The Pasuk says: “When Avram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to Avram and said to him, “I am “El-Shaddai”. Walk in My ways and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous. Avram fell on his face; and Hashem spoke to him further.”
There’s a difficulty in this Pasuk that requires elucidation. When Hashem spoke to Avram he fell on his face, just as he did during the Covenant of the pieces, in last weeks Parasha. Though, when he will address Hashem to save the people of Sodom, the Pasuk makes sure to accentuate the fact that he was standing. Avraham’s behavior is strange. If standing is the way of beseeching Hashem’s compassion, he should’ve been standing by the Covenant of the pieces and request mercy for the poor Jews and his children, that will go through 400 years of cruel and severe bondage?
Rashi explains that he fell “from fear of the Divine Presence; until he was circumcised, he had no strength to stand while Hashem’s spirit was upon him.” That is to say, Avraham lay prostrate on the ground in fear and awe of the Divine Presence. He was unable to stand on his feet before the exalted and commanding power of the Divine appearance. Rashi mentions that the Gentile prophet Bilam, who was certainly not circumcised, reacted similarly to Divine prophecy – and Torah employs the same word, fallen, to describe how it occurred: “…who sees the vision of the Almighty, fallen but with open eyes”, (Bamidbar 24,4).
In this connection we can also add the prophecy of the Covenant Between the Pieces: “The sun was setting, and a deep sleep fell over Avram, and behold, a frightful darkness was falling over him”, (Bereshis 15,12). We can now understand the sharp transformation in Avraham’s behavior when he received his next prophecy, after he was circumcised. G-d informed him of the impending destruction of Sodom and neighboring cities: “Avraham was still standing before Hashem”. He approached and said: “Will You then destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Bereshis 18,22-23) This time, he does not fall on his face; he rather stands tall. For now, that he is circumcised, he is able to stand without fear and speak confidently with G-d. But why, then, in the previous instances of G-d talking to Avraham, does the Torah not mention that he fell on his face?
The answer is that the Torah emphasizes and teaches us this idea precisely at the transition point: Before the Bris Mila, we read that he fell before G-d, and right afterwards, we are informed that he was able to stand straight and tall to receive the Divine word. This fact bears a fundamental question, what transformation occurs in the
person through the Bris Mila that enables him to stand before Hashem? Since apparently “standing before Hashem” means to have to ability to argue, would it make sense that such a Holy act as the Bris Mila provides such a despicable trait of character as brazenness?
Indeed, Avraham’s “argument” with Hashem about the eradication of Sodom is at the least very brazen and would be unacceptable before a human King: “Will You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from You! Will the judge of the entire earth not perform justice?” (Bereshis 18,23-25). How did Avraham dare to argue and question Hashem about His judgments? Is that an outcome of the Bris Mila? Is that the reason Hashem described us as “brazen people with a stiff neck”? [Shemos 34,9]. In that case, it’s not our fault but the fault of the Bris Mila we were commanded to perform.
Though, it seems that it is not a simple cause to effect, as the Pasuk states with the prophecy of Daniel: “I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold a man clad in linen… and his face was like the look of lightning, and his eyes like firebrands…I remained alone, and I saw this great vision, and no strength was left within me… I fell into a sound sleep on my face, and my face was to the ground… a soul was not left in me”, (Daniel 10,5-17). Daniel was undoubtedly circumcised, so why was he not able to stand up? The reception of prophecy, then, is clearly a shocking event. How does Bris Milah give Avraham strength to overcome these powerful sensations and grant him the ability to stand before G-d without fear? So far, we have been speaking about the physical ability to stand before Hashem.
However, the Prophet Yirmiyahu stands before G-d to defend Israel and ask for Divine mercy on the nation’s behalf: “Remember when I stood before You to speak good for them, to return Your wrath from them,” (Jer. 18,20). Hashem, too, refers similarly to “standing before Him,” and explains to Yirmiyahu that even Moshe and Shmuel would not be successful in cancelling the decrees: “Even if Moshe and Shmuel were to stand before Me, My soul would not be to this nation…” (15,1).
Hashem also granted to the Cohanim and Levites this ethical stance of “standing before G-d” – the ability to argue with Him and intervene for Israel via prayer. They would travel from town to town and from house to house, not only to receive the tithes, but also to teach Torah, make peace between people, and bless Israel in Hashem’s name. During their travels, they would be exposed to the day-to-day hardships and troubles of their fellow Jews, and when they would return to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, they would lift their hands in prayer to G-d, as is written: “Hashem separated the Levite tribe, to carry the Ark of G-d’s Covenant, to stand before G-d to serve Him, and to bless in His Name, until this day”, (Devarim 10,8). To “stand before G-d” means, then, to stand physically, to beseech G-d on behalf of the Nation of Israel, and the ability to defend a strong moral stance in argumentation and prayer with G-d. Yet to be explained, however, is how the
Bris Mila grants that vigor? Also, it’s ethically appropriate to argue for the benefit of the Bnei Yisrael, but Avraham argued brazenly for the benefit of the worst sinners.
The Zohar teaches us what takes place when the Bris Mila is performed: the name of Hashem is being inscribed on the person. In other words, this is the true secret of the Godly nature of Bnei Yisrael, and at the same time it is our weakness. The person must keep himself pure as any impurities will have the effect to erase the name of Hashem inscribed on him. It’s a tremendous treasure that our forefathers kept at the cost of their lives. We must also keep it jealously, and pure as our lives depend on it as it says: “All the nations of the earth will see that the name of Hashem is “read” upon you and will fear you” (Devarim 28,10). As long as the Bris is kept pure, the person is assured that no hardship or evil of any sort will befall upon him. However, as soon he impurifies himself it’ll be dramatic, in this world and in the world to come.
The reason is quite simple: the numerical value of “ מילה ” [Mila] is 85, the same numerical value as “פה ” [Mouth]. From this the Zohar teaches us many insights on how to get to know people. People with a foul mouth, liars etc. in other words anyone that uses his mouth incorrectly, are assured to be people that have impurified their Bris. The opposite is also true. A person that has a clean mouth and watches not to misuse it is a person who keeps his Bris pure.
The Bris and the mouth are one, in Hebrew “ אח ד ” which numerical value is 13. This person once he develops Love for Hashem, the name of Hashem will reside upon him. Love in Hebrew is “אהבה ” which numerical value is also 13. When someone loves, he becomes one with what he loves. Since he has the 13 of “Echad” and if he develops Love for Hashem, he has 13 of “Ahava” which equals 26 the name of Hashem.
This person’s powers have no boundaries. His mouth has the power to pray and be heard, to bless and be granted, to decree and be sustained. As Chazal say: “The Just decrees and Hashem sustains”. That person is so exalted that he’s even entitled to stand before Hashem!
By Rabbi Shimon Fridmann – Din Torah Of North Miami Beach
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