Avrohom was 99 years old when he was told to circumcise himself. Although חז“ל teach us that Avrohom fulfilled the entire Torah before he was commanded to do so, he did not perform bris milah until he received the mitzvah. The Medrash implies that Avrohom was hesitant about fulfilling the command of circumcision because of his desire to bring others close to Hashem. He knew that once he made that indelible mark on his body, he would inevitably lose a certain amount of his ability to influence other people, because he would be looked at as strange and different. Avrohom was concerned that this would jeopardize his success in converting heathens.
Given this concern by Avrohom, why did Hashem demand circumcision at 99? Avrohom lived until 175 – why limit his years in outreach? Rav Nissan Alpert z”l suggests that the reason was because Avrohom – at the age of 99 – was now going to have a son who would be the forerunner of the Jewish nation. Avrohom now had an even more important job than converting the nations of the world: his job now became being the most effective teacher possible not for the whole world, but for his own son, the future Jewish nation.
With the birth of his son, Avrohom had to become as perfect as possible. Since milah was a step toward perfection (התהלך לפני והיה תמים), he could wait no longer. As parents, we must try to be as perfect as human beings can be and the best עובדי ה' we can be. We are the ultimate role models for our children. Therefore, even if before we became parents we were not serious about life, parenthood brings new responsibilities; there can be no excuses. This is true not only for Avrohom Avinu, who was the father of Yitzchok and the father of the future Jewish nation, but for each of us. Each of our children is the future of Klal Yisroel.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School
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