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Attention San Franciscans: why banning circumcision is a bad idea

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By  Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO — Hashem counts us over and over again. Each new census is a new show of His great love and affection for us. There is one natural response to this, as Rav Chaim Volozhin teaches, “How is it possible for us to declare in the Shema prayer that we will love and serve Hashem with ALL our heart, with ALL our soul, and with ALL our resources?.  The answer is that we just read in the blessing before ‘ahavah rabbah ahavtanu’ ‘with a great love You (Hashem) love us.’ 

When we realize Hashems profound love for us, our natural response is one of love and devotion.”  This love inspires and drives us to faithfully keep the mitzvos despite all odds and obstacles, whatever it takes, as the following true story (Talmud M’eela 17a) illustrates:

Two-thousand years ago, the Roman Empire issued a decree banning the Jews from keeping Shabbos, circumcision, and Family Purity. This sent shockwaves throughout Jewish community. Shabbos, Circumcision, and Nidah (family purity) are cornerstones of the Jewish people. Indeed, what would happen to Judaism itself if these mitzvos were removed. The Rabbis sprung into action and appointed a delegate to travel to the emperor. They pulled every conceivable string to get him an audience, as they prayed for his success.

Rabbi Reuven ben Itzrobel was the agent sent to plead before the emperor. He asked, “Oh great and wise emperor, if one has an enemy, does he want that enemy to be rich or poor?”

“Poor,” replied the emperor.

“Then the emperor should promote the observance of Shabbos, so that the Jews cannot work and earn money on Shabbos.”

Rabbi Reuven continued, “If one has an enemy, does he want that enemy to be strong or weak?”

“Weak,” replied the emperor.

“Then the emperor should promote circumcision. The circumcision weakens the Jewish boys. If you ban circumcision, then the Jews will become strong and rebel against you.”

“If one has an enemy, does he want that enemy to be numerous or few?” continued Rabbi Reuven.

“Few,” said the emperor.

“In that case, the emperor should promote the practice of Family Purity.  If the Jewish men cohabit with their menstruant wives, rather than abstaining till after the ritual mikveh immersion, they will procreate constantly. They will become more numerous and rebel against you.”

The emperor mused the matter over and declared, “Each and every one of your points makes sense to me. These decrees are not at all in my best interest. I hereby rescind the bans on the Jewish Shabbos, circumcision, and Family Purity.

Dedicated by Eliezer & Baila Bromberg in honor of their children. Dedicated by Michael & Rivka Spiegel in memory of his father Zvi Elimelech ben Yechiel Michel on the occasion of his upcoming Yahrtzeit.
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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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