Circumcision

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


I. Reason for circumcision. 1

II. Circumcision of the heart 5

III. Great Biblical men who were circumcised. 7

IV. Circumcision and Pesach. 10

V. Circumcision and salvation. 11

VI. Problem passages. 13

VII. Circumcision and the land of Israel 14

VIII. Uncircumcised Heart (Erel Lev) 15

IX. Uncircumcised Lips. 17

X.  Shimon and Levi 18

XI. Interim Conclusions. 20

 

In this study I would like to understand circumcision and the reasons why HaShem uses it to seal His covenant with the Jews.

 

I. Reason for circumcision

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 17:1-14 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, HaShem appeared to him and said, “I am G-d Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and G-d said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your G-d and the G-d of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their G-d.” Then G-d said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 

HaShem’s part:

Abraham will be the father of many nations.

HaShem will make Abraham very fruitful.

HaShem will make nations of Abraham.

HaShem will make kings come from Abraham.

HaShem will give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan.

This covenant will last forever. There are no conditions for HaShem .

 

Abraham’s part:

Every male descendant, of Abraham, eight days old shall be circumcised, in the flesh. Every male bought, by Abraham of his descendants, must be circumcised.

 

Samson Raphael Hirsch notes an apparent discrepancy between verse 10 and verse 11. In verse 10 it is called “My covenant”, implying that the physical act of circumcision is sufficient fulfillment of the covenant. In verse 11 it is described as the “sign” or symbol of the covenant, implying that the act is no more than a symbol, and not a complete fulfillment. He explains that there are two inseparable elements: the act without the realization of the idea is insufficient; likewise the concept without the act is not enough. The act of circumcision must be performed, and it must be recognized as symbolic of the eternal bond between HaShem and Israel.

 

Sefer HaChinuch 2: Among the roots of the commandment are that HaShem wished to establish a particular sign in the bodies of the people whom he had designated to be His own. This special sign differentiated their bodies, just as their souls are differentiated, to demonstrate that their source and mission are not like those of the other nations.

 

Romans 4:6-16 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom G-d credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, Because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

 

Circumcision is a seal of the righteousness by faith.

 

Abraham is the father of all who believe.

 

Circumcision is not required for justification.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:1-3 HaShem said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.

 

Israelites are to be circumcised.

 

Shoftim (Judges) 14:1-3 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”

 

Circumcision was important to Israelites. Since women were not physically circumcised, this statement is obviously applying circumcision to an act or a state which is not physical. HaShem speaks of circumcision of the heart, and I suspect that this is what Samson’s father is referring to.

 

Shoftim (Judges) 15:16-20 Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to HaShem, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then G-d opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

 

Circumcision became important to Samson.

 

I Shmuel (Samuel) 14:6 Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps HaShem will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder HaShem from saving, whether by many or by few.”

 

Circumcision seemed to be related to our relationship with HaShem, i.e. He acts for the circumcised.

 

I Shmuel (Samuel) 17:22-27 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel.” David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living G-d?” They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

 

David had a very low opinion of the uncircumcised.

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 51:22 - 52:6 This is what your Sovereign HaShem says, your G-d, who defends his people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over.” Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. For this is what HaShem says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.” For this is what the Sovereign HaShem says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. “And now what do I have here?” declares HaShem. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares HaShem. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”

 

No uncircumcised male will enter Jerusalem in the future!

 

Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 28:6-10 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign HaShem says: “‘Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor. They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a man, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you. You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign HaShem.’”

 

HaShem seems to have a different death for the “circumcised”.

