Parasha Inspiration – Lech Lecha

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם וְאַתָּ֖ה אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֑ר אַתָּ֛ה וְזַרְעֲךָ֥ אַֽחֲרֶ֖יךָ לְדֹֽרֹתָֽם: זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַֽחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר: וּנְמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלַתְכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה֙ לְא֣וֹת בְּרִ֔ית בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵֽינֵיכֶֽם:

And God said to Abraham, “And you shall keep My covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall observe between Me and between you and between your seed after you, that every male among you be circumcised. And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be as the sign of a covenant between Me and between you.

Genesis 17:9-11

This week’s portion is very famous in which Hashem tells Avram to leave Haran and head southward to an unknown destination. It is there that Hashem changes his name and establishes his covenant with Avraham. The sign of this covenant is very interesting. Avraham is to circumcise himself and his offspring.

The term used in Hebrew is mol, or the feminine, milah. These words actually mean either against or word. Nowhere in the text do we see Hashem actually giving Avraham the commandment to circumcise. This commandment is given to Avraham, specifically to circumcise himself and his offspring, but it is not listed that way in the Torah itself.

So, how did Avraham know what Hashem meant? That his command “mol” was to circumcise? What we see here is an example of oral law within the text of the Torah. It is not actually written for Avraham to circumcise, but Avraham understood that he should circumcise. How? Avraham was given oral law, that is, Hashem told Avraham what was meant, that is, to circumcise. But, the instruction is not written down in the Torah. This is but one of many examples of oral law being within the confines of the written Torah. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.