Seven Before Eight

BH

Most opinions agree that a Bris performed before the eighth day needs to be redone. The Kabalstic sages explain that the number seven corresponds to the natural cycle while the number eight reflects the supernatural, in the words of Kabala, “seven corresponds to the world while eight corresponds to beyond worldly”.

This means that the foreskin belongs and presents no issues within the worldly dimension, while in the super-worldly realm the foreskin is unacceptable. How? Generally that which is acceptable should always be acceptable at the very least on some level, while the unacceptable should essentially always be unaccepted.  

In order to understand this paradox we must first delve into the significance of that which is worldly and that which is super-worldly. The world and everything in it is constantly imbued with spiritual energy, maintaining its existence and constant awareness of a deeper purpose, not only on a general level, but also every atom and smaller particles are maintained and cared for personally by the Almighty himself. Every occurrence in this world revolves around the specific role and course of every creature individually and collectively. In addition to guidance and enlivenment, everything in this world is also constantly created a new every moment, with every creature having an indispensible role in this abode. However as united as everything is in its common purpose, every creature still maintains individual identity on some level, separating itself from the rest of creation.

On the physical plane, coarse physical barriers of spatial differences separate us, and on the spiritual plane there is separation on a more refined level. While in the realm beyond the world and even beyond creation in general there is only one presence, the G-dly, everything else has no place and cannot exist as an individual identity.

Now we can understand why the foreskin can be acceptable on one level and unacceptable on another. The foreskin represents a barrier, a force of separation. Within the worldly context barriers are okay, but beyond that any barrier or separation in unacceptable and contradicts the inherent unified reality. In our lives it means that we may and must maintain and individual identity and presence, because otherwise the world cannot function. Yet at the same time we must know that the significance and the truth of our identities comes from a place where all of humanity is one, because it is specifically through this fusion that we make this world an abode for the Almighty.

We then realize that the truth is in the super-worldly perspective and our individualism is a reflection of our own arrogance. We aim for the reality of the eighth day, but we also realize that there is a seven before eight when it comes to our growth.

Signing Off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

Open Your Eyes

BH

The Arizal said that before the Bris, the essence is hidden and that only after the Bris can the soul begin to come and permeate the body. Before the Bris, the soul simply could not relate to the body. The foreskin in Kabalistic lore represents lust that coarsens a person over the course of his life.

Thus, while he is still doing what he would have done even without a Bris, the hedonistic pleasure associated with these activities is reduced if not eliminated. Let’s give a basic example of something entirely benign such as eating; a person can enjoy good food and even eat it on a regular basis, this does not define him nor does it mean that he will one day become coarse. Now let’s take a different person who does not just enjoy good food but schedules himself around his dining experiences, he constantly looks for where he can have a gourmet meal and feels unsatisfied as a human being if he cannot. His enjoyment and focus in life is about finding better dining experiences, in fact he might actually travel the world in order to ascertain a new culinary experience.

The difference between these two characters is that for the first character good dining is an experience while for the second it represents who he is. Whenever we define ourselves or even deeply engross ourselves in any specific subject or task our worldview changes to such an extent that everything we see is tinted by what we are engrossed in.

If we allow ourselves to become engrossed in coarse and physical stimuli we lose sense of the refined vision our soul has and begin to the see the world as result of physical causality and not as the Almighty’s handiwork. But how do we prevent this from happening when we are constantly bombarded with stimuli that wish to define our lives and goals? In order to prevent this we have to open up our eyes and allow the Almighty to show us his world.

The sense of sound requires personal interpretation as to its meaning. But, sight is something we are actually being shown, and we are not just shown its features but rather it’s essence.  Unlike sound, sight can be entirely blocked out at will by closing our eyes, and then we see nothing, as opposed to sound where at best we can diminish the noise coming into our ears. In order to see the world we have to accept that we are constantly being shown the Almighty’s world by the Almighty himself, and the regardless of how personally coarse we are we will begin to see a different world!