 

Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 32:18-32 “Son of man, wail for the hordes of Egypt and consign to the earth below both her and the daughters of mighty nations, with those who go down to the pit. Say to them, ‘Are you more favored than others? Go down and be laid among the uncircumcised.’ They will fall among those killed by the sword. The sword is drawn; let her be dragged off with all her hordes. From within the grave the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’ “Assyria is there with her whole army; she is surrounded by the graves of all her slain, all who have fallen by the sword. Their graves are in the depths of the pit and her army lies around her grave. All who had spread terror in the land of the living are slain, fallen by the sword. “Elam is there, with all her hordes around her grave. All of them are slain, fallen by the sword. All who had spread terror in the land of the living went down uncircumcised to the earth below. They bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. A bed is made for her among the slain, with all her hordes around her grave. All of them are uncircumcised, killed by the sword. Because their terror had spread in the land of the living, they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit; they are laid among the slain. “Meshech and Tubal are there, with all their hordes around their graves. All of them are uncircumcised, killed by the sword because they spread their terror in the land of the living. Do they not lie with the other uncircumcised warriors who have fallen, who went down to the grave with their weapons of war, whose swords were placed under their heads? The punishment for their sins rested on their bones, though the terror of these warriors had stalked through the land of the living. “You too, O Pharaoh, will be broken and will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword. “Edom is there, her kings and all her princes; despite their power, they are laid with those killed by the sword. They lie with the uncircumcised, with those who go down to the pit. “All the princes of the north and all the Sidonians are there; they went down with the slain in disgrace despite the terror caused by their power. They lie uncircumcised with those killed by the sword and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. “Pharaoh--he and all his army--will see them and he will be consoled for all his hordes that were killed by the sword, declares the Sovereign HaShem. Although I had him spread terror in the land of the living, Pharaoh and all his hordes will be laid among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword, declares the Sovereign HaShem.”

 

Circumcision seems to be very important to HaShem.

 

Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 44:5-9 HaShem said to me, “Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and give attention to everything I tell you concerning all the regulations regarding the temple of HaShem. Give attention to the entrance of the temple and all the exits of the sanctuary. Say to the rebellious house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign HaShem says: Enough of your detestable practices, O house of Israel! In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. Instead of carrying out your duty in regard to my holy things, you put others in charge of my sanctuary. This is what the Sovereign HaShem says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites.

 

Without circumcision it is impossible to get close to HaShem? Both physical and heart circumcision are important.

 

II. Circumcision of the heart

 

What is “circumcision of the heart”? This cryptic phrase begs definition. What does HaShem mean by this phrase? The Ramban says that it indicates a change in our human existence: the removal of the Yetzer Hara. This is the vision of the era of Mashiach, the days of the final redemption, when we will have no inclination for rebellion or vice and we will live in harmony with ourselves and with HaShem. No inner struggle will divert our energies from the true goal of the spiritual life. Apparently the reward for our desire to return to HaShem is the removal of the factors which might take us away from Him.

 

The Ramban however goes further. He sees this change as a return to an era long gone. He views this change as a return to the pristine world of Gan Eden. In Gan Eden man lives in harmony with HaShem. It reflects the perfect togetherness of man and his maker. Teshuva, repentance, takes us back to the exact point of departure. It is ‘return’ in the literal sense of the word.

 

It is interesting that this verse from Nitzavim (“umal HaShem elokecha Et Levavcha Ve’et Levav zarecha”) is seen as the acronym of the word ELUL.[1] Elul is seen as the time of removal of the yetzer hara. Only that we have to make the change in ourselves. HaShem cannot do it for us. Elul offers a road that leads us back to Gan Eden. It is a time of return. Return to HaShem, but also a return to ourselves, to the purity of soul represented by man on his first day of creation when his soul was in it’s original purity. In Elul we aim to take ourselves back to a pre-sin world.

 

II Luqas (Acts) 7:51-54 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-- You who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.

 

Circumcision of the heart was recognized by first century believers and unbelievers. From the context, it is obvious that Stephen in referring to the descendants of Jacob.

 

Romans 2:25 - 3:4 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from G-d. What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of G-d. What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify G-d’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let G-d be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

 

Circumcision has value if you observe the law. So, if we see the law as a way of life, circumcision ought to be a part of that life style.

 

If you obey the law HaShem will view you as though you were circumcised! There is much value in being a Jew and in being circumcised.

 

Galatians 6:11-16 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Mashiach. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Yeshua Mashiach, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of G-d.

 

Remember that the theme of the entire book of Galatians is justification. Justification does not come by circumcision.

