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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Relating to the World

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Abraham did not travel alone.

Apart from his many followers, he had three companions: Aner, Eshkol and Mamre.

When God commanded Abram (henceforth Abraham) to circumcise himself and his male household, he asked advice from these three friends in turn, as to whether he should carry out God's wish.

Aner answered, “you are an old man, the operation will be painful, don’t do it.”

Eshkol answered, “The pain is not a problem, I am sure you can withstand that, but why should you mark yourself in this way among your enemies”?

But Mamre answered, “Look, surely you can trust God, who protected you from the fiery furnace and in the battle with the four kings, to know what He is doing here.”

So Abraham went ahead with the circumcision, and God said to Mamre, “In recognition of your support’ it will be recorded that I spoke to Abraham among the oaks of Mamre” (’Eilonei Mamre’ Gen. 18:1).

This is a puzzling story. Abraham bravely walked through a fiery furnace to demonstrate his beliefs. Abraham obeyed God unquestioningly on much more difficult issues - the command to sacrifice his son, for example, or the command to leave home for the unknown.

Why should he particularly seek advice from his friends on this matter?

Earlier in the Torah Rashi taught us that when it came time to do the bris Abrahams hand froze out of nervousness. G-d took his hand and helped him do the Bris. Abraham nervous!

What was it, then, about circumcision, which unnerved him so?

Perhaps it can be answered in this light. The main activity of Abraham and his wife Sarah was kiruv, or converting people to the idea of monotheism. Abraham was successful in relating to thousands of men and women. He taught them all about G-d. Abraham felt that part of his success lay in the fact that he looked just like everyone else - he appeared to be “one of the boys”. In this way, he believed, he could best approach people and then get his message across. Perhaps he felt that if her were marked externally as “different” by circumcision, his entire life mission would suffer.

Mamre reassured him, “Don’t worry, God knows what He is doing. Trust Him!”

Perhaps the time had come in Abrahams life where he no longer needed to be one of the boys. There is a higher level of influence. When people saw Abraham they said, “You are a prince of G-d!” They looked at Abraham and saw what a man can be. His courage to stand apart and be different is what gave others the strength to make difficult changes in their lives. He stopped being just an influence and became a light.

As for us, already at eight days old we stand out. Jews are born to stand out. We are in this world to shed a light of morality, goodness and G-dliness. We are not here to be “one of the boys”.

From Reachings by Rabbi Yaacov Haber

This week’s Dvar Torah is dedicated by my friend Jeff Zucker to the memory of his beloved mother, Ita bat Shalom, A"H, who shares her Yartzeit, 11 Cheshvan, with Rochel Imeinu.
May her neshama have an aliya.

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