To begin this we have to make sure that our activities remain activities and do not become our self-imposed definition.  This lust blocks our soul from truly expressing itself, and just as the infant or adult receives his Bris and then connects to his soul, so to we must desire to make a covenant with G-d and allow our soul to feel truly comfortable in our body.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

Don’t Watch

BH

Elijah the Prophet comes to every Bris, we usually do not see him, but we can experience his presence if we focus our mind towards it. While many people aspire to seeing him, no one aspires to becoming him, but this a mistaken attitude. The Baal Shem Tov, the first and great Chasidic sage, once had a wealthy student who desired above all else to see Elijah the prophet. This represented a high spiritual revelation only attained by individuals of exceptional spiritual status.  

The Baal Shem Tov advised his student to take a luxurious Shabbat meal to a decrepit shack near the edge of the city and spend Shabbat with the family. The student was more than thrilled to fulfill his Rabbi’s instruction and the family also enjoyed their lavish Shabbat, however one element was missing from the whole experience: Elijah the Prophet. As a faithful follower of the Baal Shem Tov, he was still a little disappointed and went back to his Rabbi to ask him what he did wrong and what he had to do in order to actually see Elijah the Prophet. His Rabbi explained that he did nothing wrong at all and that all he had to do was repeat what he did the previous week and see if actually experiences the revelation of Elijah the Prophet.

He tried it again, and while everyone was happy and enjoyed the Shabbat they spent together, he was still disappointed by the lack of Elijah the Prophet’s presence.  Not deterred from the previous two experiences, he went back to the Baal Shem Tov, who advised him to try the same scheme for a third time, and that this time he would certainly see Elijah the Prophet. Again the student prepared the Shabbat meal, packed it into his wagon and travelled towards the shack near the edge of the city, approached the house and prepared to knock on the door to inform them of his arrival.

Before he could knock on the door he heard an exchange from within the house; one of the children asked the mother what they would do for Shabbat since they had no food, to which the mother answered that Elijah the Prophet had come the last two weeks, and that he would certainly come again!

While this man did not get to see Elijah the Prophet, he accomplished something greater; he became Elijah the Prophet. Elijah the Prophet is said to be in the individual who will usher in the redemption, when human consciousness will make a paradoxical shift. He is also known as the individual who comes in a person’s time of need, and provides support when he thinks that no one can help him.

In our lives we sometimes become obsessed with our own experience, we look at life as a giant buffet where every moment can be filled with inner growth and personal experiences, yet this sort of life is inherently lacking for we never get to reach beyond ourselves. It is incumbent upon us to realize that the covenant of the Bris is not a spectator sport; it is not about how much positive change we can see or experience rather it’s about being the positive change ourselves.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin

Certified Mohel for Circumcisions for all ages

BrisUSA.com

Soul Connection

BH

In Kabbalistic thought there are ten ways that the Almighty’s energy interacts with the world, and correspondingly there are ten soul capabilities that a person uses to connect his soul to the greater universe. The first eight soul capabilities represent a specific character; kindness, judgment, mercy and the like. However, the last two do not represent any specific trait, rather they are the actualization of the first eight.

Yesod is the soul-power that relates to the Bris and it role is to connect the individual to others around him, giving true meaning to all of his character by reaching beyond himself and sharing his inner soul goodness. Accordingly, the Orla (foreskin) prevents a person from allowing his soul to influence his surroundings, keeping whatever energy there is locked up inside of him, preventing him from making the world around him the Almighty’s abode. This defeats the purpose of his existence. Why is it like this, why can’t we have the Orla and nevertheless influence the world around us?

Maimonides explains that the foreskin is the part of the person that inspires lust for lust’s sake, and that removing it allows person to refine himself, since he is not stooped in coarse lust and desire. While pleasure is not a problem, if it becomes the focus it coarsens us and more problematically makes us selfish.

Applying this to the context of a relationship, if the focus centers around what I can gain from the relationship, while seemingly harmless is actually poisonous. When we are looking only to benefit then the other person is not truly a partner, rather the means that I use in order to attain my goals, whether it is pleasure, security, love; anything. The purity of our connection is lost.

This is the spiritual effect of the foreskin on our lives. While we might have removed the physical foreskin, removing the spiritual effects require a lifetime of effort to reach beyond ourselves. Once we have genuinely become selfless can we begin to truly change our surroundings and ultimately the nature of the world itself one step at a time.