 

Yiremeyahu (Jeremiah) 9:23-26 This is what HaShem says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am HaShem, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares HaShem. “The days are coming,” declares HaShem, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh-- Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.”

 

We had better have circumcised hearts as well as circumcised foreskins!

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 10:12-18 And now, O Israel, what does HaShem your G-d ask of you but to fear HaShem your G-d, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, And to observe HaShem’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To HaShem your G-d belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet HaShem set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For HaShem your G-d is G-d of gods and Lord of lords, the great G-d, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:1-11 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever HaShem your G-d disperses you among the nations, And when you and your children return to HaShem your G-d and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, Then HaShem your G-d will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there HaShem your G-d will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. HaShem your G-d will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. HaShem your G-d will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. You will again obey HaShem and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then HaShem your G-d will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. HaShem will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, If you obey HaShem your G-d and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.

 

Yiremeyahu (Jeremiah) 4:3-4 This is what HaShem says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to HaShem, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done--burn with no one to quench it.

 

Circumcision seems to involve more that just foreskins.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 26:40-42 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers--their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, Which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies--then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

 

HaShem will remember His covenant when they circumcise their hearts?

 

Yehoshua (Joshua) 5:1-9 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how HaShem had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. At that time HaShem said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt--all the men of military age--died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed HaShem. For HaShem had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. Then HaShem said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.

 

Why didn’t they circumcise their sons? Why didn’t HaShem make an issue out of it sooner? Answer: because they were NOW about to enter “The land“.

 

III. Great Biblical men who were circumcised

 

Philippians 3:1-12 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of G-d, who glory in Mashiach Yeshua, and who put no confidence in the flesh-- Though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; As for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Mashiach. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Mashiach Yeshua my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Mashiach And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Mashiach--the righteousness that comes from G-d and is by faith. I want to know Mashiach and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Mashiach Yeshua took hold of me.

 

We ought not to have confidence that circumcision will bring justification. Paul was circumcised.

 

Luqas (Luke) 1:57-63 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, But his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”

 

John the Baptist was circumcised on the eighth day.

 

Luqas (Luke) 2:15-21 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising G-d for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Yeshua, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

 

Yeshua was circumcised on the eighth day.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 17:23-27 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as G-d told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, And his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

 

Ishmael and the rest of Abraham’s household were circumcised.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 21:1-7 Now HaShem was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and HaShem did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time G-d had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as G-d commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “G-d has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

 

Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day.

 

Galatians 2:1-5 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. [This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Mashiach Yeshua and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

 

Titus was not COMPELLED to be circumcised [for salvation].

 

Yochanan (John) 7:21-24 Yeshua said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

 

Circumcision seems to involve healing of part of a man.

 

Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak notes the expressions “sign“, “covenant“, and “throughout their generations“ are used both in connection with circumcision and with the Sabbath. From these common designations we learn that circumcision supersedes the Sabbath.[2]

 

II Luqas (Acts) 15:40 - 16:5 But Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

 

Why did Paul circumcise Timothy? Because of fear? Because he wanted to be more effective?

 

II Luqas (Acts) 21:18-24 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what G-d had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised G-d. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, So do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.

 

Paul was teaching the Jews to be circumcised. This is one of the points that Paul was proving when he joined in their purification rites, for a nazirite vow.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 34:11-18 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife.” Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem.

 

Some who were not descendants of Abraham were circumcised. (done deceitfully).

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:21-26 HaShem said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what HaShem says: Israel is my firstborn son, And I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” At a lodging place on the way, HaShem met [Moses] and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched [Moses’] feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So HaShem let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

 

Moses’ son was circumcised. Moses nearly died for not circumcising him. Notice that the trip from Midian to Egypt required them to travel through the land promised to Abraham. Circumcision and the land are here, and elsewhere, intimately linked.

 

IV. Circumcision and Pesach

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:43-49 HaShem said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: “No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, But a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it. “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate HaShem’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

 

A neker may not eat of the Passover, but, the ger must be circumcised before he eats of it.

