Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mitzvos-Even When We Don't Understand

I posted this a while ago and wanted to share it with you once more.

I was recently at a bris and heard a very powerful thought from R' Viegler that I wanted to share with you.

Yishmael had a bris milah when he was 13 years and Yitzchok had it when he was just 8 days old. If you think about it, which one seems greater, the one who had it when he was an adult and was able to understand what was going on or the one who had it as a newborn baby and had no say in the matter? I'd say for sure the adult who agreed to have a bris milah at 13 years of age, with all that it entails! A baby doesn't even realize what is going on and doesn't give his consent to what his parents do. And why is it that we give our children a bris milah when they turn 8 days old? Shouldn't we wait until they are old enough to understand and agree that this is what they want to do? Won't their reward be so much greater?

To better explain this, let's try to understand what the difference is between Yishmael's doing a bris at 13 and Yitzchok at 8 days. Yishmoel says, "You see, I'm so great! I tell Hashem that now that I am old enough to understand your ways, I am ready to do this special mitzvah." In essence, he is saying that as long as he understands the reasoning behind a mitzvah and it all makes sense to him, he will do it.

Yitzchok, on the other hand, says, "Hashem, you are so great and there is no way I can fully understand the things you do. Therefore, I am willing to go through the bris milah at such a young age, an age where my mind is not mature enough to understand why I am doing it. And this is the message of my life. I will do mitzvos because I love you and because you commanded me to, not because I understand the reasons why you told me to do them."

This is the message that we wish to convey to our children when we do the bris at 8 days old. You may not understand why we do it but you must remember that this is the essence of a Jew. Although we don't always understand the reasons for why Hashem does things, we will always believe in Him will full faith that He has the best in mind for us. We do the mitzvos because He commanded us, not only because we understand. Because if we only do mitzvos because we understand them, what will happen when there is something we don't understantd? Will we stop? No! Because we don't work that way! We do things out of love for Hashem, love for His Torah and mitzvos! We are so lucky to live this way!!

That is not to say that we cannot ask, that we cannot try to understand. On the contrary, the questions we ask and the answers we get deepen the love we have for the mitzvos and make us fulfill them with more enthusiasm. (I even wrote a post about that here.) But we have to realize and appreciate that we do the mitzvos because Hashem commanded us to, even when we don't know why. What an important message to give over to our children!


  1. Thanks so much for giving an understanding for the things we are meant to not understand.

    Also- this can be applied in the same way as pain- right? when we have pain we can't understand the reason for it but we still know that there IS A REASON and it's for our benefit to get closer to Hashem! so the same way with mitzvos- eventhough we dont always understand the reason, we know there is a reason and that in itself is a certain clarity!! and by doing it we are showing our love and importance of torah and mitzvos and we become closer to Hashem!! so we are doing it bshlaimus-with a full heart! And we are making a statement that we are only doing it FOR YOU HASHEM!!!

  2. Thank you for your comments this evening. I really enjoyed them :) I just wanted to make sure I told you that... b/c I think it's important to tell people when they have blessed us.

  3. Anon-I think you can take the lesson along with you in all aspects of life. Not everything is meant to be understood - but there still is a reason for everything that happens! The fact that there's a reason, even if we don't know it just yet, makes it easier to go through pain!

    Elle-thanks for the chizuk I get from reading your blog!


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