighter pilot gave birth to a baby boy. She lived many miles from London and she couldn’t find a mohel (circumciser). She called Dayan Yechezkel Abramsky of the London Beit Din for help. And so it was that Dayan Abramsky and a well-known mohel, who was also a Chassidic Rebbe, set off one fine morning to bring this little neshama into the covenant of Avraham Avinu.
They were walking up the path to the mother’s house when the Rebbe said to Dayan Abramsky, “Oi! I forgot my mila pouch with everything in it! What are we going to do now?” “Well,” said Dayan Abramsky, “there must be a chemist (drugstore) here in town. Let’s go and buy some razor blades.”
They walked into the chemist shop, highly identifiably as Jews. Dayan Abramsky had a splendid beard halfway down his chest and the Rebbe’s almost reached to waist.
“Excuse me,” said Dayan Abramsky to the man behind the counter, “do you have any razor blades?”
“Blimey!” said the shop keeper, “I’ve got razor blades, but not for beards the likes of what you’ve got!”
The Vilna Gaon points out that karet means “to cut”, to separate, while karet britmeans “covenant” — something that brings together. (Interestingly we have the same idiom in English: ‘To cut a pact.’ Perhaps this stems from the Hebrew idiom.)
The Vilna Gaon explains that when two friends are to be separated and they want to be close despite the distance that will separate them, they each give to each other something very dear, and this cutting from oneself perpetuates their closeness.
Which begs the question, why is the cutting from that part of the body?
In the pact between G-d and the Avraham, Avraham gives G-d his most dear possession, his future. He pledges that he and his progeny will be dedicated to Him, and thus the mark of the covenant is on the place of the body that represents that future. (Interestingly the word for “womb” in Hebrew, rechem, can be rearranged to form the word, machar, meaning “tomorrow,” for it is that part of the body that contains the ‘tomorrow’ of a person.)
Reciprocally, G-d took His “future” in this world and pledged to Avraham that everything He, G-d, would be in this world, would be through the people of Avraham.
- Source: story heard from Dayan Baruch Rappaport