 

I Corinthians 5:1-8 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Yeshua and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Yeshua is present, Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Mashiach, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

 

Paul seems to be encouraging us to “keep” Pesach. So, we must be circumcised?

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:1-20 HaShem said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire--head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is HaShem’s Passover. “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am HaShem. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to HaShem--a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat--that is all you may do. “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”

 

The whole community of Israel MUST celebrate Pesach and Chag HaMatza! Therefore they MUST be circumcised. This implies that they are already justified else they would not be Israel.

 

V. Circumcision and salvation

 

Luqas (Acts) 10:39-48 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, But G-d raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom G-d had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom G-d appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising G-d. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Yeshua Mashiach. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

 

Circumcision is not a condition of salvation.

 

Notice how James answers the question of circumcision:

 

Luqas (Acts) 15:1-21 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything G-d had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago G-d made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. G-d, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test G-d by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Yeshua that we are saved, just as they are.” The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders G-d had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how G-d at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, That the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ That have been known for ages. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to G-d. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (See also NOACHIDE.)

 

So, what was James’ answer to the question of circumcision?

 

Colossians 2:9-17 For in Mashiach all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, And you have been given fullness in Mashiach, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Mashiach, Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of G-d, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, G-d made you alive with Mashiach. He forgave us all our sins, Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Mashiach.

 

All believers have “circumcised hearts”.

 

Colossians 3:7-12 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Mashiach is all, and is in all. Therefore, as G-d’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

 

Romans 3:27-31 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is G-d the G-d of Jews only? Is he not the G-d of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, Since there is only one G-d, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

 

Justification and circumcision are not related.

 

Colossians 3:8-12 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Mashiach is all, and is in all. Therefore, as G-d’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

 

G-d’s chosen people can be Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised.

 

VI. Problem passages.

 

Galatians 5:1-12 It is for freedom that Mashiach has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Mashiach will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Mashiach; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Mashiach Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

 

Circumcision or law will not JUSTIFY us. Circumcision for the purpose of justification makes Mashiach of no value.

 

I Corinthians 7:17-24 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which G-d has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping G-d’s commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when G-d called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you--although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Mashiach’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to G-d, should remain in the situation G-d called him to.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:1-4 HaShem said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.

 

One who is uncircumcised when called should not become circumcised. This is in relationship to being called, because obviously circumcision is commanded.

 

Keeping HaShem’s commands is what counts, and HaShem commanded circumcision. Rambam’s two hundred and fifteenth positive command, of the 613 mitzvot, is to circumcise your son on the eighth day. Seems like even this uncircumcised believer would circumcise his son, on the eighth day. It is also worthwhile noting that circumcision preceded the law.

 

VII. Circumcision and the land of Israel

 

The first time that circumcision is used in the Torah, is in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 17:9-14 Then G-d said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 

Circumcision is the “sign” of the covenant given to Abraham. Notice what Hashem promises, to Abraham, before He give the “sign”:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 17:4-8 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your G-d and the G-d of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their G-d.”

 

So, HaShem’s part of the covenant was to give, among other things, Abraham and his descendants the land. The year is 2047 am, Ishmael is thirteen years old, and Sarai, is eighty-nine.

 

This covenant requires actions by both parties: HaShem’s part is in verses 2-8, and Abraham’s is in verses 9-14. Notice, though, that the promise of the land came first and was not conditioned on obedience!

 

Circumcision and “The Land” seem to be closely tied together. Remember that circumcision was imposed on the Congregation of Israel before they celebrated Passover which was the beginning of their entrance into the land.

 

Remember that in Joshua chapter 5 the Israelites are circumcised just before they enter the land. Here, too, we see the promise of the land coming immediately before the command of circumcision.

 

Notice that when Moses travels back to Egypt, his route would have taken him into the land promised to Abraham; therefore HaShem met him there and demanded that his son, Gershom “stranger in a strange land”, be circumcised! (Midian is located east of the gulf of Aquaba and extended to Jezreel in Transjordan. Remember that Midian is a descendant of Abraham - Genesis 25).

