In the beginning of this week's parsha, the Torah writes that on the eighth day after a baby boy is born he should have his bris mila(circumcision). Several Achronim ask the following interesting question regarding this mitzvah. The Gimorah in kidushin (82 a) says that Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah, even though it was not yet given. Why then did Avraham Avinu not perform a bris mila on himself earlier? Why did he wait until he was commanded to do so at age ninety nine?
The Brisker Rav answers that Avraham kept the entire Torah even though it was not given. However certain mitzvos due to the lack of their existence were impossible for him to perform and therefore were not considered as if he didn't perform them. The mitzvah of Bris Mila is to remove the arlah (foreskin). Before Avraham was commanded to perform a Bris Mila there was no concept of arlah. Prior to the commandment to remove the arlah there was no distinction between the foreskin and the rest of the skin, since the foreskin was not yet considered arlah. Only once the Torah commanded him to remove the arlah, did the foreskin become arlah. Therefore prior to the commandment Avraham could not perform the mitzvah of Bris Mila.
With this understanding we can also answer another question. The passuk in parshas Lech Licha (17: 3) says that when Hasem spoke to Avraham regarding the mitzvah of Bris Mila, Avraham fell on his face. Rashi explains that he fell on his face because he was an arel (uncircumcised). We find that Hashem spoke to Avraham many times before this episode, why only now did Avraham fall on his face as a result of him being uncircumcised? According to the p'shat of the Brisker Rav that prior to his commandment to be circumcised the foreskin was not considered arlah, we can understand why Avraham never had the need to fall on his face while talking to Hashem until this time; because before this commandment he was not considered an arel.
Although the Brisker Rav said that prior to Avraham being commanded to perform a Bris Mila the arlah did not attain the status of arlah, the same does not apply to a baby boy before the eighth day. For even though he is not commanded to perform a Bris Mila until the eighth day, the fact that the Torah has already commanded us in the mitzvah of Bris Mila is sufficient to render the foreskin an arlah. We see this from the Gimorah in Yivamos (71 a) that asks whether a baby boy before the eighth day is considered an arel or not. If he is considered an arel one would not be permitted to rub oil made from Tirumah on him. The Gimorah entertains the possibility that a boy before the eighth day is considered an arel because he is commanded to perform the mitzvah of Bris Mila only at a later time, whereas Avraham was never commanded to perform the mitzvah at all.
Another example of a mitzvah that prior to its being commanded the concept did not exist is the mitzvah of Kiddushin. Although there was a form of marriage before the Torah was given it was a different status. With this the Brisker Rav explains how Yakkov Avinu was permitted to marry sisters. He explains that only under the new status of kiddushin marriage is it forbidden to marry sisters, whereas the marital status that existed prior to the giving of the Torah did not prohibit marrying sisters.
There is another answer to the question of why Avraham did not perform the mitzvah of Bris Mila prior to being commanded to do so, even though he kept the rest of the Torah. Bris Mila is a bris (covenant) between two parties. Before the other party agrees to a covenant there cannot be a covenant. Therefore prior to being commanded to perform a Bris Mila Avraham could not do so on his own for it would not be a bris (covenant).
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Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 4/01/2011 05:47:00 PM