|Back to Parsha homepage||
by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
|Archive of previous issues|
Be Patient During Difficult Times
And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Rabbi Yechezkel Halevi Segal Landau, the Rabbi of Prague and author of the sefer Noda Bi-yehudah, had the custom of being the chazan for the closing Ne'ilah prayer of Yom Kippur.
He did not do this because he knew how to sing or could carry a tune, but rather because the elders of Prague maintained that it was an old custom in Prague that the rabbi should be the chazan for Ne'ilah. One year, while trying to sing the words "Mechalkel chayim b'chesed," the
Rabbi unwittingly changed the tune, and some other strange melody came out instead. Among the Rabbi's congregants was a poor man who used to knock on doors seeking handouts. He decided that he would turn the Rabbi's error to his own advantage, and so he caught on to the Rabbi's special melody and the next day, as he made his rounds for contributions, he mimicked the Rabbi exactly, and even copied his movements. This caused great amusement among his listeners, and they gave him more money than usual.
The elders of Prague, however, were enraged at the poor man's conduct, and warned him that unless he stopped mimicking the Rabbi, he would be driven out of town. Desperately hoping not to lose this unexpected extra income, the poor man went to speak to the Rabbi. He told the Rabbi how he mimicked his singing of the words "Mechalkel chayim b'chesed," but that he had no intention whatsoever of belittling the Rabbi. His intention was rather to entertain the public and receive more contributions. The Rabbi, after hearing the poor man's story, was not insulted or even angry. Instead, he allowed him to continue mimicking his tune, and even spoke to the elders to convince them that this was not any slight to his own honor. He also gave the poor man a letter stating that he could support himself (in Hebrew "mechalkel") with his imitation of the Rabbi's "Mechalkel chayim b chesed. (K'TZES HA-SHEMESH BI-GVURASO, p. 143)
Rabbi Landau's patience and understanding brought" he poor
man great gains. While others
might have been bothered or even enraged by the poor man's imitations,
the Rabbi looked at
the actions from the poor man's perspective, and felt no anger.
In marriage also, patience and
understanding can lead to great success.
"And on the eighth day shall the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." How can we explain the verse, "Give a part to seven, and also to eight"? 2The verse is unclear, since it does not specify what "seven" or "eight" it is referring to, nor what is the connection between the two. "To seven" is referring to the seven days of niddah, since the Torah writes that when a woman sees blood she is forbidden to her husband for seven days [only in later generations was this prohibition extended to twelve days]. "And also to eight" refers to the days of circumcision.
G-d said, "If you have preserved the days of niddah, I will
give you a son, and you will
circumcise him on the eighth day."
Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua had other ways of explaining the above verse. Rabbi Eliezer said, "'Give a part to seven,' these are the seven days of the week that culminate in Shabbos.
'And also to eight,' these are the eight days of circumcision."
Rabbi Yehoshua said, "'Give a part to seven,' these are the
seven days of Pesach. 'And also to
eight,' these are the eight days of Sukkos. Since it is written,
'And also,' the verse includes
Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."
(YALKUT 546. par. Uvayom)
It seems from the above midrash that if a husband and wife keep
the days of separation during
the time of niddah, they are rewarded with a son. Why should this
be the reward? Rabbi
Eliezer says that the "seven" refers to Shabbos, the
seventh day of the week. Why should
keeping Shabbos be rewarded by having a son and meriting circumcision?
According to Rabbi
Yehoshua, the "seven" refers to the holiday that has
seven days, which is Pesach, and for
observing those seven days a person receives the reward of being
able to observe the holiday
of eight days, which is Sukkos. But what is the connection between
the two holidays?
The days of separation which are required by the laws of niddah
are days of trial for both
husband and wife. The pair are unable to show each other physical
affection, and it is as though
there is now a wall between the couple, where previously they
With the proper attitude, one can overcome these difficult days.