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:24-28 At a lodging place on the way, HaShem met [Moses] and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched [Moses’] feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So HaShem let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) HaShem said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of G-d and kissed him. Then Moses told Aaron everything HaShem had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform.

 

It is at approximately the same place where HaShem tells the Israelites to build the Tent of Appointment, so that Hashem will dwell with man:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 29:44-46 “So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their G-d. They will know that I am HaShem their G-d, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am HaShem their G-d.

 

VIII. Uncircumcised Heart (Erel Lev)

 

(uncircumcised heart, i.e. a rasha)

 

Hakham Akiva Tatz has indicated that one who eats non-kosher food is uncircumcising his heart. Those who eat only kosher food have circumcised their lips.

 

* * *

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:6 And HaShem thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love HaShem thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

 

Yeremyahu (Jeremiah) 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to HaShem, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

 

Yeremyahu (Jeremiah) 9:26 Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all nations uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel uncircumcised in the heart.

 

Ezekiel 11:17-20 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign HaShem says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their G-d.

 

Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 44:7 In that ye have brought strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.

 

II Luqas (Acts) 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

 

Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

 

Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

 

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Mashiach Yeshua, and have no confidence in the flesh.

 

Collosians 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Mashiach:

 

In fact, the whole point of Passover and the other plagues was to allow the Israelites to dwell with HaShem:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 26:40-45 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers--their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, Which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies--then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am HaShem their G-d. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their G-d. I am HaShem.’”

 

HaShem links heart circumcision with the land! This connection seems to be integrally linked with the “New (renewed) Covenant“.

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:1-6 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever HaShem your G-d disperses you among the nations, And when you and your children return to HaShem your G-d and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, Then HaShem your G-d will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there HaShem your G-d will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. HaShem your G-d will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

 

A person having an “uncircumcised heart” can be viewed as a person who is closed-minded to HaShem’s commandments[3]. We figuratively circumcise our hearts when learning more about Judaism, observing Shabbat or performing other mitzvot.

 

Rav Kook, in his short but extraordinary essay about the Song of Songs, says that just as any literary canon would be considered deficient or lacking if the subject of romantic passion were never breached within its volumes, however-the-more-so would the Book of Books, the Torah, be considered lacking if its holy pages never addressed that ever-coveted subject! The Song of Songs, he says, completes this task admirably, and notes that the Jewish preoccupation with the sort of intimate love enumerated in the Song of Songs stems from our own preoccupation with the source of that love, HaShem Himself! He tells us about the chamor l’ahava (lit. “the donkey for love”), someone who values only the chomer, the materiality of human love relationships, who debases the physical longings ennatured within his flesh from their highest potentials of sublimity to the depths of grossness; Rav Kook says that this person has an “uncircumcised heart”, because he has never tasted the “sweet light of the love of the Rock of the universe”! In other words, this person doesn’t understand that physical love between humans is deeply connected-to and is a fundamental expression-of Divine love, and this lack of understanding renders him incapable of grasping the sublimity of the depths of love’s root-source. Thus, this “donkey for love” would never notice if the Song of Songs went missing from the Torah; its intimations about the sublime root-source of all love would be completely lost on him, so he’d never notice if it vanished.

 

And so before the coming of Mashiach, it says that HaShem will remove the uncircumcised heart, which is the subtlest of unholiness, in order to be able to receive the G-dliness that will be revealed with the coming of Mashiach, which is even higher than that which was revealed at the giving of the Torah.

 

The revelation that will come with the coming of Mashiach is the revelation of HaShem Himself. This is the idea of making a dwelling place for HaShem. A dwelling place is the place where for example a king comes and is himself. A home, a dwelling place, is not a place that serves a particular function. The king doesn’t go to his home in order to do a particular service or act. It is where he simply is. In the palace there are rooms for every occasion: where he greets guests, where he passes laws, where he meets with his ministers and so on. Each room serves a particular function. But a home is where he belongs. It is where his essence can be revealed, not only his functions.

 

IX. Uncircumcised Lips

 

Shemot (Exodus) 6:30 Moshe said to G-d, ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised (closed) lips’. 

