At the brit milah of my son yesterday I spoke a few words. Here are a few of them. “In the Talmud, Masechet Kiddushin 29a, it says ‘A father is obligated with respect to his son: to circumcise him, to redeem him (if he is the first born), to teach him torah, to take a wife for him, and to teach him a craft. Some say even to (teach him) to swim in water.’ So I said to my son, “I am hereby giving you a brit milah, the covenant of circumcision, so that you always know that you are a Jew, a holy Jew who is part of a long line of Jews descended from Abraham and Sarah who has been given a holy assignment to shine God’s light throughout the world by being generous, kind, and respectful to all people, to honor women, to speak the truth, to be kind to the stranger, the weak the widow, the orphan, to love the neighbor, to be good to the earth, to bring about an awareness of God’s presence on the earth, to be humble and to be powerful.

I promise you that I will redeem you in a few weeks time – when you reach thirty days, knowing that you do not belong to me, but to God, the Infinite Presence in time and space, and that I merely get the honor, the privilege and the awesome responsibility of raising you to be a servant of God, of love, beauty, truth and justice.

I promise to help you find your beshert – your soul mate and to stand in witness as you stand under the chuppah. I promise to teach you a craft so that you will have dignity. And I promise to teach you how to swim so that you can get yourself out of danger during any of the adventures we will do together and that you will do on your own.”

I did not speak the following words yesterday. However, since I have just finished writing a book on the kabbalah of brit milah and am now ready for it to be published and looking for the right publisher, it feels important to share the following teaching from the Rebbe.

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson teaches: “…The mitzvot that we fulfill connect us (and the physical object with which the mitzvah is fulfilled) with He who commanded them, i.e., the pure essence of God; for God’s opening words when He gave us the Torah were “I, (in My Essence) am The Holy One your God.” This means that God invested His very essence in Torah and mitzvot, which deal primarily with physical matters. Thus, when one performs a mitzvah with a physical object, that object now becomes forever ‘holy’ — a channel through which God’s Essence is manifest.”

The Rebbe continues: “…Abraham’s act [circumcising himself when he was an old man] reminds us that all of us – even the ‘righteous’ – must constantly renew our relationship with God, by ‘removing the foreskin of the world,’ those material elements that obscure Godliness. And when one does so, he is worthy…of God’s revelation, as that granted to Abraham: the prophetic awareness of God.”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson – The Lubavitcher Rebbe. From a talk on Shabbat Vayera 5625 (1964). Likutei Sichot vol. 5, pp. 86-91. Translated by Rabbi Ari Sollish and contained within The Eternal Bond, p. 46.