Utilizing the quality of Yesod, we connect on the deepest possible soul level and we express the true goodness of the soul that reaches beyond any specific trait. Every other of the soul-powers we have is used to transmit a specific quality, but our inner goodness has already taken on a specific form, be it kindness, judgment or mercy. Yesod gives something deeper; our essence, since it is our essence that wants to bestow goodness that supersedes any character trait, it has the ability go beyond the parameters of our world and change it from the inside out. 

In other words, our innate desire to connect comes from a deeper part within us than anything we are actually going to bestow. On the eighth day of an infant’s life we give him a Bris, inundating him with the selflessness and humility that will allow him to be a member of our world, actualizing this lesson takes a lifetime, allowing him to be truly selfless.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

Above the Above

BH

The Bris is the connection with G-d himself. This means that everything we do must be imbued with a sense that it is His. Even elements of our life that naturally make sense and are desirable must also be desirable because that it is the will of the Almighty.

Even before Abraham received the commandment to perform the Bris, he knew of its significance and its holiness; he kept every G-dly commandment before it was even asked of him. Yet Abraham decided to withhold convening the Covenant of the Bris until he received explicit instructions to do so.

Superficially this conveys an inherent weakness; he could not bring himself to such a reality where he did everything that G-d wants without being told. Anybody who has ever been in relationship or a deep friendship knows that true connection means that one knows what the other desires and does it without being asked. It begs the question, was Abraham’s divine connection lacking somehow that he needed to be told?  Not so.

The Kabbalistic sages describe Abraham as the penultimate spiritual human being, he was so in tune with the Divine that he’s referred to as a Chariot for it since he had no will other than what the Almighty wanted. As such he knew that fundamentally anything that he did based on his sensitivity for the Divine Will, would always be limited in that the initiation came from his own perception.

Everything that we sense and accomplish is done on our own terms, what we sense as being good we do and what we sense as the opposite we avoid. As deep as this sensitivity runs, it is lacking in the fact that it’s human. If we want to go above our own understanding and live in the true reality, we must realize that good is good and evil is evil not based on our own perceptions, but rather based on what the Almighty determines. Sometimes it might not be rational or have a basis that we can relate to.

This is why Abraham held off forging the covenant of the Bris until he was commanded to do so. Such a deep connection cannot be forged based on our understanding and sensitivity, it would be impossible to do so, only G-d could allow such a deep connection to exist.

This principle applies to us as well. There are many benefits of performing the Bris, for health, controlling our basic drives and even a more spiritual life, but all of these aspects fall short of the fact that it is what the Almighty wants from us. Beyond the Bris this means that everything that we do must be permeated with a divine awareness that regardless of the good that we relate to, it only scratches the surface when we realize that it is what is desired from us. Whether it is basic kindness, care, charity or diminishing our own animalistic egos, we can always try to go beyond and above, but with this awareness we can truly be above the above

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

Bring It Out

BH

A person who already has an innate connection to the covenant still needs to perform the mitzvah of receiving a Bris, making his issue only technical at best.

In a certain sense we might see the true power of this connection specifically before he has performed the Bris; that the connection transcends the circumstantial fact that he has not physically performed it and that he is nevertheless inherently a member of the Bris waiting to bring it out.

In order to approach this quandary we first have to address a more overarching issue: what it the reason that we came down into the world? Our mission is to make this world suitable for the Almighty, but at the same time even before we refine the world it still had the potential to host this reality.

In a sense our work is redundant if not useless, G-d brought chaos to an originally idyllic situation and left it up to us mortal human beings to undo it, reverse the trend of chaos and bring it back to its ideal state. We can take this further, since even before the world was thrown into chaos with the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge it already was in a state of descent caused by the original Tzimtzum-a contraction of G-d’s presence in the context of creation. Our mission is to undo the effect of the Tzimtzum and with that to undo the chaos caused by the first sin as well.

However, we are not trying to affect anything new, our objective is to reveal that which was already there, either by bringing out the positivity or removing the layers of negativity blocking its revelation. By revealing what was already there we actualize the reality of divine unity that already permeates this world. By restoring the world’s peace we are actualizing the idealism that already exists, and by performing the Bris we are revealing the innate connection already forged.

