Part Two
Midrashic Mysteries - Part Two

(19) On which day does one perform the circumcision?

(19) The sefer Turei Zahav on parshas Tazria brings this puzzling Midrash Tanchuma on parshas Tetzaveh - On which day is a baby circumcised? Thus taught our Rabbis: A baby is circumcised on the eighth day. What is the reason? Just like the circumcision of Yitchok Avinu, as it is written in Bereishis (21,4) “And Avrohom circumcised his son Yitzchok when he was eight days old”.

This Midrash is a complete puzzle - since is written clearly in the Torah “on the eighth day you shall circumcise”, what was the question in the first place? And it should have least answered the question from that posuk and not from what happened with Yitzchok.

But it seems to me that we can explain it according to the reason given by the Holy Zohar why circumcision is performed on the eighth day, and that is in order that the baby should first live through one Shabbos, and it is impossible for eight days not to contain one Shabbos. For the same reason an animal is not eligible to be a sacrifice until the eighth day from its birth, as it says in Vayikra (22,27) “from the eighth day onwards it will be acceptable”, in order that the sacrifice will first experience the holiness of one Shabbos.

According to this reason one might have thought that when the Torah writes that circumcision is performed on the eighth day, this only applies when the baby is born on Sunday. But if it was born later in the week it would be permitted to do the circumcision on the day after Shabbos, since the baby has already exprienced a Shabbos. Or maybe there is no difference, and we always need to wait until the eighth day. So the answer to this question cannot be proved from the posuk in the Torah.

However, we can prove from Yitzchok that it must always be performed on the eighth day, because Rashi explained on the posuk in parshas Vayeira (18,14) “at the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” - at that specified time that I set for you yesterday. The commentary Re’em explains that this refers to the day of Avrohom’s circumcision, when Hashem said to him “My covenant I will establish with Yitzchok, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year”, and He scratched a mark on the wall. ( See there for the reason why Rashi says yesterday when it was really the third day from his circumcision).

Now, it says in the Midrash on the posuk in Bereishis (17,23) “on this very day”, that Avrohom circumcised himself on Wednesday, and it also says in the Midrash that that year was a leap year. Therefore, since there is a five day difference between a leap year and the following year, Yitzchok was born five days after Wednesday, which is Monday, and so he could have been circumcised only seven days later, on Sunday, since he had already experienced a Shabbos. Yet the Torah states clearly that he was circumcised on the eighth day, on Monday. This proves that we do not make any distinction, and circumcision is always performed on the eighth day.

This then is the explanation of our Midrash. It asked on which day the baby is circumcised - is it always on the eighth day even when it is born later in the week, or perhaps since the reason for waiting is in order that the baby should experience the holiness of one Shabbos it would be permitted sometimes to perform it the day after Shabbos. We cannot answer the question from the posuk “on the eighth day he shall circumcise”, because perhaps the posuk refers to when the baby is born on Sunday. Therefore it answered that our Rabbis taught that the baby is circumcised on the eighth day, that is, always on the eighth day. Why? Just like Yitzchok’s circumcision. That although he was born on Monday, nevertheless he was circumcised on the eighth day, the following Monday, and not on Sunday, because we make no distinction.

(23) One does not put on tefillin except on Shabbos?!

(23) The sefer S. C. in the name of the Vilna Gaon brings a puzzling Midrash, which says: One does not put on Tefillin except on Shabbos - בשבת.

He explained that the word בשבת is a mnemonic, which stands for במקום שיער - on the place of the hair, that is, on the head above the hairline, and במקום תפוח - on the place of the bulge, that is, on the arm on the place of the biceps.

He also brings in the name of R. Shimshon from Astripoli, that the meaning of the Midrash is according to what is written in the sefer Kanfei Yonah, that it is forbidden to put on tefillin except someone who has learned form the Torah - sefer Bereishis , from the Prophets - sefer Shmuel, and from the Writings - sefer Tehillim.

This then is the meaning of the Midrash, that one does not put on tefillin except on someone who has learned שבת, which is a mnemonic for שמואל בראשית תהילים.

(24) Where does the Torah allude as to which days we say the complete Hallel?

(24) R. Shimshon from Astropoli said: Many people asked me to give an explanation of the following Midrash, on the posuk (Bereishis 7,9) שנים שנים באו אל-נח - “Two by two they came to Noach” - these are the days when we say the complete Hallel. The meaning of this Midrash is very hidden.

I answered my humble opinion, which is that we have an established mnemonic to remember on which days we complete the Hallel, and that is בבט"ח, which stands for the two days of Shavuos, the two days of Pesach, the nine days of Succos, and the eight days of Chanukah.

Now we generally say that Hashem alluded to everything in the Torah, so where is this mnemonic alluded to? I think that in this posuk lies the allusion, in the words שנים שנים באו אל-נח. The first two words allude to the two days of Shavuos and the two days of Pesach, the third word has a gematria (numerical count) of 9, alluding to the nine days of Succos, and the last, hyphenated word has the exact gematria of Chanukah - these are the days on which we complete the Hallel!

When you print this page. Printer Friendly Layout