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Ekev-The Brit of the Heart

Circumcision of the Heart, The Brit of the Heart

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart and be no more stiff-necked.” (Devorim 10:16)

 The Torah speaks of two types of circumcision. The well known one is the circumcision of the foreskin of a baby boy on the eighth day after birth. This is the symbol of the Brit – the Covenant which God made with the People Israel. Such circumcision is fundamental to the Jewish way of life. However, Moses and then the later prophets spoke about a second kind of circumcision, the circumcision of the heart. This does not replace the circumcision of the flesh. Rather, circumcising our hearts is an ongoing process throughout our lives. As we travel through the journey of life, we interact with all kinds of people: many of those people hurt us along the way. We experience a lifetime of pain from people who have wounded us – bosses who fired us, friends who criticized us and people who abandoned us. We encounter harsh words and insensitive behavior. Indeed, as the famous quote says: “Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate.” Most of us build up a protective shell around our hearts to protect and desensitize ourselves. We create a barrier that keeps us from being hurt. We distance ourselves from people. As the years go by, the shell around our hearts becomes more and more defensive, thicker, taller and harder to penetrate. We each become an island unto ourselves, insensitive to others. That is why Moses teaches that we must circumcise our hearts. We must cut away the skin we have built up to protect ourselves. Only then will we be open to other people. Only then will we be open to God. Only when we open ourselves up, can we touch and be touched by our fellow human beings. We human beings are vulnerable. Others can hurt us. It is easiest to build a wall and protect ourselves from being hurt. Many people go through life with a huge wall around their heart feeling no pain. and feeling no joy. To be human is to connect to other humans, and to connect to God. Such connection requires us to circumcise the foreskin that we have built up around our hearts. That is why the prophets speak about the mitzvah of circumcising our hearts, meaning to break through the protective shell around our heart and remove the walls which isolate us from others. True, circumcising our hearts makes us more vulnerable, but also more human.

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