Cosmically our role is to reveal the latent reality, and if we do not, the world is lacking and without a Bris our connection is lacking. Our role is only to bring out the connection, not to create it. This same idea applies to everything in our life, it is not sufficient not living a negative existence, we must actualize the positive. By actualizing the divine reality we send a message, that the Divine unity does not contradict a duplicitous world or tolerate it, but rather they are complimentary and that the divine unity is lacking so long as it is not complemented by the world.

Signing Off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

Everlasting Bond

BH

“Bris” refers to a covenant. While it generally refers to the Covenant that is forged by the Bris Mila, it also refers to any pact or promise. Unlike most interactions and human agreements, the Bris is unique in that it is unbreakable. Most agreements are fulfilled when the objective of the agreement has been carried out. No agreement is unconditional, even the unspoken agreements amongst mankind such as general kindness and justice also have a reason behind it for the benefit of society.

However, the Covenant termed Bris in the ancient Hebrew language connotes a bond that is not subject to change, regardless of its practical inconvenience or even if the party members of the covenant change. At later points in history when mankind rebelled against G-d, they were not eradicated, even though that would have been the natural response since a covenant was formed with Abraham in an earlier generation that he and his descendants would remain bound to G-d. This commitment is rooted in the fact that the bond forged with the Almighty was not a treaty, as the bond was based on any practical results or benefits; rather it was forged to be an inherently internal connection.

A true Bris is one that ignores the current state of the individual and focuses on the essence of the individual himself and that he was imbued with a soul that transcends misdeed and that he is one with the Almighty. Therefore, the only true connection is one that is unconditional and greater than circumstance, since it is the only one that will never change with time.

Beyond the covenant that was formed between G-d and mankind there is also an unspoken covenant amongst mankind itself, this is the covenant of justice, goodness and acceptance. We aspire to this entirely not because it benefits us in any way but rather because we are all one and this is the reality that we are driven towards. In fact, even helping out another individual because we feel a certain sense of dignity is not enough; focus on the other individual’s needs, since who says that his needs are any less than ours!? We must strengthen our covenant amongst ourselves and realize that we must be good unconditionally, even if we do not feel reciprocation because our goodness is not rooted in any benefit, rather it is due to our everlasting bond.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

It’s Never Too Late

BH

A Bris on the eighth day is a very special occasion… yet there are instances when it has to performed later in lieu of health or other concerns.  While we might assume that any Bris performed after the fact is lacking something, Maimonides does not seem to agree with this sentiment at all. In fact, he writes that a Bris may always be performed. He adds that if his health is lacking, it is impossible to return his soul to him. Thus, better safely perform a Bris than rush it if one is in fragile health.

Even with this perspective, the individual had not had a Bris until a certain point, meaning that he was lacking in positive fulfillment of this mitzvah. Nevertheless, the Kabalistic sages do not seem to find this problematic either, explaining that the Bris has the capability to retroactively rectify any lack that the individual previously had.

The moment he receives his Bris, he has rectified the past in an actively positive way, not just erasing any past negativity. Generally we are limited by time, once it has passed we do not have any active participation with it. If we used it wisely it remains a testament to our righteousness that we carry with us forever, if not it is lost.Humans have the unique capability to rectify past wrong doings expunging it from our divine record, but any positivity that we did not act on is lost.

A Bris is different! It retroactively repairs and enhances a person’s previously lost time. The lesson: the Bris is beyond time, as are humans in general if we look at ourselves from a deeper prospective. Since we are above time, it bodes that we can never be too late and that there is always an opportunity to rectify ourselves regardless of our past.

For instance, when we use previous negative experiences to enhance our connections with humanity and the universe at large, or at the very least learn more about ourselves from them then we are taking a negative reality and reframing it into an inherently positive one.  It also practically means that it is never too late to get a Bris. As a Mohel who also does adults, I have seen hundreds of young and old men decide to take the next step in their lives and receive a Bris, exemplifying the concept that it is never too late. When I saw a man over ninety years old receive a Bris it struck me that it is really never too late! But beyond the Bris it also means that anything that we aspire towards, or relationships that seem too damaged to repair can always be rectified because it is never too late.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

You’re Always Welcome

BH

As soon the baby or adult is brought in to the Bris Ceremony, everyone jovially says Baruch Haba, literally, “Welcome”. While the word Haba in Hebrew numerology comes out to the number eight, which is representative of the eighth day, there is also an underlying life lesson in the greeting that we give the baby or adult.

