In honor of Shavuos we present a letter in which the Rebbe explains the importance of performing milah [circumcision] the Jewish way and its connection with the geyrus [conversion] process of the Jewish people – which began in Egypt on Pesach and concluded at Mount Sinai on Shavuos. The Rebbe’s emphasis on performing milah in accordance with all the details, including metzitza (which some misguided individuals object to) – is so relevant and speaks to us today as well. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5733
South Euclid, Ohio, 44118
Greeting and Blessing:
After not hearing from you for a long time I was pleased to receive you letter though in the meantime I have been inquiring about you and receiving reports through our mutual friends.
Your letter came at an appropriate time, on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day on which our ancestors came and encamped at Mount Sinai, as it is written “And Israel encamped there facing the mountain.” According to the commentary of our Sages on this verse, the singular is used there to indicate that this was the first time since the Exodus from Egypt that the Jewish people felt united like one man with one heart. Thus, just the anticipation of receiving the Torah already united the Jewish people even before receiving the Torah, and how much so afterward. This day, therefore has the quality of bringing Jews together, a quality which is renewed and strengthened from year to year.
With regard to your question about learning milah – needless to say that any Jew who wishes to learn milah in order to perform it according to Halachah, would be well advised to so. It is interesting to note that in Talmudic times, every talmid chochom was expected to learn milah (Chullin 9a).
In your case there would be the added significance that people seeing an M.D. performing milah in accordance with the fullest practice and details as the mitzvah is performed, including metzitza, etc., it would serve as a strong case and best argument against any of those misguided individuals who for one reason or another object to the Jewish way of performing milah.
Needless to say, if you decided to learn milah you would have to learn it from an experienced and expert mohel, which you no doubt would be able to find after due inquiry. It is also self understood that you would have to careful of hasogas g’vul, but this is something that would have to be considered in each particular case.
I want to emphasize again that I have in mind milah as it is meticulously performed by traditional mohalim without concessions or levities, for it is after all a matter of the “Everlasting Covenant” between the new born Jew and G-d, inscribed in the flesh and one must be careful not to cause any p’gam in this Everlasting Covenant. It is surely unnecessary to elaborate to you on this.
To conclude on a timely note, our Sages say that the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai concluded the act of geyrus, which began in Egypt with milah, followed by t’vilah and finally by the acceptance of the mitzvos at Mount Sinai.
Wishing you and yours an inspiring and joyous Festival of Kabbolas Hatorah and to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness,
The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.