 

When Moshe tells HaShem that he has “uncircumcised lips”, he was referring to the injury which he suffered when he touched his tongue with a burning coal.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus I:26 AND THE CHILD GREW (II, 10). She suckled him only for twenty-four months, and you say: AND THE CHILD GREW? This is to teach you that he grew abnormally. AND SHE BROUGHT HIM UNTO PHARAOH’S DAUGHTER. Pharaoh’s daughter used to kiss and hug him, loved him as if he were her own son and would not allow him out of the royal palace. Because he was so handsome, everyone was eager to see him, and whoever saw him could not tear himself away from him. Pharaoh also used to kiss and hug him, and he [Moses] used to take the crown of Pharaoh and place it upon his own head, as he was destined to do when he became great. It was this which G-d said to Miriam: Therefore have I brought forth a fire from the midst of thee (Ezek. XXVIII, 18), and even so did the daughter of Pharaoh bring up him who was destined to exact retribution from her father. (The Messianic king, too, who will one day punish Edom, dwells with them in that province, as it is said: There shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down (Isa. XXVII, 10).3) The magicians of Egypt sat there and said: ‘We are afraid of him who is taking off thy crown and placing it upon his own head, lest he be the one of whom we prophesy that he will take away the kingdom from thee.’ Some of them counseled to slay him and others to burn him, but Jethro was present among them and he said to them: ‘ This boy has no sense. However, test him by placing before him a gold vessel and a live coal; if he stretch forth his hand for the gold, then he has sense and you can slay him, but if he make for the live coal, then he has no sense and there can be no sentence of death upon him.’ So they brought these things before him, and he was about to reach forth for the gold when Gabriel came and thrust his hand aside so that it seized the coal, and he thrust his hand with the live coal into his mouth, so that his tongue was burnt, with the result that he became slow of speech and of tongue.

 

Why was his tongue injured and not his hand?

 

When Batya found the baby Moshe in the Nile River, she asked a number of Egyptian women to nurse him. Destined to speak with HaShem, “mouth to mouth”,[4] Moshe refused their milk. However, during the process, some of the milk of the Egyptian nurses fell on his tongue and he spat it out immediately.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus I:25 THEN SAID HIS SISTER TO PHARAOH’S DAUGHTER. etc. (I, 7). Why did Miriam say, A NURSE OF THE HEBREW WOMEN? Was it then forbidden to Moses to drink the milk of a non-Jewess? Have we not learnt: A Jewess must not suckle the child of a non-Jewess, but a non-Jewess may suckle the child of an Israelite in her home. Then why did Miriam say so? Because she took Moses round to every Egyptian wet-nurse, but he rejected them all. And why did he reject them? Because G-d said: ‘Shall the mouth that will one day speak with Me suck anything unclean? ‘ This is the meaning of: Whom shall one teach knowledge? (Isa. XXVIII, 9), i.e. to whom shall He teach knowledge? To them that we weaned from milk, etc. (ib.). Another reason why Moses rejected their breasts is this. G-d said: ‘This child will one day speak with Me and then the Egyptian women will say: “I suckled him now speaking with the Shechinah.”‘

 

When non-kosher food comes in contact with a kosher utensil it needs kashering. This is normally done by immersing the utensil in boiling water or using fire to make it red hot so that it will expel whatever it had absorbed. Thus, Moshe’s tongue was burned in order to remove all traces of Egyptian milk. His lips have now become circumcised.

 

X.  Shimon and Levi

 

Targum Pseudo Jonathan for: Bereshit (Genesis) 49:1 – 50:26‎‎

 

Targum Pseudo Jonathan for: Bereshit (Genesis) 49:5. Shimeon and Levi are brothers of the womb; their thoughts are of sharp weapons for rapine.

JERUSALEM: Shimeon and Levi are brothers of the womb, men who are masters of sharp weapons; they made war from their youth; in the land of their adversary they wrought out the triumphs of war.