One of the focuses of western society is discovery and pushing the limits our reality, be it intellectual or even physical. New lands have been, so to say, “discovered,” we have explored the oceans, the moon and even the recesses of human consciousness itself.  While this spirit of ingenuity and curiosity has brought us closer to the recognition that everything in the universe is truly unified, a truly transcendent level of consciousness, it has also led us to believe that it we ourselves forge our own journeys, meaning that everything we experience is only an experience and nothing deeper.

One of the beauties of sight is that we don’t piece together what we are seeing; rather whatever we see is actually showing itself to us. We do not just see an image as a sum of its features, but rather its core: what it truly is. This same principle applies to all of our experiences as well, we are not encountering random occurrences but rather we are being shown something that is meant to alter our reality.

If we do not see it this way, then it is just happenstance, and there is nothing underlying it. Even though we might not be aware of what exactly we are being shown, and may not ever understand why we were shown certain things or why we had to go through certain experiences, nevertheless the mere awareness that we were being shown something alters our consciousness in it of itself.

Anything that was discovered was not truly discovered, rather it was shown to us by the Almighty in order to bring us to a deeper reality where we see that even though there is a vast number of systems running simultaneously in our world, they are all reflective of a deeper unity that is not disturbed by the existence of duplicity.

We demonstrate this at the Bris. By welcoming the baby we are on a subtle level showing that he is not coming into an empty abyss, or uncharted terrain, but rather that he is coming to a place where he was welcomed all along. For us this means that wherever we go and whatever we experience is not uncharted, rather we are going to the exact place we were meant to go all along. In G-d’s world, even if you go somewhere that no human has ever stepped, be it mentally, physically or spiritually, you are always being shown and welcomed.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com

Only Infinity is Enough

BH

After the Bris, we bury the foreskin and proclaim, “[This is] for the snake whose bread is dirt”.  According to kabala the foreskin is the effect of the primordial snake, the quintessential Kelipa as it is manifested in our body. Kabalistic wisdom observes that the snake has a particularly cruel and venomous nature, more so than other animals even though its food source, dirt, is abundant and readily available.

Seemingly, the snake should be extraordinarily happy and good-natured, yet we see the opposite. The reason is quite astonishing to say the least: the snake wonders “after I eat the whole world, then what will I have to eat?” While this seems ridiculous, there is some sense to it. Every other animal eats either plants or other animals, and plants and animals stem from a deeper more spiritual source: the power of growth latent in the earth itself and the gift of life itself. However, the dirt that the snake eats does not stem from an obviously spiritual source, and therefore feels limited.

While it does not seem feasible that the whole world can be eaten, it is nevertheless essentially an entirely valid concern! As human beings, must always avoid the trap of the snake and by extension the Kelipa mentality. The Kelipa mentality views everything from a place of the finite and limitation. When it comes to food and money, we believe that is limited and therefore if someone else has food and money it means that we might lack. When it comes to relationships, it means that when someone else marries that our chances to find our soul mate have been reduced on some level.

All of these elements tie back to viewing the world from a place of limit. If we view everything from an infinite perspective, we realize that even though we technically have a finite amount, that finite amount comes from the Almighty and is meant specifically for us. What we have is inherently infinite because it comes from an infinite source!

Whenwe live with this perspective, we live with a sense of gratitude and happiness and realize that it is not about what we have, but what we do with it. It’s not about how little we have attained, but how much we have been bestowed. While this is easily said, it is anything but easy to implement, yet there is one place that we can start from in order to lean-to this perspective. It’s not our qualities that got us to where we are, landed us that job or got us a spouse. If we accomplished something due to a character trait, then that accomplishment will always be founded upon the quality of our strengths. If our charisma or wisdom one day disappears, whatever we have attained falls away instantly. However, when we begin to recognize that we have what we have because it was so deemed by the Almighty, then our relationships are inherently solid as is everything else and no circumstance can truly break that, the principle is the cognizance of the fact that only infinity is enough.

Signing off,

Rabbi Yehoshua Levin, Certified Mohel

BrisUSA.com