Sign up to TorahFax


Tuesday, Mar-Cheshvan 16, 5784 / October 31, 2023


The birth of our forefather Yitzchak (Isaac) is found in this week’s Parsha, Vayeira. 


The Torah says, "And G-d remembered Sarah as He had said, and G-d did unto Sarah as He had spoken.  And Sarah conceived, and bore to Abraham a son in his old age... And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bore to him, Yitzchak. And Abraham circumcised his son Yitzchak when he was eight days old, as G-d had commanded him. And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Yitzchak was born unto him."


Abraham was circumcised at 99.  His son, Yishmael at 13 and Yitzchak was the first one to have his Brit (circumcision) on the eighth day.


The word "Brit” (“covenant") is mentioned 13 times in connection with the mitzvah of circumcision. Our sages say, "From this we see the greatness of the mitzvah of circumcision, for thirteen covenants are associated with this mitzvah."


The mitzvah of circumcision is not for health reasons.  The discussion whether circumcision is physically beneficial for the child is irrelevant and has nothing to do with this mitzvah. The "Brit" is purely for spiritual reasons, as the Torah tells us, "And My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting sign. (Gen. 17:13)" 


Q.  When the child is brought into the room for the Brit (circumcision), everyone greets him with the words, "Baruch Haba."  What is the significance of the words, "Baruch Haba?"


A."Baruch Haba" means, "Blessed be the one who entered!"  In addition to the simple meaning there is also a reference in these words for the Brit. The numerical value of the word "Haba" is 8 (5+2+1) and represents the 8th day – the day when the baby has his Brit.


Q.  At every Brit a special chair is prepared, called "Kisei shel Eliyahu (HaNavi)" - "Chair of Elijah Hanavi (the prophet)." Why do we have a special chair for Eliyahu Hanavi at every Brit?


A.   In Biblical times, Ach'av, king of Israel, under the influence of his wife Izevel (Jezebel), banned circumcision throughout his land. Elijah was saddened at this event, retired to a cave and complained to G-d that his people had deserted G-d's covenant. Therefore, G-d ordered Elijah to be present at every circumcision so that he should witness how careful the Jewish people observe this Mitzvah. In Elijah's honor we provide a special chair for him at every Brit.


Q.  Why does everyone rise when the baby is carried into the room for the Brit?


A.   As mentioned before, the prophet Eliyahu attends every Brit. We stand up in honor of Eliyahu the prophet who escorts the baby to the Brit.