The Torah specified these days
of separation so that the love between a couple would be renewed
each month after the days
of separation have passed. When they are reunited a couple feels
as if it is their first time
together, and they are like newlyweds again. During the days of
separation, you are not waiting
without purpose. The waiting enriches the relationship.
This is similar to the waiting and the anticipation that parents
experience when a child is born. In
the early years there is only toil, since the child can do nothing
on his own. He must be fed,
diapered, bathed, etc. But there is purpose to the toil, since
the child will eventually grow into
an independent adult who will be useful to himself and to others.
Therefore the birth of a child is
a proper and directly proportionate reward for a couple who keep
the days of separation,
since they have shown that they have patience and can endure a
waiting period, which are
exactly the traits needed when a child is born.
But it is still unclear why a male child, who undergoes circumcision,
should be the reward and
not a female child. The answer could be that in a male child the
concept of not seeing a reward
immediately is more apparent, because of circumcision. The purpose
of circumcision is to
welcome the individual into the Jewish nation with a sign on his
body demonstrating that he
belongs. One might think that this should occur later, when the
child would be able to
appreciate its significance. Here, just as with the laws of niddah,
patience and waiting are an
integral part of the process. We must patiently trust that the
Torah established the appropriate
time for circumcision, just as it established the appropriate
time for separation between husband
and wife every month.
According to Rabbi Eliezer, "to seven" refers to the
seventh day of the week, Shabbos. "And
also to eight" are the eight days of circumcision. Shabbos
can substitute for the laws of niddah
from the previous interpretation because it also involves the
trial of waiting. A person has so
much work to do during the week, that he may want to continue
on Shabbos, but he must stop
his work, and wait patiently until Shabbos is over. He may incur
a tremendous loss because of
Shabbos, yet it must be clear to him that his refraining from
work will not really cause him any
loss in the long-run. G-d will protect him specifically because
he observed this mitzvah.
Here also, the fitting reward for the patience of keeping Shabbos
is a child, since as we
explained, having a child requires much patience as one awaits
his blossoming into an adult.
Rabbi Yehoshua said,"' Give a part to seven,' these are the seven days of Pesach. 'And also to eight,' these are the eight days of Sukkos. Since 'and also' seems to be superfluous to the simple meaning of the line, the verse comes to include Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."
The days of Pesach are quite difficult for a person to observe,
since one must refrain from
eating bread, a most common and essential staple food. A person
who is freed from slavery
naturally feels the desire to celebrate his freedom, but refraining
from eating bread is a very
difficult way to express this desire. The reward for keeping Pesach
is that a person receives the
other holidays that are easier to observe: Sukkos, Shavuos, and
Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur
is easy to observe because we know that our sins will be forgiven.
Since he had the patience to
keep Pesach, he deserves to have holidays which are less difficult
Patience Leads to Success in Marriage
There is no marriage that does not require patience for I its
success. During the days when the
wife is ritually unclean, tension is commonly felt between the
couple. This is a time for the
husband to show his wife extra consideration. She is going through
an unpleasant time, and
needs all the support and patience that he can give.
On one hand, he is limited in how he can demonstrate his love
for her, and yet he must show
her that he cares about her. This is a tricky situation that requires
a special balance. A husband
should be aware that if he is not very careful in his way of speaking
or behaving during this
period, his wife will feel deep pain which will be difficult to
rectify. Although he cannot be
intimate with her, he can still smile at her. She should never
be made to feel rejected.
When you see your wife bad-tempered or gloomy during these days,
do not respond to her
comments with anger, but rather you should speak calmly without
raising your voice. Try to
appreciate and understand her situation and respond with sensitivity.
Our Sages promise us the reward of a son for keeping the laws
of niddah, yet another
important reward will be that proper behavior in these days will
strengthen the bonds between
the couple and will enable them to enjoy the unrestricted days
with greater love and closeness.
1. Vayikra 12:3
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network