The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Perfect Perfection

In every day life, one always has the option of looking at anything from two, seemingly contradictory perspectives. For example, a person may look at a glass as being either half full or indeed half empty.

In looking at the glass as half full, one is looking at the glass as being a vessel in which a substance may be held. The glass itself is an object and it holds an object. However, when looking at the half empty glass, it is seen as a vessel with something missing from it. It is seemingly damaged.
A similar concept can be seen in looking at the mitzvah of circumcision, given to Avram towards the end of this week's Parasha.

Hashem tells Avram “I am the Almighty G-d! Come close to me in worship (through circumcision) and be perfect.”

The Mishna explains that the mitzvah of circumci-sion is greater than all other mitzvot, for with all the other mitzvot Avraham our father did, he was not called perfect until he circumcised himself.

The Talmud explains further. Rebbi said circumcision is great, for there was no one who occupied himself with mitzvot so much as Avraham our father, yet he was only called perfect because of his circumcision.
At first glance, the Mishna and Talmud appear to be the same, as explained by the Torat Menachem. However, there is a subtle but significant difference between them. The Mishna states, with all mitzvot Avraham did, he was not called perfect until he circumcised himself. This suggests that the circumcision was the climax of his divine service.

On the other hand, the Talmud stresses that he was only called perfect because of his circumcision, suggesting that the act of circumcision alone brought his perfection, regardless of his prior acts of kindness. In other words, the Mishna sees circumcision as the pinnacle of Avraham's service, whilst the Talmud sees it as an attained perfection through circumci-sion alone, regardless of previous efforts.

Perfection can suggest two distinct qualities:
a) the lack of imperfection – no negative.
b) choiceness and wholeness – only positive.

The Mishna alludes to the former. The absence of the foreskin is the quality of perfection i.e. so long as Avraham remained uncircumcised; he harboured a negative quality which made him appear negative. However, the Talmud chose to stress the additional choiceness and wholeness which circumcision con-ferred on Avraham i.e. the positive effects of circumcision. These unique qualities were endowed upon him as a result of circumcision alone. He was called perfect because of his circumcision.

This fits in with the glass analogy. The Mishna seems to describe Avraham, prior to circumcision, as an incomplete vessel (the half empty glass). Whereas the Talmud describes Avraham as a vessel which can, itself, hold perfection (a half full glass).

We each have an option to look at life in both a positive or negative way. However, the real lesson is to look at life in both the positive and negative ways and learn out positively how to complete our Avodat Hashem, our service to Hashem, in the best way possible

By Daniel Lefkowitz - Last year's editor of the Living Torah.

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