 

Rashi on 49:5 says:

 

5 Simeon and Levi are brothers [They were] of one [accord in their] plot against Shechem and against Joseph: “So they said one to the other, ‘…So now, let us kill him…’ ” (Gen. 37:19f). Who were “they”? If you say [that it was] Reuben or Judah, [that cannot be because] they did not agree to kill him. If you say [that it was] the sons of the maidservants, [that cannot be because] their hatred [toward him] was not [so] unmitigated [that they would want to kill him], for it is stated: “and he was a lad [and was] with the sons of Bilhah” (Gen. 37:2). [It could not have been] Issachar and Zebulun [because they] would not have spoken before their older brothers. [Thus,] by necessity [we must say that] they were Simeon and Levi, whom their father called “brothers.”-[from Gen. Rabbah, Shitah Chadashah]

 

stolen instruments This craft of murder is in their hands wrongfully, [for] it is [part] of Esau’s blessing. It is his craft, and you (Simeon and Levi) have stolen it from him.-[fromTanchuma Vayechi 9]

 

their weapons Heb. מְכֵרֽתֵיהֶם, a term denoting weapons. In Greek, the word for sword is “machir” (Tanchuma Vayechi 9). Another explanation: מְכֵרֽתֵיהֶם means: In the land of their dwelling (מְגוּרָתָם) they conducted themselves with implements of violence, like “Your dwelling place (מְכֽרֽתַיִךְ) and your birthplace (וּמוֹלְִדֽתַיִךְ)” (Ezek. 16:3). This is Onkelos’s translation.-[from Tanchuma Vayechi 9]

 

Note from the Hakham Yosef ben Haggai:

 

The Ramban[5] provides the following explanation for this critical phrase in this passage: “In my opinion Jacob is saying that “the instruments of violence are their dwelling places,” i.e., the essence of their lives. Even as the expression, the days of my pilgrimage (m’gurai). He is thus saying that the very instruments of violence are their dwelling places for they live and sustain themselves by them. A similar expression is found in the verse: “The desert yields them bread for their children” (Job 24:5 – for there he has the opportunity to rob and plunder). And it is on account of this that their father divided them in Jacob (verse 7 here) so that they should not unite and scattered them in Israel so that they should not assemble. This was indeed so, for Simeon’s inheritance in the land was contained in the inheritance of the children of Judah, as it is written: And their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the children of Judah and Levi’s inheritance consisted of the cities of Refuge (Numbers 35:1-8), which were scattered throughout all Israel (Joshua Chapter 21).”

 

His Eminence Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu ben Abraham and myself have observed that in Gen. 49:5, the Hebrew word מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶם”- M’kheroteihem (“their weapons”) – i.e. מכרה – “mekherah” – bears a remarkable resemblance to the Greek term μάχαιρα – Machaira (“circumcision knife”) [Strong’s G3162 – i.e. Rom. 13:4], as Rashi above points out. Where Rashi in our humble opinion is wrong is that a sword in Greek is called: ῥομφαία – rhomphaia – (“a sword”) [Strong’s G4501 – i.e. Rev. 2:16]. What Ya’aqob is therefore saying is that they transformed a holy instrument to effect circumcision into a weapon of murder. Thus the Septuagint translated Gen. 49:5 as: “Symeon and Levi, are brethren, they accomplished the injustice of their cutting off.”

 

Rashi notes that the same wording appears in Ezekiel 16:3. His Eminence Rabbi Eisemann[6]  translates Ezekiel 16:3 as follows…

 

Ezekiel 16:3 and say: Thus says my LORD God HASHEM/ELOHIM to Jerusalem. Your dwelling place and your birthplace are of the Land of Canaan. Your father is the Emorite and your mother a Heittite.

