When we attend a Bris, we are witnessing and affirming the Covenant first established between Abraham and God. That Covenant (Bris or Brit in Hebrew), and its symbol which is circumcision of all male children, is spoken of in this week’s Torah portion as God assures Abraham of the prosperity of his offspring and their role of being “a blessing unto the world.” And implied in Abraham’s action and response to God, is that he and his descendants will embrace and liveTorah—the commandments, the values, the ideals that are the essence of Judaism.
Responding to anti-Semitism is crucial. Support for Israel is critical. But to what degree do we Jews really care about the “Covenant” aspect of Judaism? For me, it’s not enough for a Jew to say “but I’m a good person.” For Jews, the definition of a good person lay in the values of Torah: Tzedakah, acts of loving-kindness, the pursuit of justice, both in our society and in the larger world. And to be a Jew in the fullest sense is to affirm these teachings and values through distinctively Jewish rituals that remind us of those values, and link us to other Jews, both in time and in place.
Each of us is a precious link in that chain that was begun with Abraham, and passed through the generations to us and to our children. But it has been wisely said that “we are either the last generation of Jews, or the blessed generation that will breathe renewed strength and life into that ancient Covenant.”
May this Shabbat bring love and tranquility to your home.
Rabbi David Greenberg