 

His Eminence Rabbi Eisemann confesses that he does not know how to translate M’kheroteicha. He also cites the above argument from the Ramban but is not satisfied with his definition. Setting aside the rather lengthy discussion on other facets of His Eminence Rabbi Eisemann’s thoughts, we make note of the continuity of thought between Genesis 49:5 and Ezekiel 16:3. The Hebrew text can suggest that Jerusalem was “circumcised” as an infant. Of course, we must take all of these words from the minimum analogy of Remes.  Therefore, this can only mean that the “parents” of Jerusalem, a father from the Emorites and mother from the Hitittes were Gentile converts. Prophetically Ezekiel can be looking to the future when the Gentiles would come to Jerusalem and be converted there with the righteous/generous application of the μάχαιρα Machaira (circumcision knife), which we will see in our Remes commentary on 2 Luqas

 

From The Nazarean Codicil:

 

The first clue, in 2 Luqas (Acts) 11:1-18, that we have is the noted abrupt change in nomenclature. The “circumcision” accuses a circumcised Jewish Hakham of abusing the μάχαιραMachaira the circumcision knife. They make this claim by saying that he abused the μάχαιραMachaira, by eating with the “uncircumcised” as if they were “circumcised.” We have seen in our Torah Seder how that two sons of Ya’aqob, Symeon and Levi used the μάχαιραMachaira as a weapon rather than as an instrument of blessing.

 

Romans 13:3-4 For the Rulers of the Synagogue[7] are not a terror to good works (acts of righteousness/generosity), but to those who do evil. Do you want to (be) irreverent to the authority (of the Bet Din)? Do what is beneficial, and you will have praise from the same. For he, the Chazan[8] is God's servant to you for what is beneficial. But if you do that which is unprofitable, be afraid; for he (the Chazan)[9] does not bear the circumcision knife (μάχαιρα – Machaira)[10] in vain; for he is God's minister (Deputy of the Bet Din), avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

 

What would be the chances of so many specific mentioning’s of “circumcision” and allusions to the μάχαιρα – Machaira, in 2 Luqas (Acts) 11:1-18? This is not mere coincidence in the western sense of the word.  Hakham Tsefet picked up on the vocabulary of the Torah Seder and used this event to teach us a powerful lesson concerning Gentiles, their conversion and their acceptance by G-d. These events are laying the foundation for the coming chapters of 2 Luqas and the controversies ahead. Pay attention now because these issues will be vital for understanding the coming chapters.

 

XI. Interim Conclusions

 

HaShem’s plan for His chosen people, both the true and the wild olive, is the same. This premise infers that what is good for Jews is good for Gentiles. This, therefore, seemed to mean that those Gentiles who are not circumcised, not circumcised for the correct reason, or who were not circumcised on or after the eighth day should be re-circumcised for the right reason.

 

I believe that the Jerusalem council and the decree of James seems to indicate that there was no condemnation or penalty for circumcision or the following of any of the other parts of the law.

 

If we were to try to prove the validity of circumcision from the Tanakh[11] alone, as the Bereans did, I believe that we would come to the conclusion that circumcision is required of HaShem’s people.

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

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Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

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(360) 918-2905

 

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[1] see Mishna Beruura O”CH #581

[2] Shabbat 123a

[3] Hertz, Leviticus 26:41 and commentary; Deuteronomy 10:16

[4] see Bamidbar 12:8

[5] Nachmanides, (1971). (Translated by R. Dr. Charles Chavel). Ramban Commentary on the Torah: Genesis, New York: Shilo Publishing House, Inc., pp.584-585.

[6] Eisemann, R. M. (2007). The Book of Yechezkel, A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic and Rabbinic Sources. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications Ltd pp. 242-3

[7] Corresponding to 1st Hakham, 2nd Hakham and Apostle 3rd of the bench of three - Chokhmah, Bina and Da’at.

[8] The Mohel (circumciser) like the Chazan (cantor) embody the aspirations and authority of the local congregation and the Bet Din. (Jewish court of authority)

[9] Connected with the concept of Yir’ah, the fear of G-d. The ministry of the Sheliach – Chazan – Bishop

[10] Here when everything is contextualized we can understand the meaning of these verses. The Jewish authorities hold in their power the ability to allow or prohibit circumcision, acceptance of gentile conversion. Interestingly enough the Greek μάχαιραν holds the idea of some sort of contention. This is not always the case with the μάχαιραν, however in our present case the μάχαιραν is the judgment for or against conversion. The servant who holds the circumcision knife is the final word on ritual circumcision and conversion.

[11] The Old Testament